Introduction: Patch Your Jeans With Fabric Stars

Have you ever had that perfect piece of clothing that you loved and wore until it practically fell apart? That's how I felt about this pair of jeans that has been through everything with me from eating out with my husband to gardening and refinishing antique radio cabinets. (The last part is a hobby of mine.) I knew the fabric on the front of the legs was getting thin, but I was a bit surprised when holes tore open in two places on one of the legs, both tears within a day of each other. I couldn't bring myself to dump the jeans in the trash or make shorts out of them, so I decided to patch them. I hate the look of ordinary patches though, so I chose to go with something a bit more interesting. As this is July, my first thought was red, white, and blue stars. Since the jeans were already blue and I had a scrap of dark red upholstery fabric from a previous project, I decided to cover the holes with stars I made from that fabric. I found a free star pattern online, printed it in various sizes, cut out the stars I wanted to use (leaving about a quarter inch of extra paper around each star), and then arranged the trimmed paper stars on the fabric. I sewed them on, decorated them, and then laundered the jeans. This Instructable shows the process I followed and provides you with tips and cautions to help you salvage and restore your own pair of jeans or other favorite article of clothing.


For this project you will need:

  • Article of clothing to be patched (jeans, in my case)
  • Piece of fabric large enough to cover the worn out fabric and an area around it
  • Thread to match (or contrast, if you prefer) your chosen fabric for making the patches
  • Sewing machine (or needle if you want to stitch it by hand)
  • Sharp pair of scissors
  • Optionally, you can use iron on interface and iron the patches to the fabric without sewing them

Step 1: Do a General Repair to Each Torn Spot

I knew that just putting a decorative patch over a torn area of my jeans would not keep that area from deteriorating further, so I began by using a simple zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to close each of the rips. I simply set the largest stitch length and width available to me on my sewing machine, pinched the torn fabric pieces together, and then sewed. I didn't care how the sewing looked since I was going to put a decorative star patch over it anyway, but I did not want the thread color to show through the patch, so I used red thread to match the patching fabric I chose.

TIP: If you do not have access to a sewing machine, you can do your stitching by hand sewing instead of by machine sewing. Since I'm an avid quilter, despite the limitations of a small-throat home sewing machine, if you are new to sewing, I recommend reading the Instructable titled, "Hand-sewn Scrap Quilt" by mrsmerwin. The author does a great job of explaining how to sew pieces together using hand stitches.

Step 2: Choose and Pin Your Fabric Over the Patch Area

For this step, I chose a scrap of upholstery fabric I had left from redoing a friend's dining chairs. You can be as creative or plain as you like with your fabric choice. I used a medium-weight upholstery fabric because I had it on hand (reduce, reuse, recycle) and wanted fabric that would stand up to the work I do in this pair of jeans. In addition, I just really love the color, and as I mentioned before, I was thinking fourth-of-July when I chose my fabric.

Once I spread out the pant leg and smoothed the fabric piece over the damaged areas, I could have cut off the excess and stopped there, but I wanted the patching to look like a design I had planned, so I decided to run the stars all of the way down the leg, getting smaller towards the bottom of the leg.

CAUTION: Smooth both the pant leg and the fabric on a flat service. From this point forward, it is important to keep the leg (or whatever part of your article you are patching) and fabric smooth so that you do not end up with puckers under your patch.

Step 3: Find a Design, Print It, Trim It Out and Pin It On

This step may seem as though it is multiple steps, but it all goes so quickly that I put it together into one. Also, except for your search for what to use as a patch design, the image included here shows each of the instructions included for this step.

First, decide what pattern you want to use then go online and find a clip art image or illustration of what you want. For example, I chose to use a simple star, but you could search for an image of your favorite animal, or use a coloring book page or freestyle your own design.

Next, print out the chosen design and, if you need it larger or smaller, use your printer to change its size. Print as many copies as you need. I used two large stars, one medium star, and one small star since the pant leg narrows toward the bottom.

Now trim around your printed design pieces to remove the extra paper making it easier to position on the fabric. Leave a small bit of paper outside the line all of the way around. and then lay out and pin down the paper pieces.

TIP: Pin the paper pieces through both the fabric and the clothing. Use multiple pins depending on the design you chose. You do not want the image to shift as you sew. Alternately, you can tack the paper to the fabric by using a glue stick, but if you choose that method, you also need to tack the fabric patch to the article of clothing you are patching. If you need more information on using a glue stick, Instructables has an informative class titled, "Glue Sticks with audreyobscura" that will help you understand .

