Getting to the bottom of the problem

Yes. Sorry about that. Another punning post title…

The post I did recently about patching a favourite shirt of mine, and a question I saw on a post on Lynn’s blog the other day made me think it might be a good idea to show a simple, easy way of patching pants, trousers or whatever your local vernacular is.

I get a lot of jeans/work pants repairs to do. The Husband has a strange old job. He spends large amounts of time sitting on his bum behind a steering wheel. In between bouts of wheel-twiddling and pedal-pressing, he’s then strenuously bending, lifting, shoving and stretching, hauling great hoses and fittings around as he makes his delivery of 51,000 litres of diesel. His work pants get both friction/ compression wear (sitting) and stretch/ stress wear (aforementioned gymnastics). And they give way. Regularly. It’s always in the same place, right below the buttock crease, from the centre or inside leg seam outwards and down.

The rest of the garment is still fine, and has years of use left in it, so clearly, a patch is the best option. I have a stock of pre-cut patches. They were cut from old jeans and work pants that were past saving, using good parts from the legs. The patches are a variety of shades, and are going onto used, well-worn, washed garments, so the patch fabric needs to match as well as possible. These are work pants, after all…  I have a couple of reels of blue cotton thread which matches the jeans always on hand. I don’t recommend repairing a tear in the seat of pants with hand stitching, as it’s really not durable enough. For a shirt or other lighter fabric, it would be fine.

Here’s how a repair goes:

For this tutorial, I’ll be working with heavy navy cargo pants, because that’s what needs repairing today, but it’s exactly the same for jeans. Get a piece of light interfacing a bit bigger than the rip. Place it sticky side up on the inside of the jeans, behind the tear.

Lay flat, and pull the torn edges together as well as you can. Using a piece of baking paper laid over the tear, use a dry iron to bond the interfacing to the inside of the torn area. This will help prevent the tear growing and stop any bits of interfacing that show through from sticking to the iron.

If the tear is a very bad one, you should darn before you patch, to prevent it growing. Select the zigzag stitch on your machine, fairly close stitches and medium wide. Zigzag all the way around the outside of the tear, in good, solid fabric. Then work slowly inwards, overlapping the previous stitching a little each time till you have closed the gap. The aim is to almost create new fabric in the gap with the stitches and interfacing. I don’t usually darn in a contrasting colour, but I wanted you to see what it looks like!
At this point, you can choose whether you want the patch to show or not. If the fabric’s not quite right, try the reverse, where the colour might be closer. (The photo makes the colour difference in this patch more noticeable than it is in real life.) Take your patch, and place it over the tear. You need a patch that’s a good bit bigger than the tear. I tend to go for at least an inch all the way round, often more. Pin the patch in place.

Pin in an anti-clockwise direction. It sounds daft to be so specific, but that way, the pins are pointing the right way (towards the sewing machine foot) when you put the job under the needle of your sewing machine. You have stabilised the tear and placed the patch. Now it’s time to sew. If you are concerned about tackling pins while you wrestle the repair under the machine, consider basting (tacking) the patch in place and removing the pins before you use the sewing machine. Don’t use a bonding product like Bondaweb to hold it in place, as it’ll make the patch too stiff and uncomfortable to wear.

I personally prefer a blanket stitch for attaching the patch. It neatens the edge so you don’t have to turn it under, which creates a bodgy great lump on the edge which wears much faster. It’s secure, and it looks good. If you don’t have blanket stitch on your machine, you can achieve much the same effect with zigzag, it’s just a bit more visible. Use a piece of scrap fabric to decide what width and length of stitch you want. I’d suggest a fairly short stitch length and a medium stitch width. Stitch slowly, especially if you need to cross any thick seams. Work all the way around the outside edge. Start and finish with 3 or 4 very small stitches, or use your machine’s lockstitch if it has one.

Change the stitch to straight and stitch again all round, just inside the zigzag or blanket stitch. This second line of stitching anchors the patch and prevents stress on the blanket stitch, which is just finishing off the edge. On some earlier patches, I didn’t do this additional line of stitching, and you can see the result. The patch is pulling away from the edging stitches. I’ve reinforced it again, and done this extra line, which should preserve the patch for a bit longer.

There, you’re done. It wasn’t so bad, was it? Total expenditure: $0; total time: 10 minutes.

Go on now, go and save a pair of lovely jeans from the rag bag!


ST&D: 60% quilted

Another two rows done.

