Sewing For Dummies
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Even if you don't give your clothes a tough workout, you may find that you've worn holes into the knees, elbows, or elsewhere. Being able to mend your own clothes extends their life and saves you money (money to buy fabric for other sewing projects, of course!).

Patching holes with a sewing machine

The following technique just might be the very best way to patch holes in your clothes. You can use this method to patch over holes in elbows, knees, or anywhere that holes find their way into a piece of fabric.

Patches can be large or small and arranged artfully to cover other messes besides holes, such as stains or snags. For large problem areas, try arranging a collage of small pocket patches.

Just follow these steps:

  1. Find a fabric similar to the garment you're patching.

    If possible, steal fabric by stitching a pocket shut that doesn't get a lot of use, and cutting away the fabric from underneath. If you can't find a matching fabric, find one that's close.

    If you make a habit of saving worn-out jeans, you'll soon have a plentiful supply of used denim for patching.

  2. Cut out a patch 1/2 to 3/4 inch larger than the hole, all the way around. The patch can be any shape you like.

    Before cutting the patch to size, inspect the fabric around the hole. You may decide that you need a bigger patch to cover any frays in the area.

    Iron-on patches are also available for patching and can be used to patch a hole. However, be forewarned that after a little washing and wearing, the adhesive often quits, and you have a patch that's coming off. If you're using iron-on patches, reinforce them by stitching them on, as well.

  3. Pin the patch in place, centering it over the hole so that the right side of the patch fabric is up.

    Because the patch is larger than the hole it's covering, pin around the edges, pinning through the patch and the garment underneath.

  4. Set your sewing machine like this:

    • Stitch: Three-step zigzag

    • Length: 0.5 to 0.8 mm/fine setting or 60 spi

    • Width: 5 mm to the widest width

    • Foot: Embroidery

    • Needle: #90/14 HJ denim or jeans (for heavy fabrics); #80/12H Universal for everything else

  5. Place the garment and patch under the foot, right side up.

    The patch should be under the foot so that the edge is slightly to the right of the needle.

  6. Start sewing so that when the needle travels to the right, the last stitch formed is on the outside edge of the patch.

    Pull out the pins before sewing over them.

  7. If the patch is a circle, sew all the way around it. If the patch is a rectangle or square, sew to the corner and pivot.

    Sew to the corner, stopping with the needle in the far right side of the stitch. Doing so positions the patch so that it's double-stitched and reinforced in the corner. Lift the foot, pivot 90 degrees, lower the foot, and sew the second side of the patch, again stopping with the needle in the far right side of the stitch and pivoting. Continue like this until the patch is sewn on. Pull the threads to the back of the fabric and tie them off.

Patching with appliqués

Sometimes you can get creative by making or purchasing a ready-made appliqué and using it as a patch in low-stress areas. Before doing that, though, consider where the appliqué falls on the garment and decide whether it makes sense to have it there. Appliqués aren't strong enough for patching knees, elbows, and other high-wear areas.

Appliqués make short work of repairing holes. Just follow these steps to patch with an appliqué:

  1. Pin the appliqué over the hole so that it stays in place as you sew.

    If the appliqué is too thick to pin through, glue it into place by using your fabric glue stick.

  2. Using thread that matches the appliqué, straight stitch at the appliqué inside the satin-stitched edge.

  3. Pull the threads to the wrong side and tie them off.

Sometimes you can disguise your appliqués and make them look like decorations. After you have patched a hole with an appliqué, place another appliqué or two on the garment in other places so that the appliqués look like they were on the garment all along.

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