Denim Repair with Denim Surgeon

Because not enough readers find Put This On while googling “close up crotch damage”, I wanted to offer this testimonial to the good work done by New York’s Denim Surgeon on my most-often-worn jeans, a pair of APC Petit Standards I’ve had since spring 2011. My dry cleaner, bless her heart, patched the worn-out crotch twice but the patches were weak and this is a high-stress area. I chose Denim Surgeon after reading Derek’s post on quality denim repair and reading a recommendation for them on Superfuture’s Superdenim forum. I mailed in my APCs as well as a pair of 5EPs with a similar blowout plus unraveling hems and torn-up pocket bags.

I used Denim Surgeon’s repair form to specify areas to be surgeon’d (some people like to preserve wear-and-tear that others might want fixed, so it’s best to be specific). Two business days after my jeans were delivered to their location in New York, I received a Paypal invoice, which recommended crotch repair and reinforcement for both pairs, at $75 each, plus $10 for pocket bag repair on the 5EPs, and $9 shipping. Not cheap, but potentially better than taking them back to the dry cleaner every few weeks. I paid immediately and the repair work took about a week.

The work they did was significantly more involved than the small patch jobs the jeans had before. Denim Surgeon placed a large fabric patch inside the APCs, shaped a little like the reinforced seat you see on some BDU-type pants. The edges of the patch are flatlock stitched to prevent fraying and the whole thing is stitched to the jeans at the edges and with zig-zag stitches across the patch. They darned the threadbare/torn areas and re-sewed the main seam (where all four denim panels come together) with color-matched thread. From the outside, you can barely notice the patched area, unless I’m doing cartwheels, which I would feel fully confident doing in these jeans.

The 5EP pair was repaired similarly although with a smaller patch. The only concern I’d have would be with sending a particularly tight pair of jeans in for this sort of repair, because the patch is heavy enough it could conceivably affect how they fit.

Denim Surgeon currently offers a Groupon discount. It’s a nice deal although if your jeans are significantly damaged, it likely won’t cover the total cost of repair.

Note: Because of a discrepancy between my billing and shipping address, my jeans were held by Denim Surgeon after repair and before shipping (they were set to ship a week after payment, but did not leave New York for another week). Their communication about the issue was good via email and phone, and they sent me $25 credit toward future repair. At no time did I tell Denim Surgeon I planned to write about their service for Put This On.


Repairing Jeans

As many readers know, the point of buying jeans made from high-quality denim is to get something that will age well and look better with time. In the process of wearing your jeans hard, however, you’ll find that certain stress points can “blow out,” particularly around the pockets, hem, crotch, knees, and buttonholes. A tailor or denim repair specialist can fix these for you, usually by using a technique called “darning.”

Darning is a process where you essentially “reweave” new yarns into an area that has been worn thin or completely blown out. A friend of mine recently darned my 3sixteens, and I just got them back this weekend. The first photo above shows my jeans before they were repaired, and the second shows them after. The jeans were getting a bit thin after about eight months of effective wear, but after some darning, the weak areas have been reinforced and they’re as study as they day they came. 

Generally speaking, you want to repair your jeans at the first sign of danger. Like all fabrics, denim is woven with yarns running lengthwise (called the warp), and transverse threads running the width (called the weft). On denim, the blue warp yarns are typically the first to give out, so you know what areas are in danger of “blowing out” when you only see the white weft yarns holding an area together. If not taken care of soon, the area can suddenly just rip. The worse the damage, the more noticeable the repair will be. (Though, even with a badly ripped area, a good tailor can perform a pretty good repair. Here’s a particularly impressive job over at Superdenim, posted in a thread about just this topic.)

Many tailors can darn your jeans for a reasonably small fee, but if you’re not sure who to go to, or if your jeans are particularly dear to you, you may want to go to a specialty shop. Operations such Self Edge, Blue in Green, Denim Doctors, Denim Therapy, Schaeffer’s Garment Hotel, and Denim Surgeon are commonly recommended in the denim community. Some of these places might charge a little more than your local tailor, but you can be sure they’ll also do an excellent job. 

If you’re feeling up for the challenge, you can also learn how to darn your own jeans. These two ladies have a tutorial on YouTube, and The Bandanna Almanac has a post on how to darn by hand. I imagine the second technique won’t give you something sturdy enough for jeans, but it looks like a neat thing to learn.