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Patching Denim with an Embroidery Machine

Finished sewing

I love wearing denim blue jeans, but chasing my boys and taking care of my small zoo, they get lots of wear and tear. One of the worst things is having to scrap a favorite pair because of one too many rips. I’ve repaired rips in a utilitarian way in the past. This time I thought I’d try patching denim using my embroidery machine. I haven’t done much applique, so I learned some things along the way.

This tutorial makes use of an embroidery machine and serger. You could also adapt it to use a sewing machine or applique by hand and embellishing with hand embroidery.

Items needed

  • Denim jeans or other item to repair
  • Interfacing
  • Thread in colors of choice
  • Seam ripper or similar tool
  • Scrap of fabric at least 4 in x 4 inches
  • Stabilizers: Cut away or tear away, water soluble optional
  • Floral denim patch applique design file

Step 1: Open the side seam.

Since I’m repairing a ripped knee, I needed to take out one of the side leg seams on my jeans. Using a seam ripper made this easy, but you could use small scissors, too. I left the seam intact at the hip and ankle, only removing what was necessary to lay the ripped area flat in the hoop without risking sewing it to the back. Leaving a little intact makes it easier to resew the seam at the end.

Step 2: Prepare the rip.

Iron the area around the rip so it’s smooth and flat. If there’s a lot of loose threads around the rip, trim them. I caught this rip before it frayed too badly, so no trimming was needed.

Before photo patching denim
Side seam removed and jeans ironed flat.

I wanted the embroidered area to be solid, so I applied some interfacing to the back of the rip. I used some medium weight interfacing, but any should work, since it’s job is just to hold it together while the jeans are embroidered. This is a perfect project for using whatever scraps are handy.

Interfaced rip
Back of rip with interfacing applied.

Step 3: Hooping.

For denim, tear away or cutaway stabilizer is best. I chose cutaway for the most stability. It’s stiff, but it should soften in the wash. If not, I’ll switch to tear away next time.

I tend to float projects and only hoop the stabilizer whenever possible. This project seemed like it would work better tightly anchored in the hoop. It took a few tries to center the rip in my hoop so that all edges would be covered by my design. My machine has a 4 in x 4 in embroidery field, so the rip just barely fit. Smaller tears will be easier to fit in my small hoop.

Hooped denim
First attempt. Once I put it in my machine and had it circle the embroidery field, I saw it needed re-positioning.

Step 4: Embroidering the patch.

Once it’s properly hooped, it’s time to sew. On my machine, the first color stop said “Applique Material”. I haven’t done much machine applique, but the ones I am used to usually follow the sequence: placement stitch, tack down the applique (then trim excess), sew the final applique stitching. So, confused I just put the applique fabric and a water soluble stabilizer (optional) on top of the rip and pushed start.

stitching denim patch

What my machine was telling me to do was to just hoop the applique fabric so I could remove it from the hoop and cut it neatly. The second color stop was the positioning stitch. That would be stitched on my jeans and then my neatly trimmed applique could be placed in position and the stitching completed. Since I did everything at once, my applique isn’t as tidy as it could be. I will definitely listen to my machine next time.

Finished sewing, but still has water soluble stabilizer on top.
Finished sewing.

Step 5: Remove from hoop and cut away excess stabilizer

I also steam pressed over the back of the patch to start softening the stabilizer.

Patch from the back.
Patch from the back with stabilizer trimmed.

Step 6: Sew the leg seam.

To repair the leg seam, I used a lock stitch setting on my machine. You could also sew the seam twice to reinforce it or just use really heavy thread. I then serged the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, an overedge stitch or zig-zag stitch would also work.

Finished!

Finished patching denim
Finished patch. Next time I will use heavier thread so the embroidery shows better.

Not bad. I wish I had used heavier thread so the embroidery would show up better. Listening to my machine and cutting the applique fabric to size before I sew it on to eliminate the raw edges peeking out is another improvement for the next time I’m patching denim.

