Mending: Functional Patches for Ripped Jeans

What do you do when you blow out the knee in your most comfortable pair of jeans?  Why mend them of course!

Yes, it is possible to mend ripped jeans.  I am calling this a “functional patch” because it isn’t going to be an invisible repair by a long shot.  Everyone will be able to tell that these jeans are patched.  So it’s functional, not pretty.

Why would you do that?  Why bother with the hassle at all?

Well, by making this repair you’ll be able to extend the useable life of comfortable and perfectly worn in item, avoid replacement cost and be more “green” all a the same time.  Instead of wearing your “good” jeans for messy jobs, you can pull out your mended ones for doing yard work or painting, for trekking through the woods, shoveling snow. . . whatever!

How to Patch Ripped Jeans (functionally, not prettily)  A Picture Tutorial

Yankee Bill totally blew out the knees on these jeans.  The side I’m showing you in this tutorial looked like an upside down L–there was a big triangular flap hanging down and the fabric had actually worn away so the edges no longer met up.  There was a HOLE.

Patching Ripped Jeans 2The basic idea of the repair is this.  You are going to take another piece of denim, place it BEHIND the hole, pin it, sew it in, then do some reinforcement stitching to really strengthen it.  Even using your trusty sewing machine this repair does take a little bit–getting everything pinned and dealing with the amount of thick bulky fabric and a narrow leg space just adds some time.  But with a bit of patience and not too much time you CAN do this!

Patching Ripped Jeans 1

Lets start with the patching material.  I like to save old jeans of the kids that are too beat up to “pass down” to their cousin.  Here you see an itty bitty pair of Buddy’s jeans that have been in my rag back since he was like 4 or something.  Awww.   I picked a pair that were worn to a similar light blue shade (although  you could use anything).  Both pair of jeans were 100% cotton, and appeared by touch to be of similar “weights”.  I wanted to use a strong, thick denim fabric since the knees are obviously a stress point!

The back side of a pant leg is usually a bit wider then the front (from seam to seam) so I cut out the entire back leg and trimmed the seams off.  That gave me a piece of denim large enough for my massive hole.  I checked that it would cover the entire hole with room to spare all the way around by laying it on top.  Then I did the same for the smaller hole on the other leg.

patching ripped  jeans - cutting the patch

I turned the jeans inside out and pinned the patch onto the jeans with just a couple of pins.  This is the inside, and I’m going to be doing my sewing on the outside, so the only point of these pins is to keep the fabric in place until I get all the OTHER pins in on the outside.  (are you confused yet?).

patching ripped jeans pinning on the patch

I flipped the jeans back right side out and checked that the entire hole had patch behind it.  I carefully trimmed off all the extra threads from around the hole.  If you leave them on they are going to get sewn down in all sorts of weird directions and be impossible to remove!  Carefully–making sure not to pin the leg together–I pinned all the way around the hole.  Then I removed the “inside” two pins so I didn’t stab myself by accident when I stuck my hand in there, hit them with the sewing needle or catch them in the feed dogs.

Patching Ripped Jeans 14

It was time to chose my thread.  I actually have a roll of Coats & Clark thread of the color “denim” which matches dark jeans very well.  However in this case I decided the light blue thread I had in my stash would look better.  I loaded up a bobbin and threaded my machine.

Patching Ripped Jeans 15

My sewing machine has a “free arm”–basically a section you can slide off from the front deck of the sewing machine leaving a narrower piece.  Because of this it was a bit easier to get the whole leg of the jeans on the sewing machine.

patching ripped jeans sewing the patch in

Then you sew around the patch.  I like using a zigzag stitch.  I’m not going to lie to you–there was a LOT of wrestling of fabric invovled here, and you have to keep checking to make sure that you only have the patch and one layer of the jean under you needle–there were several times that in moving it around I almost caught another part of the leg or a pocket.  I also had to push the other leg of the jeans back and forth through the space between where the needle is mounted and the rest of the machine :)  But it was do-able.  I removed pins as I sewed because they were poking the heck out of me.  Notice in the closeup shot above on the top right that the light blue thread actually matched pretty well and was hard to see.

