The day I went to post bail for Lucey, it happened – riiiiiippppp. Oh No! My favorite jeans! I’ve long since passed the age (and lost the figure) where I feel like I can get away with wearing ripped jeans, but patched jeans, especially form fitting ones are so uncomfortable. I’ve used every sort of patch I can think of and they all leave a bump where they are and seem to chafe a little. The best one to date though was a scrap of batik fabric.
The longer I quilt, the less I seem to be willing to “sew” – and that definitely includes darning – but not having an unlimited clothing budget means I don’t get to just throw out what has fallen apart at the seams or self destructed somewhere other than a seam.
Today, I want to talk about how to make darning a little less “horrible” for us quilters.
Ready? Pretend you’re free motion quilting, but with less layers.
It’s true, when I set my machine up for darning these pants, it was virtually identical to the way it’s set up for FMQ. In fact, the only difference was that I removed the base so I could use it free arm (open arm) style.
When we darn without a patch, we’re basically creating fabric where the old fabric has failed, which means we want to pay attention to weave and weft. There are lots of pages out there where people talk about this, so I’m not going to go over it again, but basically with jeans for instance, if you look at them, you’ll see mainly a straight stitch and a diagonal stitch. This is what we want to recreate.
So – put your free motion gloves on, put your free motion foot (also known as a darning foot, coincidence? 😉 ) on the machine, set your stitch length to “0”, line up your edges (don’t schmush them together, this is unnatural for them and will create a pucker), and lightly couch the seams together and then pretend you’re quilting a tiny little quilt, and the goal is to make the fabric (and the hole) disappear.
In fact, I sometimes put aside a few pair of jeans that need darning and do them up just before I free motion ( or stand and quilt at Lucey) to warm up and get my brain in free motion mode. You’ll know you’re getting appropriate density when your stitching starts to sound like a needle break is imminent.
There were a couple of gotchas with my jeans and here’s how I got around them:
- The patch was stiff – This is from the “new fabric”. I find that scrunching it and even rubbing it back and forth on the corner of my sewing machine bed helps somewhat. (I’ll do this with my plastic Pfaff, but obviously not a vintage machine with delicate paint or decals!) This will also show up any spots that you may not have created enough fabric. This will soften a little as time goes on (and through multiple washes) and eventually you’ll probably stop noticing it’s even there.
- The patch “warped” my jeans – This is also “eased” somewhat by the processes above. The other thing that makes a huge difference with the newer jeans – the ones with stretch in them – is to darn them “dirty”. It’s amazing to see the shape of jeans change from clean to dirty. I have 2 pair of the same jeans (I did tell you they were my favorite!) and put them side by side. One clean, one dirty. The shape in the seat after spending the day sitting and standing at a quilting machine is marked. Now, by “dirty” I mean that you’ve worn them, not that you’ve made them dirty and grungy and they can stand up by themselves! I prefer to sew on clean clothes, so what I do is wash the jeans, then wear them for about an hour and make sure they’re good and stretched (some knee bends will take care of this if it’s in the knee area. This stretches them out to “normal” size. If you darn them in their “shrunken” state, they will warp for sure when you wear them. Of course carefully lining your rip up first is also important. This will minimize the warpage, but it is likely there will still be some, thanks to the stretch in the jeans.
- pucker up baby! – This is warpage combined with the density of the patch you created. Minimize it by doing the things I mentioned above. The density is required, so you have to compensate with the other processes.
- they had ripped basically at the end of a smaller previous patch – I’m notorious for this! Patch to where you think you need to, then go about another 1/4″ – 3/8″ further on both sides.
In retrospect, I suppose poly thread instead of cotton might have resolved some of these issues. If I hadn’t thought of this as I was literally finishing up the last stitches, I might have given it a shot.
(Why? Poly thread stretches before it breaks, naturally. Cotton is a fairly stiff fiber and relatively brittle, therefore it breaks instead of stretching. This is also what makes poly more “forgiving” for newer quilters to stitch with when quilting than cotton.)
But then I never claimed to be a seamstress rockstar. Quite the opposite actually. 😉
Now put your newly patched jeans back on and wear them for a few hours before you toss them back in the wash.
Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you used your “quilting machine” for anything other than quilting. 🙂
Today’s post is brought to you by Cinderella – Bad Seamstress Blues