Fixing Snags
Fall is the season for sweaters and … snagging sweaters. If you end up getting a snag, there’s a good and bad way to fix it. 
The bad way is cutting it, which you absolutely don’t want to do. You might think that you’re getting rid of the pull, but over time, this area can develop a hole. 
A better solution is to pull the snag to the backside of the garment, so that the thread is still intact, but the damage is invisible. There are several ways to do this:
You can use a tool called a Snag Nab-It, which is basically a long needle with a rough end. Push it through your snag and the rough end will take it to the other side. I’ve used this successfully on knits and wovens (wovens meaning the non-stretchy material you find on dress shirts and trousers), but if your material is particularly fine or delicate, you might want to try another method. 
A gentler solution is to use a large sewing needle with a big eye. Couple this with a needle threader or some kind of thread, and use both to “catch” the snag as you pull the needle through. You can also use some thick embroidery or button thread, which you can wrap your snag on, and do the same thing. Remember, for something really delicate, go slow. It’s better to work this area a few times, rather than worsen the damage. 
For the truly patient, you can use also a large blunt needle and try to tease the yarn back to its original place. Pull the thread through to the next stitch, and then the next, and then the next — dispersing the excess material evenly across the row. You want to work both sides of the snag, so that everything looks natural. This easier on large gauge knits, but it’s possible with fine ones as well. Once you’re done, steam the area and admire your work. 

Fixing Snags

Fall is the season for sweaters and … snagging sweaters. If you end up getting a snag, there’s a good and bad way to fix it. 

The bad way is cutting it, which you absolutely don’t want to do. You might think that you’re getting rid of the pull, but over time, this area can develop a hole. 

A better solution is to pull the snag to the backside of the garment, so that the thread is still intact, but the damage is invisible. There are several ways to do this:

  • You can use a tool called a Snag Nab-It, which is basically a long needle with a rough end. Push it through your snag and the rough end will take it to the other side. I’ve used this successfully on knits and wovens (wovens meaning the non-stretchy material you find on dress shirts and trousers), but if your material is particularly fine or delicate, you might want to try another method. 
  • A gentler solution is to use a large sewing needle with a big eye. Couple this with a needle threader or some kind of thread, and use both to “catch” the snag as you pull the needle through. You can also use some thick embroidery or button thread, which you can wrap your snag on, and do the same thing. Remember, for something really delicate, go slow. It’s better to work this area a few times, rather than worsen the damage. 

For the truly patient, you can use also a large blunt needle and try to tease the yarn back to its original place. Pull the thread through to the next stitch, and then the next, and then the next — dispersing the excess material evenly across the row. You want to work both sides of the snag, so that everything looks natural. This easier on large gauge knits, but it’s possible with fine ones as well. Once you’re done, steam the area and admire your work. 

Most Common Types of Denim Damage (and How to Avoid Them)

Coincidentally, shortly after Jesse’s post last week on patching jeans, I received my 3sixteens back from Denim Therapy — one of the many shops nowadays that specializes in denim repairs. Like Jesse, I’ve had my jeans for about five years now — and although they’ve already seen a trip to Self Edge’s Darn It (another speciality repair place) — they’ve experienced some more wear-and-tear in the last year and needed fixing. So, I thought I’d do a post on the most common types of denim damage and how they can be repaired, as well as avoided altogether.  

Crotch Blowouts

Crotch blowouts refer to when you get holes in the place where you least want holes. To fix them, you can use any of the methods listed in Jesse’s post, although for this specific issue, I recommend darning. That’s when a specialist “reweaves” new threads into the material, using threads that most closely match your pants. This not only makes the repair nearly invisible (which is nice since this is, um, at your crotch), but it’s also much sturdier than patching. The downside? It’s also more expensive. 

How to avoid: Wash your jeans more often. It doesn’t have to be after every wear, but it’s the combination of dirt accumulating and the fabric rubbing against itself that causes blowouts. Those dirt particles act like tiny little razors, first thinning the material, and then finally breaking it open.

Other Holes 

Areas around the thighs and knees can also wear thin and eventually break. For these repairs, you can again refer to Jesse’s post. I personally like the slightly more ad hoc method of just patching thighs and knees with a piece of cloth. Jesse’s LVC jeans look great here. A local tailor should be able to do that for you for not too much money. And if the holes aren’t too big, you can also just leave them in, like I’ve done above. Personally, I think a hole or two can give a pair of jeans some character. 

