Patching items to extend their life is a lost art. Have you ever heard of 'darning your socks'? Nobody darns their socks anymore because it is much easier to just go out and buy new socks. But what if you can't replace the item that has a hole in it? Not many things in our lives today are irreplaceable but there are some. Vintage items, for instance, can not be easily replaced.
A few years ago my mother gave me a rather large stack of vintage printed tea towels and table cloths. While I don't use the table cloths very often, a few of the tea towels have found their way into regular rotation as kitchen towels. One in particular is looking a little sad.
You can easily see the holes and stains in this towel. It is definitely looking worse for wear and most people would probably just chuck it. Or, if you were thrifty and crafty you could cut out pieces to use in a pillow or quilt. But I think I could get a little more use out of this as a towel while also given it some whimsy- with patches!
There are a myriad of ways that you can patch fabric. The typical way is to use another piece of fabric and sew it onto the towel to cover the hole. Patches can be round, square or whatever shape you choose to make them. They can match the color of the original fabric or contrast it.
I thought a pentagonal patch in yellow would be very striking on this red, white and blue towel. I simply cut a large circle from the yellow fabric and then ironed down the edges so that it made a pentagon.
I made sure the patch would cover my hole with enough extra that the stitches at the edge would go into solid fabric and not into the frayed edge of the hole. I then cut out a small piece of heat and bond (which is a brand name for a material that has paper on one side and a type of glue on the other that melts with the heat of the iron and bonds to the fabric when it cools.) and secured it to the wrong side of my patch.
In the above photo you can just barely see the head and bond stuff after I pealed the paper backing way.
With a hot iron I ironed the patch down and the began to sew around the edge. Here is another point at which you can add interest. I chose red thread and a rustic hand stitch to finish off this patch. I could have done a matching color with my sewing machine to get perfect stitches but this towel just screams old school so I thought it fitting to do that stitching by hand.
I think it came out looking pretty cool. It would have been easy to do all the patches exactly the same but I wanted to give the piece the feeling that the patches were done over time with whatever was at hand at the moment.
Here is a circular patch with a blanket stitch edge.
When two holes are close together and you don't want to make one giant patch you can always make two smaller ones that overlap. This also adds depth and interest to the patches.
Another option would be to use a sewing machine and stitch around or through the hole to keep the fabric from unraveling any further.
For the hole above I used a zig zag stitch and went over the area multiple times. I made sure to stitch over the edge of the hole and then over my stitches so that it all binds together and won't unravel.
Sewing around the hole is another option. On this hole I used the same zig zag stitch. Starting on the outside I worked my way in. This will keep the fabric from unraveling more but won't cover up the hole.
What type of patch or stitching you decide to use depends on what you want it to do. A patch will cover the hole while just stitching around it will keep it from unraveling more. The stitching option is less noticeable, especially if you use a matching thread color.
By using both stitching and patching of varying colors I made a shabby chic tea towel out of what most people would view as a holey old rag. This style really works in my home because my entire house is a mishmash of style (not always intentionally).