Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Virtues Of Patching Jeans

I know, I know… The fashion trend is to have shredded jeans. Some even have ‘patches’ showing through. At a recent art and craft fair I saw a pair walking by with shreds from thigh to shin on each leg, and quilted floral fabric peeking through the shreds as the 'patch'. And it was quite… ahem…. fetching? Well, not really. Especially because I knew that they had been purchased that way.

You see I believe that shredded jeans and patches should be earned and not purchased. Any hole, rip, shred or fringe that appears on my jeans is there by my hard work. And, when my favorite pair of jeans does develop said hole, rip, shred, or fringe what do I do? Wear them to town and flaunt my 'designer' look? No! I PATCH them.

Patching jeans is a tradition passed down from my Mamma, who was a true virtuoso when it came to patching jeans. She patched my brother’s, my dad’s, my friend’s, and my jeans for years. Her style was usually more structured than free-style, and her method was to use the best unworn denim she could find for the patch and to never use the stiff, ugly iron-on patching material that is still (believe it or not) available today. Even before she had a zigzag sewing machine she patched using a plain straight stitch. This utilitarian method, while not fancy, was certainly effective, and those patches usually held better than the surrounding jean fabric.

After getting a zigzag machine her patches became more artistic and whimsical, some even funny. I remember a certain pair of red jeans I wore and wore and wore, until the seat was paper-thin and the knees virtually gone. When she returned them to me after her patching session they sported appliqué fabric flowers on vital spots on the derrière, and vines and leaves and more flowers on the patches she applied to the knees. I wore that pair of jeans with pride and bragged to anyone who would listen about my Mamma’s patching talent.

Recently my brother presented me with four pair of jeans to be patched. I put the task off for several weeks because once one begins to patch it is hard to stop, and I was afraid that I would end up patching the cat-claw-shredded mattress pad that covers my box springs if I ever got started with patching. But yesterday, since the weather was nippy and I didn’t want to work outside, my conscience began to gnaw at me, forcing me to uncover my sewing machine and begin the patching task. I pulled several pair of really old jeans from a pile that I reserved for patching material and began to look for enough good denim for the patches I would need to apply. I unfolded one pair and looked carefully at them and there they were; patches from mid-thigh to shin, stitched with a feather stitch in dark blue to mimic the color of the denim. Patches made by Mamma.

I sat and fingered the stitching; thinking of her love for us; to patch clothing that was clearly worn but not worn out. Sacrificing her time and effort to stretch the life of the clothes. Making something work instead of making something new.

In today’s language she would be recycling. But that wasn’t the reason she patched jeans. She did it because she loved us and it was the right thing to do.