Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tutorial: How to Patch a Pair of Shorts...(or most anything, really)

When Big Boy hopped off the school bus last week, I immediately noticed a quarter-size hole in his favorite shorts.  I asked if he wanted me to patch them, and of course, he said yes.  I'm tickled that the kids think it's no big deal that I can patch things, shorten sleeves or make them a pair of "comfy pants" (read: fleece) and let out the hem the next year when they're too short.  For once, being taken for granted makes me smile. 

Besides, patching clothes is no big deal, really.  It's pretty improvisational.   How you patch them kind of depends on the garment's construction, where/how it's torn and your personal style.

Speaking of personal style, if you have kids you know that even very little guys and gals have a style all their own.  So when Big Boy's shorts needed patching, I pulled out a variety of choices.  I wasn't sure if he'd want the patch to blend in, or if he'd want to showcase one of his favorite fabrics.  So I pulled out two fabrics that would blend:  One was from a previous set of pillowcases and the other one of my dad's plaid shirts.

I secretly hoped Big Boy would pick the plaid.  It warms my heart to think of what my dad's reaction to that would've been.  I picture him with his gentle grin and intense gaze.  Daddy wasn't hugely touchy-feely, and he didn't initiate many gushy conversations, but he had a way of taking in a scene that belied the meaning he found in everyday moments.  I loved watching him as he watched the kids play.  I wish he'd been with us long enough to see Big Boy start Kindergarten this year.  He would be so proud of how well his grandson is already reading.  

The second set of fabrics we auditioned were two of Big Boy's favorite quilting cottons:  Sharks and construction machines.

After agonizing for a while and changing his mind two or three times, Big Boy decided against ostentatious and went instead for the muted brown and black cotton that blended with the colors of the shorts.

These shorts are perfect for patching, because they're essentially constructed of several different cotton plaids, pieced together by topstitching.  Essentially, the entire shorts are one big patch-fest.  So, taking a cue from the size of the fabric patches already in the garment, I cut a nice big rectangle of fabric.  You'll need to overcast the edges with a serger or sewing machine to prepare it for pre-washing. 

Why pre-wash?  The shorts are worn and the fabric is new.  Pre-washing helps age the patch so it will blend in better with the soft faded cottons, and the process preshrinks the material so it's less likely to pucker or constrict the garment during the inevitable heavy washing that will follow.  Normally, I tell you to pre-wash material exactly as you expect it to be treated in the future, but in this case, I went with hot water and high heat in the dryer to exaggerate the aging and shrinking of the fabric to make it more compatible with the older, well-traveled shorts.

After pre-washing the patch, I ironed it and turned the edges under.  Spritzing the fabric with water laced with a touch of white vinegar will help remove any stubborn wrinkles.  Once I had it pressed into a nice rectangle, I pinned it onto Big Boy's shorts, covering the hole and placing it where it would blend with the flow of the existing textile.

Finally, I topstitched the patch over the hole, keeping my stitches extremely close to the edge of the fabric, consistent with the construction of the rest of the garment.

Turned out great.

I had one happy customer!