Do you have a favorite pair of pants that were ripped accidentally or are worn in a particular spot because you wear them so much?
Good news! You don’t have to throw the garment away or hide it in the back of your closet. (Because you love them and just can’t let them go!)
There is a way to fix the rip or hole with some hand sewing that will give your favorite garment a fun unique look and make them wearable again.
Important: The steps I share with you on how to fix a rip in a pair of pants are based on what I did during this first time I tried hand mending. During the mending process and after the repair was completed, I learned a lot. However, I also identified a few things I wish I had done differently (which I mention at the bottom of the post).
The most important thing I learned, though, was hand repairing rips is a fun way to use sewing skills and provides a lot of creative opportunities!
Note: If you’ve never done any hand sewing, check out Hand Sewing for Beginners. Here you will find tutorials on tieing knots at the beginning and end of sewing as well as how to do the running stitch (the stitch I used in this mending project).
A Torn Pair of Pants
When my son’s girlfriend asked if I could fix a tear in the leg of one of her favorite pair of pants, I was hesitant.
The only type of clothing repair I had ever done was an iron-on patch over worn-out knees when my son was little.
Because my skills for fixing a tear were limited to an iron-on patch, I knew I didn’t have the knowledge or possibly the skills needed to fix the rip in such a way it wouldn’t be noticeable.
Mallory, my son’s girlfriend, assured me nothing I would do to mend the tear would be worse than the rip itself.
She couldn’t wear the pants as they were now, but knowing I had sewing skills gave her hope she might be able to wear them again.
Comforted by knowing the repair didn’t need to be perfect, I wasn’t hindered by expectations of making the tear look as if it had never happened.
My son, Nicholas, and Mallory had just flown in from California when she asked if I could fix the tear in her pants. They were only visiting for a few days so I didn’t have much time to patch the rip.
Research on Fixing a Rip in Pants
Since an iron-on patch wouldn’t work for the repair, I started to research mending options.
The first place I looked was in a book recently added to my sewing library…
After getting some ideas on what to do from the book, I did a quick search online.
The results included a lot of images, some videos, and several articles.
One blurb mentioned shasiko, a Japanese visible mending technique.
With further reading, I learned shasiko translates to “little stabs” referencing the running stitch used to do the mending.
I combined the information I gleaned from the book, videos, and online articles to repair the rip in Mallory’s pants.
Supplies to Fix a Rip in Pants
- fabric for the patch that is similar in weight to the pant fabric
- fabric glue
- embroidery needle
- marking utensil
- (optional) thimble or finger pad
Things to Consider When Making the Patches
The pants fabric and the fabric used for patches should be similar.
Mallory’s pants are a thinner corduroy made from 98% cotton and 2% spandex. So the fabric has a slight stretch to it.
The fit is one of the things Mallory loves about the pants, so I wanted to keep as much of the stretch as possible.
The fabric I used for the patch was 100% cotton and similar in weight to the corduroy.
Cutting the Patches
The size of the patch and the direction of the fabric grain is important (on both the patch and the pants).
After turning the pants inside out and pressing the ripped area flat, I measured the tears.
When I cut the fabric for the patches I made sure the straight-of-the-grain in the patches went the same direction as the straight-of-the-grain in the pants.
My thought behind cutting the fabric like this was the bias for both the corduroy and the patch would be going the same way and there would still be a stretch in the patched area.
I cut three patches – 2 longer rectangles for the large tears and a small square for a little hole near the end of the rip.
Each patch was cut to include an additional 1/2 inch on all 4 sides. This allowed for the rip to be covered completely with some patch fabric overlapping the undamaged corduroy fabric. This overlap provides a solid place to stitch.
Patching the Rip
Secure the Patch
The patch needs to be held in place while you are hand stitching.
Use fabric glue to secure the edges of the patch to the undamaged fabric around the tear on the wrong side of the fabric. (The patches in the photo above are glued in place.)
If you use too much, some glues will soak through and stain the right side of the fabric. Make sure to read and follow the directions on the glue bottle.
It’s always a good idea to test the glue in an inconspicuous area before applying it to a place that will be visible.
Mark the Lines
Because the repair will be visible, you’ll need to decide on a design. It can be as simple as straight parallel lines or something more unique.
