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Patching & Repairing Clothing

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Household Management > Patching & Repairing Clothing


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How to patch pants: recycle or throw away?

May 2012

Hi BPN Community, I'm slowly trying to extricate my home and family from monstrous clutter that is completely overwhelming. I'm making progress which is great. One place I'm stuck though and I wonder in anyone has any advice. Being on the end of a long line of family hand-me-downs, I have a big mountain of boys pants of all types (20ish pairs of jeans, sweat pants, khakis, etc.)that have holes in them. I've tried patching jeans with those iron-on patches to varying levels of success. Are there such patches for other types of pants, like sweat pants? If not, has anybody had success with a non-labor intensive way of ''patching'' pants? If not, should I give them to someone who would take the time to patch them? Throw them away? Compost them? Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks! Need help with pants!


My boys tear the knees out of sweatpants constantly. I've had pretty good luck cutting up a pair of sweats and using it to patch other sweats (I cut a big rectangle and sew it on seam-to-seam, so it looks more like a reinforced knee and less like a patch). Sometimes I just hem them above the hole and turn them into shorts. I've also chopped up old sweats and turned them into other things - rags, a pillow for the cat, patches on other items, etc. They don't wear jeans, so I don't have much advice there - but patching them with pieces cut from other old jeans would probably work better than the iron-ons. Worn-out jeans can also be cut up and re-purposed - I just saw a cool pillow today made with strips of faded denim sewn together. Upcycler
I congratulate your efforts to patch the pants. But if you decide not to, there are places that recycle textiles. I tried hard to find such a place without success, but both Ace Hardware and CVS at Rose and Shattuck have bins for taking used clothes and shoes. The sign on the bin doesn't say explicitly that it recycles textiles in their lowest form (i.e., turn clothes into textile fibers) but that could be implied from their wording. I have deposited lots of worn blue jeans in them. If anyone on this list has more information about what this organization does, I'd be happy to hear of it. Francesca

Kid's torn jeans - does anyone patch anymore?

Jan 2011

My husband and I disagree on whether it is still acceptable to patch our seven year olds jeans with holes in the knees. I think no one does this anymore because jeans are more or less disposable/recyclable/donatable. My husband thinks patches are still worth the trouble of ironing on. What do you do? anon mom


We patch! Sometimes... I get what you're saying because by the time jeans are torn chances are they're almost too short to save, and plenty of ripped jeans have been thrown out/turned to rags at our place.

But I've also patched a couple of pairs that tore ''early'' and my son loved them. Did one pair with iron-on patches (for the tear) plus iron-on flames. Hand-sewed another pair with old back pockets from a totally destroyed pair jeans over the knees of the less beaten-up jeans. The hand-sewing was a bit nuts but I just did a side or two over a week or so while watching TV/listening to the radio. And my son (6.5) really likes them. (Thank goodness!)

That said, it's still a bit of work. Is your husband planning on doing the patching himself?! Sometime Patcher


Call me cheap, but I do patch my son's jeans. He seems to go through the knees very quickly and I can double (even triple with repatching) their life if I patch them. I do use the iron-on patches, but sometimes I can find some other fun appliques that act as great patches. Cheap Mom
We patch unless there is no more growing room. we also buy used as much as possible. the environmental foot-print of buying new all the time is just too high. patches
I still patch my own jeans if they are a pair I love and want to keep around. To do this I use either an iron-on patch or I sew on a similar (or contrasting, if you are bold) fabric around the affected area. Of course, this now brings the jeans down to ''wear around the house'' status. If they've reached the point where they are worn with holes they aren't suitable for public anymore. Eventually things get beyond repair (or my knowledge and ability to repair them) and when I hit that point, then I get rid of them.

Personally, I believe that it is just wasteful to throw things away/give them away when you could use part of them for something else or fix them. I have purchased jeans/sweaters/shirts at stores before with minor holes in them and shirts with buttons missing and repaired them myself for a good deal.

I also darn socks (yes, even the white ones) even though I know to buy a pack of 8 for $6. It just seems wasteful to me to throw away things that you can extent the life of... Hannah


Please patch the jeans. It only takes a few minutes to do and is much better than more landfill (recycling jeans is very rare. Torn items that are donated are usually discarded.) Just because things are so cheap now due to foreign labor, it would be so great if people did not think of so many things as disposable. Thank you for asking the question. Elizabeth
I occasionally patch, but I find that the iron-on patches come loose after 1-2 washes and need to be ironed on again. Since I'm not a big fan of ironing, especially when it comes to kids' jeans, I also watch for Old Navy's $10 jean sale (they just had one right after Christmas) and stock up. That way, I don't feel bad about getting rid of the jeans when they get holes in the knees. I save patching for more expensive pants. Susan
Yes, I patch my son's pants and jeans. If I didn't, we would be buying pants all the time. Iron Maven
Patch them! Why create more waste and expense needlessly? I have patched both my son's pants for several years (usually by machine sewing, but iron-on works too) and found it very worthwhile. No one ever looked askance at our patches, and we live in a fairly affluent area. I was proud to model resourcefulness, utility, and thrift.

p.s. if you sew, it works nicely to save a pair of outgrown jeans and use them to cut future denim patches, that match. Also, if you patch on the inside of the leg, (depending on scratchiness and type of fabric) the patch is much less visible. Satisfied sewer


I do attempt to patch my son's torn pant knees--sometimes he tears through them after only a few wearings, and because he is so skinny, it's hard to find pants that fit him well. However, I have found that the iron-on patches only extend the lifetime of the pants a bit--usually, the pants soon tear next to the patches. I've even tried preemptively ironing on patches to the inside of the knee on new pants, and that didn't help much either (and didn't look great, since the fabric kind of puckered over the patch).

