Things Fall Apart

When I was 18 with a baby, I was married into a construction crew that regularly wrecked their jeans. At a dollar a patch I made my first money sewing and became a bit of a hero.

Loved making and having my own income source. Since then I have mended and patched hundreds of pairs of jeans. I find it deeply rewarding to make something damaged whole again. Each pair present their own challenge, and solutions vary according to need. Here are some common examples.


Fraying occurs when friction on the garment causes threads to wear out. It is very common on the bottom of a garment when the warp (up and down threads) wear out at a point of friction and the weft (side to side threads) then droop down below and between the broken threads.


“To the degree that the U.S. ever built an infrastructure to contain and suppress the coronavirus, it frayed this week.” The Atlantic, July 2, 2020

It can also occur at any point where the garment is constantly rubbed: the top of a pocket, the side seams, and below back pockets are common points. The surface will look thin and may change color, becoming lighter.


Wear occurs when the garment is subject to uneven stress. The area that is overused may become thin and threads may begin to break. This will cause the fabric to be more likely to tear.



Tear is a rent in the wholeness of the cloth that results in a hole. It can be a split at a weak point or it can be the result of a puncture wound to the garment that then results in a rent.

“Many residents are torn - they understand the growing danger of the coronavirus but also say the months in virtual lockdown took an emotional toll.” Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2020

Fraying, wear and tear can be fixed! Early wear or fraying can be mended. This means that the surface can be reinforced with stitching from the top. It is often a good idea to place a layer of cloth behind the area that is being mended to strengthen the surface. It is an easy fix and one that may be barely visible. The MOST important element is to get a good color match with the thread you are using to topstitch the area. A good match will disappear when laid on top of the area or be very, very hard to see.

Pin a piece of cloth behind the area and sew back and forth across the surface. Turn inside out and go around the layer inside at least once.

Fray on an edge may just require topstitching. A zig-zag stitch may be enough to stop the fray and keep the weft from drooping.

A big area or multiple holes may need a patch. A patch is an additional layer that is applied to the surface over a large wear area or hole. Cut a piece of cloth similar in color from another pair of jeans. Turn all edges ¼ inch under. Use a hot steam iron. Slide something into the pants to keep from pinning through more that one layer. Cardboard will work. Pin the patch over the worn area or hole. Carefully sew all around the patch keeping the stitches close to the edge. Move into the patch and do it again. Keep sewing lines of stitching until the area is secure and the rent or hole has been closed inside the garment.


 “True mending will only come if we needle our leaders enough to mend the social fabric that is so seriously torn.”, April 14, 2020

It is a great accomplishment to be able to resurrect a favorite pair of jeans. I am going to insert some examples of the halleluiah favorites.


Top 1- Mark : 2006 era patched and mended jeans
Top 2- Susan (back) jeans purchased in 1992. Gift certificate from my sister Mary on the occasion of my 40th surprise birthday party at the Picadilly Pub in East Longmeadow.
Patched and mended
Bottom 1- Susan front of 1992 jeans: patched and mended
Bottom 2- Susan side view of jeans gifted to her in 1982 by Richard Moss. Painted, patched and mended



It is being said that the pandemic has revealed holes in the social safety net.
That some police departments need to repair relations with minority communities.
That people of color experience more stress, or psychological wear and tear, than their white counterparts.

FYI – I no longer repair jeans for money. I do it for the satisfaction of making something whole again. I do it for love.