How to avoid: Again, wash your jeans more often.

Stretched Buttonholes

Whether because you’ve gained weight or initially sized too far down, the buttonholes on your jeans can stretch with time. If the damage isn’t too bad, a local tailor can reinforce the area with new stitching. If it’s really stretched out, however, then you’ll need to get the area darned. I had the second done, and you can see the results above. 

How to avoid: Raw jeans are often a bit tight at first in the waist, but you don’t have to size so far down that things feel skin tight. Doing so will just put unnecessary stress on the buttonholes. 

Damage at the Cuffs

If you wash your jeans infrequently and leave them cuffed, you’ll find that the dirt that accumulates will eventually wear through at the crease. Unfortunately, the solutions here are less than ideal. You can get the cuffs darned, but the material will be stiff and hard to fold again (you use an iron to help them along). Otherwise, you can ride them out until the cuffs fall off, at which point, a tailor can put in a new hem (which is what I’d recommend).

How to avoid: Uncuff your pants every once in a while and brush out the dirt. You can use your hand (obviously), or a clothes brush. Having a clothes brush is handy if you have tailored clothes (suits, sport coats, the like), as that’s how they should be regularly cleaned

If you’re looking for a darning service, check out Self Edge’s Darn ItDenim Therapy, and Denim Surgeon. For more suggestions, check this SuperFuture thread dedicated to denim repairs.

Q & Answer: Patching Jeans
A reader who goes by Slendertroll asks: In your latest post about those gorgeous LVC jeans, you mentioned they had been patched a couple times. Can you recommend a specific product for doing this? I assume it was some sort of iron-on denim patch, but the ones I see online have quite mixed reviews.
There are a few ways to repair denim. You can reweave the fabric, use a sewn-in patch or use an iron-on patch.
As denim has grown into something that borders on a hobby, an industry has grown up around reweaving jeans. Companies like Denim Therapy use a process similar to sweater reweaving to essentially create a patch that’s woven into the fabric itself. This can be a little expensive ($8/inch in the case of Denim Therapy), but often the result is almost impossible to see.
Iron-on patches are probably the cheapest and easiest solution. Any fabric store has denim-colored iron-ons. These can be placed either on top of or behind damage (we recommend the former - the edges keep from peeling longer and it looks better). Super-strong heat activated adhesive keeps the patch in place. I’ve done this before, and the patch held well. One downside is that the patches can be a bit stiff - which can be a bit odd looking in bendy bits like knees and sometimes can lead to extra distress around the patch.
My jeans were patched the old-fashioned way. A seamstress simply backed the weakening fabric with a bit of similarly-colored cotton and sewed the hell out of it. The result isn’t invisible, but it is strong and flexible. In fact, when my jeans gave way below my pocket, I had her reinforce externally with a bit of pretty fabric. If you sew, this is a pretty straightforward process, but you can certainly have someone do it for you as well. Depending on your tailor or alterationist, the price of this could vary, but it generally won’t cost you much.
I think any of these three are pretty reasonable ways to go. I chose regular old patches for the same reason I chose raw denim. With clothing this casual, I’m not afraid to let the wear show a bit. As long as I can keep my jeans functional, a little wabi-sabi won’t hurt them.

Q & Answer: Patching Jeans

A reader who goes by Slendertroll asks: In your latest post about those gorgeous LVC jeans, you mentioned they had been patched a couple times. Can you recommend a specific product for doing this? I assume it was some sort of iron-on denim patch, but the ones I see online have quite mixed reviews.

There are a few ways to repair denim. You can reweave the fabric, use a sewn-in patch or use an iron-on patch.

As denim has grown into something that borders on a hobby, an industry has grown up around reweaving jeans. Companies like Denim Therapy use a process similar to sweater reweaving to essentially create a patch that’s woven into the fabric itself. This can be a little expensive ($8/inch in the case of Denim Therapy), but often the result is almost impossible to see.

Iron-on patches are probably the cheapest and easiest solution. Any fabric store has denim-colored iron-ons. These can be placed either on top of or behind damage (we recommend the former - the edges keep from peeling longer and it looks better). Super-strong heat activated adhesive keeps the patch in place. I’ve done this before, and the patch held well. One downside is that the patches can be a bit stiff - which can be a bit odd looking in bendy bits like knees and sometimes can lead to extra distress around the patch.

