Time and again, I’ve been drawn to the patchwork jeans trend. This seemingly handcrafted trend, which peaked in the 70s, has resurfaced over the past few years, making its way back to the runway. Also there are a multitude of Pinterest boards devoted to this subject alone. Some jeans are embellished with patches in monochromatic, sedate color schemes, while others pile on crazy appliques, layering different patterns, fabrics and textures on each pant leg. By now, it wouldn’t surprise you that I gravitate toward the latter. When would I ever take the safe fashion route? Like a great pair of shoes, a pair of jeans are statement-worthy. Additionally, the umpteen iterations of jeans on Pinterest are a testament to the staying-power of our DIY culture. Also, don’t we need a break from those Lulu Lemon, Athleta, Alala leggings? REALLY!
One of Junya Watanabe’s jeans’ designs became an obsession and I felt compelled to embark on this new DIY adventure. As always, I summoned my friend and designer, Jamie Kreitman, to collaborate with me on this project since I needed help choosing fabrics and thread colors. She also guided me through the design process and the technical aspect needed to complete the project.
Of course you can use any jean, but I wanted something with a bit of ‘edge’ so I chose a pair of Mother jeans. I can’t tell you how excited I was to have found a new pair of jeans produced in the USA, extremely comfortable and soft. I rarely find a pair so comfortable and phenomenal. Even better, this pair was originally priced at $228 and I totally scored by finding the last pair in my size hiding in the sale rack for only $60!
The most difficult part of this project was to find fabric which looks like quality at a good price. Jamie already had the black sequin and crushed velvet fabrics, along with tons of swatches and crocheted afghan squares left over from prior seasons of her collections. Other remnants were purchased at Joann Fabric and Craft Stores. My advice-take some good design references to fabric stores, use them as a guide in selecting an assortment of fabrics for experimentation. As I learned from Jamie and in my experience as a graphic designer, the design process is a matter of trial and error, constant experimentation and achieving that “right” proportion.
The design process takes time and patience. Sometimes you hit it right in a matter of minutes. Other times, it can take hours, even days to reach the right look. It really helps to have a buddy to bounce off ideas in order to achieve the right look. We began the process by marking the area to be embellished with yellow tailor’s chalk. Then we began cutting a stack of swatches in different rectangular sizes. We fooled around with position, color, placement and proportion until we were satisfied. We pinned each patch to the jeans and further secured them with both temporary spray adhesive and fusible double bonding tape . We frayed edges of certain fabrics making this rawness work to our advantage.
Next step was choosing the color thread and stitches for sewing the patches to the jeans. Seek out the hand embroidery floss section of your local sewing/craft store or on Amazon . I suggest going basic if this is your first patchwork project. You don’t want the design to appear juvenile, or resemble something that was designed with girlfriends after polishing off several bottles of wine. Test the colors by holding up threads next to each patch and see which colors work best all together. Before stitching, stick a narrow piece of cardboard inside each jean leg so you don’t sew the top jean layer to the back leg layer.
We used assorted stitches- running, backstitch, cross stitch, V stitch, etc. Here’s an example of a great guide to stitches online. It took a few sessions to finish the stitching but it was so gratifying to see the patchwork jeans come to life. And though this was an interpretation of my obsession, the jeans were clearly inspired by Junya, albeit with my signature design twist.
These jeans suit me since I’ve taken the edgy route. Though over the top, these jeans work with many items in my wardrobe and are super versatile year-round. The satisfaction in creating and working with my hands is indescribable. And now I have a pair of jeans which is priceless for a mere pittance. Could this be the new Sewing Bee? Or a Sip and Stitch? Cheers to my new designer inspired, artisanal, hand-crafted jeans made by ME.
If you have any interest in replicating this look and need swatches, send me a message. And if you would like Jamie to embellish your jeans just like mine, she’s offering this service through her online store.
What do you think of my new red leopard fleece SUPREME backpack? I find it absolutely hilarious how this ingeniously marketed street style brand has become so covetous among Gen Y and X. Supreme purposefully keeps their goods in short supply to create a frenzy as soon as their items drop. I bought mine at Dover Street Market in NYC. Some of you may not know, or simply don’t care that when you buy counterfeit goods you are in fact feeding an underground network of organized crime and terrorism. Retail-for-thought the next time you need to buy an “it” item. The irony is my purchase retails for only $118.