If you’d like to use this applique design, you can download the file here. You can use the design on items you make to sell as well as for personal use, but please don’t sell the design file.

Floral knee patch applique
Floral knee patch applique design image.

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Lost Your Crafting Mojo? Enter the Creative Home Projects Bundle

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of the links on this page, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All the statements contained in this post are my honest opinions of the product, the Creative Home Projects Bundle 2020.

Between sewing machine troubles and children keeping me busy, I haven’t had much time for crafting lately. Even when I do have a few spare moments, my brain is so focused on everything else that I don’t know where to begin, which is unfortunate. Crafting is a great way to destress, and we all need ways to unplug and destress, now more than ever!

But that’s not all….Crafting and DIY projects give you the chance to learn new skills, do something with your hands, and beautify your home. With Christmas right around the corner, now is a great time to get started on unique handmade gifts as well.

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I’m especially excited about the Easy Refashions for Every Season ebook by Elizabeth Farr and the printable Upcycled T-Shirt Romper and Dress Sewing Pattern by Heather Paulsen. There’s also the Fun & Easy Halloween Crafts by Stephanie Gilbert ebook. With COVID-19 concerns, Halloween will probably look different this year. Hopefully Gilbert’s book will give me ideas for activities to make it more fun for the kiddos.

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Simple Way to Patch the Back Pocket of Denim Jeans

The back pockets of denim jeans are prone to wearing out at the top corners with use. If that’s where you carry your phone or wallet, you’ll almost certainly develop holes at those stress points long before the rest of the jeans are worn out. Luckily, repairing a back pocket is a pretty simple fix.

Pocket with hole

These are my husband’s work jeans. You can see the inside corner of the right pocket has a small hole and another one is forming on the inside corner of the left pocket. These are the steps I used to repair and reinforce the pockets.

Choosing your patch material

The first thing you’ll want to do is add material to patch the hole. The material should extend past the edges of the hole, overlapping onto the good fabric by about a centimeter or so. I like to use the iron-on denim patches, but fusible webbing or strong interfacing works, too. This product is similar to the one I used. You can also just use a scrap of fabric a bit larger than the hole, but I prefer the added strength of an iron-on product. An iron-on product is also easier in that it won’t shift while you sew it in.

Iron-on patch
denim iron-on patch for pocket repair
Wrong side of iron-on patch

Securing the patch to the pocket

If you’re using an iron-on product, iron it on to cover the hole from the inside according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For sewn-in patches, baste in patch to keep it from shifting.

Ironed on patches
Patches ironed in place on the inside of the jeans.

Reinforce the patch

Regardless of whether you chose an iron-on or sew-in patch, you need to reinforce the patch by sewing a strong row of stitches around the edges. For a less visible patch, I like to sew a square of stitching around the hole, making sure to include the corner of the pocket in the square. I sew over the square a few times to reinforce. Choosing a thread that matches the denim or is slightly darker makes the patch less noticeable.

Reinforcement stitching from the inside.

For the actual hole, I like to sew back and forth over the hole in a matching thread. This secures the area to the patch, hides the frayed edges and prevents further ripping.

For a more visible patch, you can get creative with the patch material and choose a contrasting thread. You can also crazy stitch over the area, similar to what I did here.

Preventing the problem

Whenever I patch one pocket rip, I take the time to reinforce all the corners with iron-on patches and a square of reinforced stitching. It doesn’t take much extra time, and keeps the rest of the corners from needing repair in the near future. You could even do this to new jeans as a preventative measure if you have this problem frequently.

Final result

Here’s the finished patches. I’m pretty satisfied with the results. The work isn’t that noticeable and matches the variations in blue on the rest of the jeans. It’s definitely better than holes that will continue to rip in a revealing location.

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Shop sales!

For the entire month of September, all of my handmade soaps are 20% off. Shop handmade soaps here.