My jeans were patched the old-fashioned way. A seamstress simply backed the weakening fabric with a bit of similarly-colored cotton and sewed the hell out of it. The result isn’t invisible, but it is strong and flexible. In fact, when my jeans gave way below my pocket, I had her reinforce externally with a bit of pretty fabric. If you sew, this is a pretty straightforward process, but you can certainly have someone do it for you as well. Depending on your tailor or alterationist, the price of this could vary, but it generally won’t cost you much.

I think any of these three are pretty reasonable ways to go. I chose regular old patches for the same reason I chose raw denim. With clothing this casual, I’m not afraid to let the wear show a bit. As long as I can keep my jeans functional, a little wabi-sabi won’t hurt them.

Q & Answer: Fixing Holes or Tears in Tailored Clothing
Craig asks: I recently developed a small tear on the right side of my suit pants, and the place that made the suit no longer has the original fabric, so I can’t have another pair made (the suit was custom). Is there anything I can do besides throw these away? I’m open to anything, but would like to not throw good money after bad. 
One of the biggest myths about expensive clothes is that they’ll last you a lifetime. Some things last a while, to be sure, but no matter how well made, anything can develop a hole, snag, or tear. When these things happen with suits or sport coats, the best solution is usually to have the fabric “rewoven.”
That can mean one of two things. The first is what’s known as French reweaving or invisible reweaving, where individual strands of thread are woven into the original cloth. It’s sort of like what I recently had done on my sweater. In this way, the new threads are “filling in” the hole. 
The other technique is known as overweaving or inweaving. Here, a small patch is used to cover up the hole or tear, and then the frayed edges are woven into the suit in order to help conceal the patch. As you can guess, French reweaving tends to be good for small holes or tears, while inweaving is good for anything that’s too big to easily “fill.”
Note, any kind of repair can be seen if you look hard enough. The question is just how well it can be made to look “invisible.” Often times, such are repairs are very, very good and will be hard to detect, but a lot depends on the damage and fabric at hand. Generally speaking:
Darker colors are easier to work with, although for some reweavers, black is the hardest of all.
The finer the weave, the more difficult it is to repair (no surprise).
Solids are typically easier to work with than patterns, but a lot depends on the type of pattern that’s being compared.
Anything with synthetics will be hard to work with, if not impossible.
You mentioned that you had the suit custom made. In such cases, it’s sometimes a good to keep a little extra of the cloth, just for situations like this. Otherwise, the reweaver will have to take material from an inconspicuous place on your suit, or try to find a closely matching material somewhere on the market. Sometimes your tailor will keep a little extra of the original cloth (even if it’s not enough for a new pair of pants) and have a reweaver he or she can recommend. It’s best to check with them. Otherwise, search around for a reweaver. For what it’s worth, I’ve had good experiences sending sport coats to Best Weaving & Mending, and sending knitwear to The French American Reweaving Company.

Q & Answer: Fixing Holes or Tears in Tailored Clothing

Craig asks: I recently developed a small tear on the right side of my suit pants, and the place that made the suit no longer has the original fabric, so I can’t have another pair made (the suit was custom). Is there anything I can do besides throw these away? I’m open to anything, but would like to not throw good money after bad. 

One of the biggest myths about expensive clothes is that they’ll last you a lifetime. Some things last a while, to be sure, but no matter how well made, anything can develop a hole, snag, or tear. When these things happen with suits or sport coats, the best solution is usually to have the fabric “rewoven.”

That can mean one of two things. The first is what’s known as French reweaving or invisible reweaving, where individual strands of thread are woven into the original cloth. It’s sort of like what I recently had done on my sweater. In this way, the new threads are “filling in” the hole.

The other technique is known as overweaving or inweaving. Here, a small patch is used to cover up the hole or tear, and then the frayed edges are woven into the suit in order to help conceal the patch. As you can guess, French reweaving tends to be good for small holes or tears, while inweaving is good for anything that’s too big to easily “fill.”

Note, any kind of repair can be seen if you look hard enough. The question is just how well it can be made to look “invisible.” Often times, such are repairs are very, very good and will be hard to detect, but a lot depends on the damage and fabric at hand. Generally speaking:

  • Darker colors are easier to work with, although for some reweavers, black is the hardest of all.
  • The finer the weave, the more difficult it is to repair (no surprise).
  • Solids are typically easier to work with than patterns, but a lot depends on the type of pattern that’s being compared.
  • Anything with synthetics will be hard to work with, if not impossible.

