My friend Victor asked me a while ago if I could help him mend one of his shirts. He had worn out the elbows in this blue casual button up shirt and was wondering if I could put elbow patches on them.
He had tried sewing the holes shut himself but as you can see, he does not quite have the skill to give it that professional finish. He told me he’d just been wearing the sleeves rolled up anyways so no one saw his “handiwork”.
So I undid his handiwork and surveyed the real damage.
I had to think for a while how I was going to go about this process. I came across this blog post: http://ohsnail.blogspot.ca/2012/02/how-to-make-elbow-patches.html
It was very informative and was the tutorial I liked the most. You see, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to finish the edges of the elbow patches. Use a turned under hem all around? I had a feeling it wouldn’t be as clean a finish on the oval shaped template I was using. For a square, rectangle, or more angular patch shape, that might be just fine.
The tutorial I found is ingenious though – make the patch out of two layers of fabric and sew them right sides together. Then leave a gap so you can flip it inside out after pinking the edges and iron that sucker down so it’s perfectly flat and oval. Then hand stitch the open gap.
I then hand stitched the oval elbow pads to the shirt with my trusty uneven slipstitch. I couldn’t use my sewing machine because the sleeves are much too narrow to jam into it. Plus the hand-sewing looks just lovely. I also used a whipstitch on the inside to sew the hole down to the patch. You can’t see it on the outside because I took care not to pierce the upper layer of the patch. I preferred the slipstitch to the blanket stitch for a more modern look. So many of the patching tutorials I came across recommended the blanket stitch. The blanket stitch is a little too rustic or crafty looking for my friend’s sense of style.
Now I know I keep mentioning this slipstitch of mine and for those not in the know, you may be wondering what it is. I scanned my Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (I have a pristine copy of the older edition from the 70s, it’s amazing!) and provided the section on slipstitching below. If you click on the image, you can see the full size scan.
I learned how to do this hand stitch back in high school. It is one of my most used hand stitches because if you do it right, you will have a truly invisible and sturdy seam. I often use it to join the inside of the waistband or a facing to the interior of a garment for an invisible finish and prefer this to stitching in the ditch whenever possible. I prefer hand stitching for finishing off my garments to give it the nicest interior I can. Hand stitching is also such a soothing task and I’ll often sit and listen to Ted Talks or documentaries for a quiet moment to myself.