My machine embroidery files are also on sale all month for just $1 each! Be sure to check out my latest Halloween designs. Shop embroidery designs here.

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Frumpy Knit Tube Dress to Cute T-Shirt Refashion

I’ve had two striped knit dresses in my refashion pile for about six months now. One black and white and one navy blue and white. The knit is soft, and I like the tie dye stripe, but the shape is basically a tube with a ruffle on the bottom. They are so unflattering, I don’t even want to wear them around the house. There’s a good amount of fabric in them, though, so I decided to try turn one of the knit tube dresses into a t-shirt.

Knit Tube Dress
Here’s the original shapeless dress. Excuse the background, please.

Knit tube dress to T-Shirt Refashion T shirt Process

I wasn’t sure what I would do at first, but I knew whatever it was wouldn’t need the straps, so I cut them off. I briefly considered leaving it close to as-is at that point and turning it into a skirt. It still wouldn’t have been very flattering, and I really don’t need any more casual skirts, so I moved on to other ideas.

T-shirts are always something I need, so that was my next direction. I didn’t take any process photos, so I’ll do my best to describe it. Refashioning always requires a little improvising based on what you have to work with, so consider this more as a guide than a complete how-to.

Turn the dress into fabric

I find it’s easiest to see what I have to work with when I’m looking at deconstructed pieces of fabric. Unless I think I’m going to use an element intact, I cut or rip out all seams and remove elements like buttons so that I can see how much fabric I have to use.

For this project, I cut off the black cotton eyelet band at the top and cut off the ruffle from the bottom before cutting off the side seams. I left the ruffle intact by cutting just above the seam that connected it to the dress because I thought it might come in handy. I chose to cut, rather than rip the seams, because the seams were narrow, so I wasn’t losing much fabric.

The Base Pattern

I thought about using a t-shirt as a pattern, but that doesn’t always work out as well. In my pattern files, I have a copy of the breezy tee from it’s always autumn, so I used that. I didn’t have enough fabric to make it exactly like the pattern, but it was a good starting point.

Laying it out

I squared up the main pieces of fabric and cut out the pattern. The fabric was too short for the pattern’s length, so I just focused on fitting in the top portion. I had to shorten the sleeves slightly because there wasn’t enough width.

Constructing the T-shirt

I serged (overlocked) the neckline folded it over and hemmed. I will probably regret not doing a banded neckline, because I’ve had hemmed necklines get wonky with wear. I can change it later if needed, though.

I serged the shoulder seams and then started thinking about the sleeves. The original pattern has pieces to create wide bands on the sleeves. I didn’t have enough scraps from the sides to create those bands. Instead, I decided to use the eyelet from the top of the dress. Honestly, I really wanted to use some of the ruffle to make flutter sleeves, but I figured that would be needed to add length.

Knit tube dress to T Shirt Refashion T shirt Eyelet Sleeve Band Closeup.
I’m still not sure about this. I may remove it after wearing it a few times.

After attaching the eyelet, I serged the underarm and side seams, then straight stitched just inside the serged seam to reinforce.

The shirt was more of a crop top at that point, so I attached the ruffle to the bottom by serging and then straight stitching like I did on the side seams. Here’s the final result.

Knit tube dress to T Shirt Refashion T shirt Finished Product.
Finished, other than steaming the ruffle.

I like it, other than the eyelet on the sleeves. I’m not sure about that. It’s not tight, but it makes the sleeves snug. I’ll probably wear it a few times and decide if I just want to take it off altogether. Overall, though, it’s a cute t-shirt and definitely something more wearable than the original.

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Simple Striped Sundress Refashion

If you search for refashioning ideas online, you’ll find tons of amazing examples of outdated styles being turned into trendy pieces that bear little resemblance to the original. (https://refashionista.net/ is one of my favorite refashion blogs to browse for inspiration.) It’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas, especially if you’re new to sewing. The main goal of refashioning is to take a piece that is unflattering or unwearable and turning it into something that will be worn again. Sometimes a few simple tweaks are all that is needed to accomplish that goal.