You mentioned that you had the suit custom made. In such cases, it’s sometimes a good to keep a little extra of the cloth, just for situations like this. Otherwise, the reweaver will have to take material from an inconspicuous place on your suit, or try to find a closely matching material somewhere on the market. Sometimes your tailor will keep a little extra of the original cloth (even if it’s not enough for a new pair of pants) and have a reweaver he or she can recommend. It’s best to check with them. Otherwise, search around for a reweaver. For what it’s worth, I’ve had good experiences sending sport coats to Best Weaving & Mending, and sending knitwear to The French American Reweaving Company.

Reweaving Holes

Want to see something neat?

If you ever develop a hole in your clothes – whether from a moths, pulled threads, or just who knows what – you can sometimes have the fabric rewoven by a specialist. Reweaving is what you think it is: repairing a garment by filling in the hole instead of patching it up, ironing on a fusible, or stitching the cloth over on itself. Unlike those techniques, reweaving will be near invisible if done well.

I recently had a blue sweater rewoven by The French American Reweaving Company. The first photo above shows the area with the hole. It was maybe around the size of a pea, and looked like it would get worse if I didn’t take care of it soon. So after noticing it, I sent it to New York to be repaired and just got the garment back last week. You can see the results in the second photo. It’s almost impossible to tell where the damage was. 

Not every hole can be repaired like this, of course, and much depends on the type of fabric you have. Silks and cottons are generally not repairable, and certain synthetics can be tough. Knits are also easier than wovens, and solid colors are easier than fabrics with intricate designs. That said, almost anything can be repaired – sweaters, sport coats, suit jackets, trousers, etc. It just depends on the fabric and kind of damage at hand.

To know if something you have can be repaired, send it to The French American Reweaving Company for an assessment. Ron Moore, the owner of the company, is an absolute perfectionist and will give you an honest opinion of what he thinks can be done. His company has been in business since the 1930s and he’s been in the trade since the 1960s. That’s a lot of experience. Prices aren’t cheap (I paid $50 for my repair) and the turnaround time is quite variable (Ron said they can usually send things back within ten days, but my job took two months since it was harder to source the yarn). Still, if you have a favorite sport coat, sweater or pair of trousers, this is an infinitely better than what your local alterations tailor can probably do for you. 

Fixing a Pull on a Silk Tie

I’ve had this glen plaid Isaia tie for about a year now. I love it, but unfortunately, it has a few snags in the silk. The tie looks fine for the most part when I wear it, but the imperfection means that I always reach for something else before picking up this one. It’s a shame too because I love the big, bold glen plaid pattern, and would otherwise enjoy wearing it at least a few times a month. 

I thought about just letting it go and passing it to a friend, but before I did, I wanted to give one last ditch effort at repairing it. Funny enough, after a quick Google search, I came across this old post that Jesse published. In it, he quoted a StyleForum member named Orgetorix, who suggested that you could repair a tie by threading a needle, pushing it through the tie’s envelope, and essentially “weave” the silk back into the fabric. It took me a few tries and some experimenting. For example, I found that a bigger needle worked better for the looser weave on my Isaia tie. It also seemed that the trick was in pulling the threaded needle through as quickly as possible. If I moved too slowly, there didn’t seem to be enough friction to push the snag in. 

After about twenty minutes of work, however, my tie was fixed. I’ve posted before and after photos above. I’d like to think that the repairs are so good that you can’t tell where the snags were, so I’ve placed my sewing needle next to where the damage used to be. 

Now I feel like I have a brand new tie, thanks to Jesse and Orgetorix!

When was the last time you wore a piece of clothing until it needed repair, fixed it (or had it fixed), then wore it more?
In an age of decorative elbow patches, here’s a reminder from a time of rationing.
(poster via BoingBoing)

When was the last time you wore a piece of clothing until it needed repair, fixed it (or had it fixed), then wore it more?

In an age of decorative elbow patches, here’s a reminder from a time of rationing.

(poster via BoingBoing)

Fixing a Pull in a Silk Tie

A StyleForum user named Orgetorix recommended this method for repairing a pulled thread in silk.  He says it’s worked for him a number of times… the next time I’m going to try this before I throw away a tie with a conspicuous pull.