This particular quilting design does get easier as you go along. You realise that actually it’s not really necessary to mark up this design on your block top. You learn the time intervals at which you move the block from side to side to get the wavy line fairly even. You realise that very dense appliqué or piecing should not be closely quilted or it will stiffen, so you open the lines out in these areas. You learn – quickly – that it’s a really good idea to clip your starting threads (assuming you don’t use leaders and enders, I don’t) because otherwise the sewing machine will pounce on them and chew them enthusiastically at the start of the next line. You get in the habit of placing a pin in the starting edge of the block to indicate whether the wavy lines are horizontal or vertical for this particular piece’s place in the layout, so that the chequerboard effect is consistent and you don’t get three verticals in a row. And you give your walking foot some love. Clean out the matted fluff, wipe off any spray-baste residue, give it a good dusting.

Past the halfway point now, just two more rows to go. Signed, Tealed & Delivered is going to be sashed in teal on the front and cream on the back, just because. All cream is a bit dull to work with. I found some very pretty fabric for the front sashing, and it’ll make a nice change.

A bit of mindless quilting has been just what I need as a break from marketing strategy and copywriting. Sadly, it’s time to get back to all that. I have an entire website to edit and rewrite.

Anyone would think I was getting paid for it…

Patch Work

Not quilts, for a change.

There comes a time in the life of all one’s favourite garments when things give way. This was true yesterday morning, when I put on one of my favourite shirts. It’s a pleasantly soft cotton/linen mix, comfortable in the heat and with sleeves and a collar to protect me from the hottest summer sunshine. I’ve washed and worn it for over 5 years. But today, as I put it on it tore up the back and under one arm.

I debated whether this shirt should be honourably discharged from duty. But I love it, and it’s so comfortable. So I decided to patch it. Now, there wasn’t the smallest chance of finding fabric to match. It was a soft pink once. Now, it’s merely nearly white, nearly pink, having been bleached in the sun and washed to within an inch of its life. The answer was to do the job with fabrics that blended rather than matched. A quick rootle in my pale pink scraps did the job.

I feel a few more patches are called for. What do you think?

There now. Neatly patched. Actually, I’m quite looking forward to it giving way somewhere else so I can add more patches in pretty fabrics. I think the result is fine.

There’s a pair of the Husband’s work pants waiting for attention, but I can’t give rein to any creativity there, the results would not be appreciated. So they can just wait a bit more…

For now, if you’ll forgive me – I’m tickled pink!

ScrapHappy March – Anemones

Here we are again, and it’s definitely come around a lot faster than I was expecting!

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

Each hexie flower is 10 inches across

Because I’ve been a bit busy over the past week or so, I haven’t yet had a chance to start work on sashing my Rainbow Scrappy quilt blocks. It’s cutting table/sewing machine work, and that’s currently reserved for ST&D. But when I get too sore in the back to bend over the Bonnard hand quilting any more (6 rows to go!), I’ve been retreating to my comfy chair and stitching in big hexie flowers on my Anemone scrappy quilt. And look!  Another row added! I do love this quilt, and I’m sorry I’ve neglected it so long. Stitching in the flowers is extra fiddly when they’re so large, but the great splashes of joyful colour really make me happy, so it’s worth it.

Still two more rows to go from the flowers I’ve made. After that, I’ll look at it again and decide if I want to make it any larger, or finish it off there.

I think I’d like to keep the edge wavy rather than squaring it off, so I’ll face the edge on the back like I did with my Worldwide Friends quilt, rather than chopping off some of the hexies. Before I do that, I’ll need to add some filler hexies next to each spotty hexie on the edge. It’s a good way to use up even more scraps 🙂

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). We have a couple of new members, so make sure you check out the two blogs at the end!

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn,  Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys and Claire

See you again, same time next month!

ST&D: Lush!

I have four more blocks quilted.

I confess, I was a bit nervous about this one. I wasn’t sure how the Aida fabric would quilt up, compared with the softer quilting cotton fabrics. I was terrified of mucking it up, so I made a sample using the same fabric and quilted that. It seemed to be OK. There were a few small tracking marks where the new walking foot’s feed dogs had gripped onto the surface, but I though the result was pretty good. So I took a deep breath and got going.

It’s lovely. The firmer fabric hasn’t stopped the texture forming, and there’s a gorgeous soft ripple which catches the light beautifully. It’s a really nice contrast with the slightly nubbly texture of the background and stitching. I’m so pleased with it!

Thanks, Margaret, your beautiful embroidery is a real asset to the quilt 🙂

ST&D: 30% quilted, and a lot of words

Not exactly a fascinating post, sorry, but I’ve been incredibly busy.