There were a couple of places where I hadn’t caught the edge of the jeans hole and I had to go back and resew.  Not a big deal.  The repair could actually stop there if you were confident that you had the patch securely attached to the main jean fabric, but since we were already “functional” rather then “invisible” I figured it was a good idea to add reinforcing stitching.

Patching Ripped Jeans 21

To do the reinforcing I just sewed back and forth vertically across the patch–starting a bit above the repair and ending below it. Again, make sure you are not accidentally catching the pocket, sewing the leg together etc.   Then I moved my fabric around so that I went back and forth horizontally across the patch, again making sure to go beyond the repair on all sides to ensure my stitching was anchored on good, solid fabric (the stuff on the edges might just tear in!).    Doing this does mean you’ll be stitching half the time in reverse, which for me meant I had my foot on the sewing machine pedal, my right hand on the reverse lever and then was trying to sort of guide/pull the fabric with my left hand (if you let the feeddogs just do it I was going at all sorts of crazy angles).  Again–awkward but doable, and you get better with practice.

Some tips–the closer you space the stitching the stronger the reinforcement.  These could have been twice as close.  Also, if you can set up your sewing so you are working left to right (which means feeding the bulk of you fabric onto your free arm and then pulling it out to the left as you go) you have much better control on the reverse stitching for some reason.

Patching Ripped Jeans 22

When all the stitching was done I turned the jeans inside out and carefully trimmed away all the excess patching material.  Done!  Here is the completed repair from just a little distance away, and you can barely see the reinforcing stitching!

Other post in my Mending series:

 Create A Basic Sewing Kit

Create a Quick Mending Kit

Replacing a Basic 2 or 4 Hole Button

Replacing a Hook and Eye

Replacing a Shank Button

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  1. Talitha says

    Hey, there, I thought I would just pop in and share my method, honed after patching more pairs of jeans than I can count. It’s very similar to yours, except that instead of using pins I use glue stick! That’s right, glue stick. It’s water soluble and easy to clean up, and it makes things so much less stressful. It’s also MUCH faster than pins!

    I trim the hole pretty severely, more so than it appears you have done, since the patch is only as strong as the material it attaches to. Then I goop up the inside of the fabric all around the hole, about an inch or so all around. I firmly smoosh on the over-sized patch from the inside, using more glue stick on the patching material if necessary. In a few moments, it stays put beautifully while you fight and wrestle to get the sewing machine where you want it.

    For stitching, I don’t zig-zag over the whole patch. Because frankly, I get bored of that. :) But also because (ideally) my patch material doesn’t need reinforcing because (ideally) I’ve got patch material in good condition (I get it the same way you do–chop up some un-patch worthy pants!). So what I do is sew with a straight stitch about 3/8″ away from the very clean edge; that’s really the connective strength right there. But then I do run a zig-zag (usually 3 step) around the raw edges, so that the fabric won’t fray back to my attachment, thus rendering it ineffective.

    If I’m feeling really paranoid, I then also trim the back patch and zig-zag it’s raw edges. But, as I said, I’m lazy, so usually I just leave a wide enough margin it won’t shred back. Since it’s on the inside of the pants, it doesn’t face as much wear and tear as the outside of the pants.

    A quick wash, and and all the glue stick is gone, leaving behind a supple but sturdy patch! I’ve found that this patch job is durable to the point the rest of the pants fail before the patch does. I’ve not had any troubles with the glue stick gooping up my machine; since it’s sandwiched between two beastly layers of denim, I’ve not had it “escape” on to the machine. Occasionally, my needle gets slightly gummy, but I either say “oh, well, it’s just a needle!” and replace it, or else clean the needle. (I’m pretty sure glue stick is rice based–at least, it smells that way to me–but I’ve never had any problem getting it off of anything.)

    Hope that helps! :)

    • says

      Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your method Talitha! I never in a million years would have thought of a glue stick, but it makes so much sense. I really did stab the heck out of myself.

      As for the reinforcing, I though perhaps I was overdoing. . . but then again I didn’t want to have to redo the job. Since I didn’t trim in as deeply as you do the integrity of the edge was a concern for me and I felt the reinforcement was extra insurance. When I mend something that is more of a tear and has edges that still meet up and am placing a patch under for strength I do the reinforcement zig zag, so I just did the same when doing a big hole :) .

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