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Visible mending with patches

Patching is probably the most obvious way to cover a scuff, worn threads or a small tear – particularly on children’s clothes or practical workwear, but it could be used decoratively on other types of clothing. I decided to attempt this visible mending technique first, as it seemed to be one of the most straightforward.

The item of clothing I chose to work on was a pair of shorts which I’ve had for several years. There were a few areas in the denim that were thin, and while it would have been fine to leave them that way (wear and tear is definitely acceptable in denim; far more than many other fabrics), I decided they would be a good candidate for trying some simple patching. Denim is a good fabric to practice on as it is firm enough to hold easily without slipping, and is also very forgiving if you need to unpick your work several times.

The first patch couldn’t have been simpler. I found a small piece of cotton lace in my sewing box, that I saved for no particular reason many years ago, and I cut out a flower motif. I stitched it over a small hole in the denim, using matching sewing thread. You can buy lace applique patches cheaply from craft shops and Ebay if you like this idea but haven't any suitable lace to hand. I quite like the simplicity of just one flower above the pocket, but you could easily create a more elaborate pattern with multiple motifs or colours, or perhaps even some pretty buttons. Here are pictures of the jeans before patching and afterwards. 

Having gained a little confidence, I then decided to try and create a patch from scratch using scraps of coloured felt and some left-over embroidery thread from making friendship bracelets.

This time I used a pair of jeans with marked pockets – stains can just as easily be patched over as holes. I used a sharp pair of scissors to cut three small hearts from the felt, pinned them strategically to the pocket, and sewed them in place with blanket stitch. Back stitch was used to add strings to turn them into balloons. If you have limited embroidery skills, YouTube has lots of easy-to-follow tutorials, covering all kinds of different stitches.

Tips: practice the stitches on some scrap fabric first.

Use non-fraying colourfast fabric, and slightly less-contrasting thread if you feel self-conscious about uneven stitches.

However, my child was delighted with the result, and immediately asked for a similar repair on another pair of jeans!

Overall, I found patching to be an easy way to cover imperfections, and no special skill or equipment is needed other than a needle, thread and something to use as a patch. This could be a fun activity for both adults and children, although younger children may prefer to use fabric glue rather than stitching.

The only limit is your imagination, and it would certainly be possible to create very elaborate, unique and beautiful patches with practice. If you decide to give this technique a try, please feel free to share photos with us.