The Dress

Before

This sundress is a perfect example. In it’s original form, it was breezy and comfortable for summer, except that it required a strapless bra to be flattering. Strapless bras tend to be uncomfortable in general. When it’s August in Texas hot, they’re almost unbearable. Having to wear one took away from the comfort of this dress, leaving it regulated to the back of my closet most of the time.

The refashion Fix

In order to fix the problem, I needed to add coverage and a little support to keep the cups in place.

First, I sewed elastic into the seams under the bust. I sewed it onto the seam allowance to keep my stitches invisible from the outside.

I cut the elastic a little shorter than the length of the seam and stretched it to gather it slightly. When worn, it doesn’t look gathered, but it keeps the cups in place.

For coverage, I took the cup inserts from a soft seamless bra and hand stitched them in place. I never use them in the bras, so I have several sets sitting around. By hand stitching, I was able to keep my stitches from showing on the right side of the fabric. Rather than sew all around the cups, I strategically tacked them to keep them secure but invisible from the front.

The result

After

Those two simple tweaks only took about twenty minutes. The final result is a smoother, more flattering fit that doesn’t sacrifice comfort.

What simple refashions have you done that made a huge impact on wear-ability? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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Dress to Tunic Refashion

I finally got around to refashioning the green knit dress that I found at Goodwill over a year ago.

Green Knit Dress
Green knit dress

What I did to the dress

I decided to shorten it to mid-thigh and take in the top for a better fit. In order to keep the pretty stitching at the bottom, I took the excess length from the middle.

I took the top in a little at the sides, but not enough to make it too fitted. It’s hot, so loose and breezy isn’t a bad thing.

To join the two parts, I added elastic to the waist of the skirt and then reattached it to the top.

Refashioned green knit dress.

End result

Here’s the result. In retrospect, I wish I had made the elastic fit a bit tighter. Right now, it just hangs fairly straight. I may go back and redo that some other time.

As it is, it’s comfortable to wear over leggings, so perfect for hanging out at home with the kiddos.

A note for homeschoolers

I’ve been cleaning the office and getting our homeschooling supplies ready for our official start to the school year. If you’re new to homeschooling, or just looking for new ideas, I’ll post photos of our setup, as well as other homeschooling tips next week.

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Refashion a Camisole into a Tunic Tank Top

I have tons of clothes waiting for me to refashion them into something more wearable, but haven’t had much inspiration. Recently, though, I came across CreoleSha on Etsy. I love her flowy designs. Luckily, she offers classes on Teachable, so I took her free course on upcycling a sweatshirt or t-shirt into a tunic.

Refashion Camisole Tunic Tank 1
Almost forgot to take a before photo.

My refashion notes

It’s summer, so rather than use a sweatshirt, I started with a camisole tank that I didn’t wear much. I liked the color, but the fit was too loose to use for layering, and the skinny straps made it difficult to wear with a bra. By adapting the techniques in CreoleSha’s class, I turned it into a longer, flowing tank and then added a bit of cotton lace salvaged from an older refashion project to widen the straps.

The added material came from a t-shirt with a large logo on the front. I liked the color, but not the logo, so it was perfect and added some nice contrast.

Of course, pockets are always handy, so I added some patch pockets on the front.

Final result

It’s not perfect, but it’s something I’m more comfortable wearing now. The shirts were wrinkled from storage to the point that the wrinkles came back even after ironing. Luckily they smoothed out with laundering, so I don’t look like I just rolled out of bed when I wear it. More importantly, trying something a little on the artsy side and just jumping in has me ready to tackle more refashions.

A note on my dress form

Before working on this, I took the time to add some batting to my dressform, Athena. She’s a little less padded in some areas than I am, so the batting makes it easier to use her as a fit guide when I don’t want to try things on over and over. The brown t-shirt helps hold it all together and provides something to pin into.

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