Here’s a technique I’ve used with success to fix pulls in silk: Thread a fine needle with normal thread like you’d use to sew on a button. Don’t wax it or anything—you want some friction. Using a magnifying glass if necessary, try to stick the point of the needle through the silk fabric at the exact point where one end of the pulled thread comes out. You’re trying to get it through the same “hole” in the weave. Pull the needle and thread through to the other side of the fabric and all the way out. If you’re lucky, the friction of the thread passing through the hole will take the pulled thread with it and pull it to the back of the fabric where it’s unseen.

Hope this makes sense. It’s worked for me on various silks, mainly on ties.

Q and Answer: Treating Crotch Blowout
"Crotchless in Chicago" writes:  After watching your excellent episode on denim, I decided to try  out your recommendations on wearing raw denim jeans.  Six months later,  I am having the same problem I have had with many jeans in the past and  would like your recommendations on my situation.  The current pair of  jeans are Levis 527s which I purchased in early December and have been  wearing almost every day since.  They have been hand washed in Woolite  Dark exactly three times.  The problem is that  two or three months ago I started noticing significant wear in the  crotch just behind the seam.  I noticed this morning that this wear has  progressed into actual holes.  Just about every pair of jeans I have  owned have ended this way.  Is there some way I could prevent this or mend a pair after they begin  to show wear? 
First of all: let it be said that we do not endorse relaxed boot-cut denim.
OK: that aside, on to the issue of crotch blowout.
By far the biggest problem with rarely-washed raw denim jeans is crotch blowout.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, but for some of us - presumably those of us with meatier thighs or sweatier balls - it is a consistent problem.  The crotch is both the most friction-prone and swampiest area of the jeans, and the combination (dirt and moisture weakening the fabric, friction breaking fibers) can lead to a threadbare patch or even holes.
Patching jeans is easy enough.  Better to catch the problem early, but your tailor can repair the damage largely invisibly for ten dollars or so.  Many denim aficionados appreciate the “hand-made” look of a home patching - you can buy the patch at any fabric store for a couple dollars.  You can also send them to a denim specialist like Denim Therapy in New York, who charge $7/inch of damage, and ship nationwide.  If you want a perfect repair, call your local denim specialist retailer and see who they recommend.
Another option that I’ve used successfully in the past is using a fabric repair glue like Tear Mender.  This stuff is like a weird rubber cement specifically for fabric.  It dries clear and flexible, and does a great job of arresting fraying.  I put some on the seam in my crotch when it looks like it might start to go, and on the inside of my knees when they get dangerously thin, and it’s held quite well.  Be careful not to use too much - if it’s globby, it will attract dirt.

Q and Answer: Treating Crotch Blowout

"Crotchless in Chicago" writes:  After watching your excellent episode on denim, I decided to try out your recommendations on wearing raw denim jeans.  Six months later, I am having the same problem I have had with many jeans in the past and would like your recommendations on my situation.  The current pair of jeans are Levis 527s which I purchased in early December and have been wearing almost every day since.  They have been hand washed in Woolite Dark exactly three times.  The problem is that two or three months ago I started noticing significant wear in the crotch just behind the seam.  I noticed this morning that this wear has progressed into actual holes.  Just about every pair of jeans I have owned have ended this way.  Is there some way I could prevent this or mend a pair after they begin to show wear?

First of all: let it be said that we do not endorse relaxed boot-cut denim.

OK: that aside, on to the issue of crotch blowout.

By far the biggest problem with rarely-washed raw denim jeans is crotch blowout.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, but for some of us - presumably those of us with meatier thighs or sweatier balls - it is a consistent problem.  The crotch is both the most friction-prone and swampiest area of the jeans, and the combination (dirt and moisture weakening the fabric, friction breaking fibers) can lead to a threadbare patch or even holes.

Patching jeans is easy enough.  Better to catch the problem early, but your tailor can repair the damage largely invisibly for ten dollars or so.  Many denim aficionados appreciate the “hand-made” look of a home patching - you can buy the patch at any fabric store for a couple dollars.  You can also send them to a denim specialist like Denim Therapy in New York, who charge $7/inch of damage, and ship nationwide.  If you want a perfect repair, call your local denim specialist retailer and see who they recommend.

Another option that I’ve used successfully in the past is using a fabric repair glue like Tear Mender.  This stuff is like a weird rubber cement specifically for fabric.  It dries clear and flexible, and does a great job of arresting fraying.  I put some on the seam in my crotch when it looks like it might start to go, and on the inside of my knees when they get dangerously thin, and it’s held quite well.  Be careful not to use too much - if it’s globby, it will attract dirt.