Step 4: Stitch, Trim and Remove the Paper Templates

Once all of your paper template pieces are pinned or glued in place, cut away the excess fabric around each of the templates. Next, sew around the outline of your templates (in my case, four separate stars). A stitch length of between 2 and 3 works well; it holds the fabric to the clothing and makes it simple to remove the templates after you have sewn around them. After you sew each template, you may want to cut away the excess fabric. Now also is the time to decide whether you want to make a fringe around your design. In my case, I chose to do a simple snip of fringe around the design, so I left about one-half of an inch of fabric all around each star.

CAUTION: Check under each template before you sew around it to verify that neither the fabric nor the clothing piece have any wrinkles in it, and to make sure nothing else on your clothing, like pants pockets, will be sewn into the patch.

Next, snip an opening into each of your paper templates being careful not to cut the fabric, and then gently peel off the paper templates.

TIP: When pulling off the paper templates, hold a finger on the stitches where you are tearing to prevent pulling the stitches out with the paper.

Step 5: Cut Off the Excess Fabric Around Each Design

Now it is time to take your scissors and trim all of the way around each template. You can cut very close to the stitching, or choose to cut it a quarter- to one-half inch from the stitching. If you want to turn the quarter- to one-half inch extra you left around the template into a frill, just repeatedly snip the extra quarter- to one-half inch from the outer edge toward the stitching all the way around.

CAUTION: Make little snips as close together or as far apart as you want, but leave a quarter-inch or more between each snip so you do not end up with strings instead of fringe. Once you have all of the snips you want, you may need to trim spots to even up the edge of the fringe.

You now should see your patches shaped into the design you chose, and have a clean finish around the edge of each one.

TIP: Honestly, this step can also be done just before you pull off the template paper, but it is easier to see the exact stitching and to clip fringe if you first remove the template. It's also easier on your fabric scissors to not also cut through the paper template with them.

Step 6: Bonus Step - Spice It Up If You Want

You now are done patching your clothing. However, if you want to spice up your patches a little to give them more style, here are some ideas you may want to consider:

  • Add rhinestones using a tool to affix them or hot glue. You can get more information about doing this from the Creative Crystal website.
  • Add another patch on top of the first one. I chose not to do this on my pants, but you could cut a smaller duplicate template of your first patch, pin it in the middle of the patch, and sew around it too. Had I done that to my jeans, I would have added a white star or a red and white striped star in the middle of each of the original ones. Of course, you also could add a different template. For example, you can get fabric with a print on it that you like and cut out part of the print to add it as the second patch. I might have used a flag in the middle of my stars to further enhance the Fourth of July theme.
  • Quilt the entire patch. If you know how or like to quilt, you can quilt the entire patch once you have it attached to your fabric. If I had chosen to do this on my patches, I would have sewn additional lines inside the first one to trace around the patch getting closer to the center each time.
  • Sew your patches on with different colors of thread. I matched red thread to my red patches, but I could have used white thread that would stand out, especially if I chose to use a decorative stitch. This would have given me a true red, white, and blue patch.
  • Add a tassel or two. You can buy tassels from almost any store that sells fabric and ribbons. Just hand stitch one or more onto each patch you sewed on.
  • Do you collect pins? You can add them to your patches to decorate each one. You probably will want to unpin and remove them before washing, however.
  • Add ribbon. You can cut pieces of ribbon, tie one end of each piece to keep it from unraveling, and stitch the other end of them in the middle of your patch. Let them dangle there and blow in the wind as you move.
  • Embroider your patches. You can do this whether or not you have an embroidery machine. Search with "hand embroidery" or similar term for some great ideas and instructions.

I could go on and on, but you no doubt have some great creative ideas of your own, so try them out. Let your personality and interests guide you as you reduce, reuse, recycle, and in this case, patch your beloved clothing. Enjoy the process!

Step 7: Reinforce (if Needed) or Add Decorative Stitches and Launder

Inspect your patches and decide whether the single row of stitching you used will hold your patch in place given the amount of wear and tear you expect it to undergo. Also look for spots where the stitches may have pulled or torn while you were removing the template. If you are not fully satisfied with the strength of the stitching or if spots need repair, put the piece back into your sewing machine and fix what you need to. Resew anything your need to fix or strengthen, and then you also can move your needle inside the first row of stitching by about one-quarter of an inch and sew a second row of stitches.

TIP: If you would prefer to have a more decorative stitch around your patches, you can set your sewing machine for a decorative stitch that you like, and sew the patches again using the original stitches as your guide for the decorative stitches.

Give your patched clothing a good wash and dry then you are ready to wear them.

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