Darning used to be a regular household chore. Once dinner and dishes were done, Papa sat down with the paper and Mama had one more crack at the endless mending pile.
Fabric technology and the overall decrease in clothing prices over the last 50 years mean that mending is a chore of the past. Sometimes, however, a perfectly good clothing item gets a rip or tear and can be salvaged with an inexpensive iron-on patch.
Iron on patches can be found in the sewing-notions areas of many stores. They come in a variety of colors and thicknesses. Skillfully applied, they may disguise that anything has happened to a garment. Even beginners can apply them to get the remaining wear out of jeans or an outerwear jacket, where function and cost matter more than fine looks.
All iron on patches have a heat-activated adhesive backing (hence the description "iron on." Following directions for heating your iron, place the patch over the tear and apply the iron long enough for the heat to bond the adhesive with the clothing fabric.
Some patchers are forthright--a jeans patch is a jeans patch, and that's that. Apply it to the outside of the pants, let it show and get over it. For a clothing item where there is no good patch color-match or the work will be obvious, other patchers turn garments inside-out and apply the patch to the inside (the tear may be nearly invisible from the outside or benefit from a little good old-fashioned mending).
Patch It and Mean It
Iron on patches usually do a fine job of extending the life of jeans or other play-clothes, with one exception. If a tear occurs at a seam or area of stress (even a knee if the jeans' owner is a tree-climber), you may have to make a sandwich. Turn the garment inside out and apply an iron-on patch to the inside. Then apply a second patch on the outside. Areas that are frequently stressed or stretched by activity will stay patched better with the "sandwich" method. You might get better results by cutting the outside patch from a different color in a decorative shape.
If your clothing owner is very looks-conscious, you may have to have the "perfectly-good" conversation, sounding just like your grandmother, holding out a neatly darned garment. Mending piles may have disappeared, but some things never change!
Janet Beal has written for various websites, covering a variety of topics, including gardening, home, child development and cultural issues. Her work has appeared on early childhood education and consumer education websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University and a Master of Science in early childhood education from the College of New Rochelle.