Mender Be!

1 capris

1t hole in carDo you rush from one new sewing project to the next while turning your back on an ever growing pile of not-quite-wearable items that could be put right in an hour or so?  Do bits of your children’s uniforms go missing at school because you can’t be bothered to sew on name tapes  – it’s too boring?  And has your husband been asking for months when you’re going to stitch up that hole in the car flooring which you gouged out driving in killer heels?!

Ok, so that last one is a bit specific 🙂 but if the above ring true, then  you’re like me.  When you could be like Lesley, who first fixes something from the unglamorous pile.   In ‘Mending is Good for the Psyche’, Lesley says: the mending can be anything big or small, sometimes the thing I mend is very quick, it depends on how much time I have, but I feel justified in moving on to other more exciting projects having completed my ‘work’.  How sensible is that, not to mention virtuous!  I’m thinking of adopting Lesley’s strategy though it’ll take some discipline.

Here’s a quick embellishment project in which I mended a situation.  Last year, I bought some Primark jeans and I’ve been looking at them ever since.  Initially attracted by their colour and cheapness, I tried them on in the changing room and they seemed to adequately cover my backside – a rare treat in low-rise skinnies.  Unfortunately, within minutes of putting them on for wearing (i.e. walking and sitting down, rather than standing in a changing room) the fabric, which is a cotton and polyester mix with 1% Lycra, would stretch and stretch turning the jeans saggy and turning my mood instantly to drab.  It seemed cruel to pass them on to a charity shop for some other schmuck to buy, thinking she’d grabbed herself a bargain, so I eventually pressed them flat inside out and sewed 1cm into the outer seam, from the hip rivet to just below the knee.  So now they fit better, like slightly wrinkly running tights, but with spring in the air, I no longer needed tight jeans.  I needed something frivolous and summery, like these jeans cut into capris that I spotted on Pinterest (click on pic for tutorial): 1 original plan

I planned on using leather instead of bias binding (I hear you’re getting sick of my ever-giving bundle of leather.  Me too!).  Unfortunately – and I wonder how I didn’t foresee this – leather straps when folded like bias strips end up really thick and don’t tie so well…  So then I thought I’d do a button trick recently pulled by  Tialys, so I cut the ties, closed the keyhole and covered up raw edges with two buttons.  This looked well cute but now the leg openings were so tight around my calves, we had to call an ambulance!  1 Warts and all

Once I was cut free, the capris were shorter still, but I remade the keyholes further up and used straight 3cm leather ribbons as ties.

I just about got away with it.  I think!

 1 Side capris

The tutorial

– The optimal hem length for capris is below the widest part of your calf muscle.  For me, this would mean an inside leg length of 54.5cm (but my final version is above the calf muscle, on account of things going wrong…). Never cut at the widest part of the leg.

– This is a straight-forward hemming with bias binding procedure without finesse; you probably don’t need a tute at all, but if you’re a beginner and something’s not clear, just ask!

– To make denim bias binding for the keyhole, I used the leg cut offs.  I had to join two pieces to have sufficient length of binding for each keyhole.

– For the topstitching in the final step, I used tough upholstery thread and a new (sharp) leather needle.

– This would look charming with 3cm double-sided strips made of patterned lawn/poplin  or denim on the reverse.

Ok, here we go:

4cm denim bias binding made of cut offs

Step 1: make 1cm bias binding out of 4cm strips. Length required = length of keyhole plus 2cm, more if you can spare. One for each leg!

Draw a keyhole shape on bottom side seam.  Try on the jeans.  If the keyhole stretches too much, redraw.  Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

Step 2: Hem jeans to desired length *not shown, sorry * Draw a keyhole shape on bottom of side seam. Try on the jeans. If the keyhole stretches too wide once your jeans are on, redraw. Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

1 strips of leather or ribbon 3cm by 19cm approx

Step 3: Prepare strips or ribbons, 2 for each leg. These are leather: 3cm by 19cm each. Fabric strips can be shorter as the knots will be less thick.

1 pin leather with bias binding to keyhole

Step 4 a): Pin right side leather to right side garment. Pin bias binding to the wrong side, 1cm folded under

1 wrong side

Step 4 b); view on wrong side. Stitch along 1cm line. Before reaching opposite end of keyhole, arrange second leather strip right sides together as in Step 4 a) and fold bias strip under 1cm then stitch to end.

1 rightside, pinned for topstitching

Step 5: on right side, pin and topstitch the bias binding. Fold strips/ribbons back over the keyhole and topstitch. Use contrasting thread if you like.

1 leather ribbon capri embellishment detail

Finished: a bit rough-hewn but quick and effective.

I’ve another hardly worn pair of jeans – flares from Boden, in fact — that I’d like to restyle.  If you have any nice ideas, let me know!

13 thoughts on “Mender Be!

  1. I like that little bit of brown leather. Looks swell with the Capris. Nice save. In terms of what to do with old jeans – I love the 1970s skirts where the shape of the leg is incorporated into the skirt so you know where it came from. Might do that myself one day.

  2. Ugh! I know just what you mean about mending. I also have a completed dress – the pattern cost me a fortune at an exhibition last year (or was it the year before?) – which is lovely but needs the invisible zip taken out of the back and put back in again to make it smaller and then it will fit me. Have I done it? Will I ever do it? Who knows? Of course, by now the original ‘thrill ‘ of making that particular dress in that particular fabric is gone and it just makes me feel guilty every time I catch a glimpse of its purple spottiness slung over my ‘to do’ pile.
    I love what you’ve done with your jeans. That leather bow is a really nice touch and makes them very individual – it helps that they fit you now too. Is there anything worse than low rise that keeps getting lower as the day goes on?

  3. Those are indeed – super cute. Say leather, and all I can think of is this: “Six thousand dollars? It’s not even leather!” – ‘Cyn’/Joan Cusack, “Working Girl” 1988.

    I am a mender. Someone wrote recently about making this easier by organizing the work into thread color groups. It does make the boring ones more fun if sandwiched between the ones that need leather accents.

    I wish I could repair my dripping kitchen faucet with my sewing machine and some leather accents. I’ll let you know how that goes.

  4. I think your capris turned out really cute! I, too, have a somewhat illogical aversion to mending. It seems like being able to wear a whole garment should be worth a quick fix, but I find mending/alterations so boring! You’ve reminded me of a pile of too-short jeans that I need to take in or shorten–maybe I’ll give this a try! Claps to your industriousness!

  5. Oh yes, Primark jeans. It’s not just Primark or just jeans, though, is it? Things often don’t somehow seem to be the same garment you tried on in that changing room when you get them home and wear them for real. I’ve noticed this is especially common during sales. I have a basket (okay, two baskets) of stuff that needs mending/altering/buttons harvesting before it’s recycled and told myself that if I don’t do it in a reasonable time, it all has to go. I haven’t defined ‘reasonable time’ though, potentially a fatal flaw… I have to admit to feeling very smug when I do mend/alter something from my basket. Love the capris, optimistically spring like, exactly what we need in crazy weather month.

    • Sometimes it’s easier to just give them away but that’s admitting defeat and then you really know you wasted money buying the stuff.

      Great to see you blogging. The party bags will delight your little guests (and raise the stakes in future party bags!)

      If poss, please ‘enable’ people to comment using ‘Name/url’ profile; I can’t use any of the others like Google or OpenID.

      • Thanks for the comment advice – I’m still getting my head around the techie bit of blogging. I’ve fixed it now (the huge cheer you heard was me finding the bit to fix….).

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