I thought for those who thought I’d disappeared off the radar, I’d better let you know that I’m still here, still quilting, and I’ve got two rows of Signed, Tealed & Delivered blocks quilted with the wavy lines.

Part of the problem has been poor Ariadne, my sewing machine. You may recall I had her serviced during our holiday, and she purrs along beautifully now, but there was still a mysterious grind and squeak. Well, I tracked it down. It was my walking foot. I hadn’t really looked at it for ages, but now I gave it a close examination. It’s been in pretty continuous use for nearly 10 years by my calculation, and guess what? It shows. The spring is very sad and saggy, the arm that raises and lowers the feed dogs is creaky and sticks, and the feed dogs them-selves are worn almost flat. So I treated myself to a spanking new one, and boy, what a difference. I’m so glad I took a look!

The walking foot ridges are worn almost flat

That said, I’m struggling a bit to find sewing time… “What?” I hear you cry. “Can this be a post from Chiconia?” Yes, it’s definitely me talking. Bonnard is merely inching along instead of flying along, and without the other distractions I’d have ST&D half done by now.

The thing is, I’m doing massive amounts of marketing planning, copywriting and copy editing right now. My oldest (or should I say most long-term) friend owns a school in Barbados, in the West Indies. It’s small (by intent), fee-paying and has a limited intake because of the way they deliver education, in very small classes with study tailored to the individual student, and offering a wide variety of curricula, include the US national curriculum, British O and A levels, the International Baccalaureate, etc. The school receives intake not only from Barbados but also from a wide expat community working on the island.

They’ve just been awarded Cambridge International School accreditation, and the lightbulb has gone on big time. It’s not a small, niche private school any more, but a serious contender in the island’s education stakes, and ALL their material has to be reworked, from business cards up to the website, brochures, signage, the lot. Sadly, the work doesn’t include a business trip over there (although I’m familiar with the school from previous visits), so the entire process has to be conducted online and by Skype. The school itself needs to grow; they want to include boarders, invest in more equipment, offer scholarships and pay their teachers premium rates to stop them being poached by other schools!  I therefore also need to write a business proposal for a prospective Board of Advisory Governors, encouraging them to support the school, assist with fundraising and marketing input, offer business advice, and so on.

I haven’t done this stuff for nearly 10 years. The skills are still there, but my brain has had to be kicked into touch, and I’ve been totally wiped out for the past few days after 12 straight hours of planning, analysis, reading, note taking, writing and rewriting each day. Oh, and designing a brochure for her; she wasn’t happy with what arrived from her own designer. Well, what else do you do when you get an SOS from your girlfriend of 40 years’ standing, whom you still call by the same old nickname no one else understands, despite her being a school principal and all?

The Husband wants us to submit an invoice for ‘1 x 75cl bottle of St Nicholas Abbey Barbados Rum for services rendered’. Me?  I’m doing it for love… 

Invisible work

I’m sorry about the radio silence just recently.

Suffice to say that there have been family conferences, try to co-ordinate the ongoing care of my 95 year old father across four countries and two hemispheres. I have had my own issues; I’m currently sporting a fetching black neoprene knee brace with side stiffening on my left leg while they decide if my torn cartilage needs physiotherapy or an arthroscopy to repair or remove it. At times like these I wish my house didn’t have stairs… It’s been going on for a while, as I did it on the outward leg of our recent holiday without realising what I’d done. The only good part has been that I get to look at the MRI images, which I really enjoy – I’d have been a doctor in another life, maybe.

I have been hand-quilting Bonnard, which I won’t show again till I reach the end in 7 rows’ time. And I’ve been doing what I consider one of the most boring aspects of QAYG: cutting batting. Cutting 14 inch square after 14 inch square of batting is necessary, but really exceptionally dull. I enjoy cutting fabrics: the mental planning and placing of the colours, the patterns and designs, the little stacks building up.

I like that. But batting is all the same; it’s annoyingly fluffy and fibres get caught in your cutting mat so you have to stop and get rid of them. It’s all the same colour. Worst of all, it forms no part of the personality of the quilt, it’s invisible.

Anyway, I now have 5 tidy stacks of batting squares, ready for sandwiching the remaining rows of ST&D. All the front blocks are ready, all the backing squares are cut and laid out. It’s just a question of more production line work: starching, pressing, spraying, smoothing. In order to prevent screaming boredom, I’ll do a row at a time.

Batting… it’s not exactly photogenic, either, is it?