So, in conclusion, I think patching your kids' pants is perfectly acceptable and will not lead to social ostracism; however, it's not as helpful as you'd hope. My kid has razor knees


I have 3 boys and I used to do patches back in the day when I was a stay-at-home mom. Sure, why not patch them if you have the time? One of my sons couldn't stand the texture of a heavier patch, so it doesn't work for all kids. OTOH even if your son won't wear patched pants, somebody else can get some use out of them. Otherwise, they are just rags, and denim doesn't make a good cleaning rag!

If you do patch, buy the heavy-duty iron-on patches that are meant for jeans. Turn the pants inside out, and iron the patches to the wrong side. Do both knees even if only one is torn -- the other knee is not far behind, and anyway the pants will look lopsided if you do only one. You can machine-stitch around the edge of the patches to keep them from curling up, which also makes the patch look more like reinforcement than patch.

And then there is always the ''cut-offs'' option, although they usually come out looking dorky even if you hem them, since long pants are cut differently through the thigh than short pants. My kids drew the line at cut-offs so I stopped trying this.

My current option, now that I am no longer a stay-at-home mom with time to sew, is this: My local drycleaners does repairs for not very much money. I've had them repair rips in my husband's pants' belt loops and shirt pockets, and they come out looking great. So, you might inquire at your neighborhood cleaners how much they charge for a repair. It might be cheaper than you think. used to sew


I mend my son's torn jeans and patch the torn knees. I don't subscribe to the notion that pants that are fine in all other respects should be discarded - donated or otherwise - just because they have a torn knee. I can't afford to buy new jeans for my child every time he puts a hole in them. anon
I patched my son's jeans whenever he wore a hole in them and he loved it! I hand sewed them using patches made from his dad's old jeans and trousers. If you use red or bright blue thread it makes it more fun too. Lucy
If you have the time to patch, it sounds like a great idea. We swap clothes with friends but no one would ever swap torn clothes. If you don't want it for your kids, your friends wouldn't want them either. And families in need would prefer you not give them torn clothes either. So either throw them away, cut them up for other purposes or patch them! Imagine how a kid might feel knowing his family is in need and he receives torn clothing from a stranger. Fix it or recycle it
I guess it depends on what you care about. If it's that you are sensitive to your child being different and you can afford to buy new jeans, go buy new jeans. If it would help more to save money than it would to have your child possibly look different than others' children, patch his jeans. I used to patch my clothes, jeans included before I had my son. Now we both wear the holey jean look because of lack of time to do things like patches. But I could care less what other people are doing or what they think about how I dress myself or my child. patch if I had time to
I spent hours ironing on and then stitching by hand some patches on my son's jeans (you can't just iron them on because the child can easily rip them off). It was not worth it. I'd rather just spend the 7 dollars at target for new jeans.

It is really up to you, but I thought it was a waste of time. You can use them for cleaning rags or other projects, so you don't have to throw them away... BTDT


There are some very fashionable & expensive built-in patched jeans that you can buy from places like Boden. I'd say, if you're up for it, you should do it. I wouldn't put one of those rectangle iron-on stiff patches-those were awful even back in the old days--but if you can be artistic/creative about it (eg turn it into a sort of applique, patch with a nice color and decently comfortable/soft fabric, put in a silhouette shape of something the kid would like, like stars, hearts, butterflies for girls, dinos, trucks, planes for boys), you should do it!
I did not see the original post, but I had to laugh at the responses because they had a totally different take than I did. I don't patch, but I also don't buy new -- my son just wears the pants with the holes, I'm afraid. I buy double knees but he still puts a hole in the first knee usually first day out in them. He swears not but I think he does it on purpose. Then he works on getting through the second layer. These are expensive pants for a fussy boy and so I just say ''whatever'' and send him to school in them. Thank god for public school, I guess -- I never thought it was odd to wear pants with holes until this advice column! However, I do try to save one good pair for holidays and the like.

Your ideas about patching were helpful but no way my kid would wear patched pants -- he WANTS the holes. disgraced mom


Yes! I patch! Chinos rip really quickly, and we wore through his favorite jeans pretty quickly. BUT, the patches come off really quickly, so this is only a stop-gap measure! Patchy gal

Repairing a broken snap on baby's jeans

Oct 2003

One of the many snap buttons on a very nice baby jeans came off after the first washing (before my daughter had even worn them once!). Since it was a gift from overseas, no chance of complaining/returning the item to the manufacturer. How do I best fix it/get a similar snap button in place?

Tried to get the old snap button back in place, but the little ''legs'' are bent, and the fabric in that area is 4 layers thick, which is a challenge for probably any technique. There are 8 in a row and they should look roughly the same (dark blue-black ring on the outside), so taking a sew-on snap instead also would look odd.

New ones probably are inserted with a special tool/machine and come in larger quantiy sets, I assume... Any advice? A store/alteration place that could help inexpensively? Thanks, Snapped off


I don't know if this will be useful for your situation, but one time the snap came off of a 2nd hand Baby Bjorn carrier I had. I took it to a shoe repair place and with a couple of dollars and 5 minutes, it was repaired. eve
You can buy a kit for snaps in the notions department of any fabric store or larger drugstore. They are under five dollars and come with the little tool used for pressing a new barbed side into the fabric. It's quite easy when you follow the directions. Stephanie
You can buy snap repair tool kits in many fabric shops or even in Longs Drug (@ 51st/Broadway). Or for about the same amount of money, take it to a shoe repair shop. linda
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