I decided to angle the stitches in parallel rows so they were going diagonally across the tear. My thought behind this decision was the angled stitches would still allow the fabric to stretch.
It would be difficult to do the running stitch in straight lines without something to follow.
So I used the ruler and a marking utensil to make the lines. Instead of making a line for each row I was going to sew, I made them wide enough that I could sew a row between each drawn line.
Prepare the Thread
You’ll need to select thread.
Since fixing this tear was going to be a visible mending repair, I wanted the thread to be seen.
I used DMC embroidery floss because I wanted something slightly thicker than regular sewing thread and I had some in my sewing supplies. (One of the articles I read suggested using sashiko thread or heavy cotton thread.)
Embroidery floss is usually used for decorative stitching. I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up in a patch, but the repair wasn’t in an area where the thread would be rubbed (like in the crotch or inside of the thighs).
I did test the strength of a strand by trying to break it by pulling on it and wasn’t able to do so.
Only time will tell if the thread stays secure and doesn’t fray with wearing and washing.
After cutting a length of floss approximately 30″ long, I separated one strand from the other 5 and folded it in half. This gave me the thickness I wanted for the thread to be seen on the mending.
Finally, I threaded it through the eye of the needle.
Use the Running Stitch to Secure the Patch
You’ll use the running stitch to secure the patch and fix the tear.
Anchor the thread on the wrong side of the fabric. Do this by:
- inserting the needle from the back (wrong side of the pants) to the front (right side)
- pull the thread through until the loop is just visible on the wrong side
- push the needle back through from the front to the back leaving approximately a 1/4″ between stitches
- thread the needle through the loop and pull to secure the thread.
Continue the running stitch following the lines. Make small evenly spaced stitches. Try to make the stitches and space between them roughly 1/4″.
Make sure to stitch a couple of stitches past the edges of the patch as you move back and forth across the patch.
When you have approximately 3 inches of thread left, secure it with one knot then weave the end back and forth between stitches on the wrong side of the fabric.
Note: Do only one knot so there isn’t a noticeable lump that can be felt when the pants are worn. The weaving will ensure the thread doesn’t come undone.
The Completed Repair
Mallory left a couple of days before Nicholas and I wasn’t able to finish repairing the tear before she left.
Fortunately, I was able to patch the rip before Nicholas left, so he took the pants home with him.
I mentioned earlier I was concerned if the repair would hold up as she wears the pants because I used DMC embroidery floss for the thread.
Mallory wore the pants the day after Nicholas returned. She happily reported the patches held up after squatting and lifting boxes all day at work. She was thrilled with the visibly mended pants!
Update January 2021: Eleven months later the mending is still holding strong, and Mallory says she wears them a lot.
Visible Mending in the Future
The opportunity to fix the tear in Mallory’s pants opened up a new way to use sewing skills.
However, I openly admit the patching job I did wasn’t perfect.
In fact, if I had had more time to complete the repair, there is a good chance, I would have pulled out the stitches halfway through the patching process and started over.
About halfway through the mending, I identified a few things I wished I had done differently.
First, I wished I had folded under the raw edge of the patch so it was hidden and wouldn’t fray on the inside of the garment.
Second, I thought about stitching around the patch to secure it and the raw edges in place. (These stitches would have run parallel to the edge of the patch.) This would have added another design element to the visible mending. However, I’m not sure the amount of stretch provided by the diagonal stitches would have been limited.
Third, I will draw the lines on the right side of the garment if possible.
Why? Because my stitches and spaces are always more even and uniform on the side where the lines are. Thank goodness corduroy is bumpy so it hid the imperfections in my stitches on the right side of the fabric. But it was that bumpy texture that made me think the lines should be on the back (where it was smooth). In the end, it all worked out.
Regardless, this project piqued my curiosity about using hand stitching to mend holes and tears in favorite pieces of clothing and I want to learn more.
As I think about this first repair job, I’m already wondering about future projects and how I can incorporate doodle stitching with visible mending.
Doodle stitching has been on my list of things to do for a long time after I added the book Doodle Stitching: Fresh and Fun Embroidery for Beginners by Aimee Ray to my sewing library.
After fixing the tear in Mallory’s pants, I’m excited to learn more about visible mending and hope my experience helps you repair a tear in a favorite garment of yours.
My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.
Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at email@example.com and we can work together to get it figured out!
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