Monday, July 20, 2020

More DIY from the Times

I was kind of disappointed to see, a couple of weeks ago, that the NYTimes had discontinued its weekly Designer D.I.Y. series of articles on pathetic fashion craft projects.  It was so much fun to make fun of them!  But somebody must have picked up on my unhappiness, because here's a new pathetic advice feature in yesterday's Times.  This one's in the Sunday Magazine instead of in the styles section, so some other editor is responsible.

The Magazine has been in the habit for a long time of providing a very short "Tip" every week.  Usually the Tips are for how to do things that nobody actually wants or has occasion to do -- for instance, how to survive a tsunami, how to dig up a grave, how to grow hemp, how to herd reindeer, how to toss a pizza, how to wheat-paste posters, how to catch a swarm of bees.  But this week it's right up our alley -- how to mend a pair of jeans.

illustration by Radio for NYTimes Sunday Magazine

Most of this little article is a paean to a guy who grew up in Japan, "a descendant of many generations of experts in a kind of decorative needlework called sashiko" and is now doing it for a living in Pennsylvania. How sashiko is so beautiful, how many patterns there are, how this guy has found meaning in his family heritage in sashiko and "has spent hundreds of hours covering jeans he owns in stitches patterns to make them stronger."

Then there's your actual how-to tip.  There's a supply list: sashiko thread, a thimble and "a two-inch-long needle with a small eye."  There's a direction: cut a denim patch bigger than the hole.  Now "stitch all over the patch first to make the fabric stronger."  Digression on how to transfer sashiko patterns to the fabric (washable pen or carbon tracing paper).

Finally, "place your patch on the inside of your jeans and sew the two together."  Do not do this on a T-shirt.  (No danger, since you told us in the headline that we're mending jeans.)

That's it.

Hmmm.  As one who has mended dozens if not hundreds of pairs of jeans and other pants, I take issue with this process instruction.  First off, if I were going to mend a pair of jeans I would not bother doing sashiko all over the patch first.  After it's on the pants, maybe.

Second, I would not obsess over precise transfer and execution of a sashiko pattern to my patch, unless I were a guy who wants to make a living off his ancestral craft and enroll you in a workshop to learn same

Third, if I had put beautiful sashiko stitching onto a patch I would for sure sew it to the front of my jeans, not the inside where people would only see the little bit of it visible through the hole.

Fourth, if I didn't know how to mend jeans (otherwise why would I be reading an article entitled "How to Mend A Pair of Jeans") I would probably feel cheated when the directions told me "sew the two together" and left the hard part to me to figure out.

The takeaway: again, the New York Times proves that it loves the concept of people doing craft at home, but hasn't a clue as to how to guide them toward actually doing it.


  1. yeah... in my long experience mending jeans, it's NOT the patch that needs strengthening, it's the thinning jeans fabric around the hole. I'm going to guess this guy "mends" his jeans not out of need, but rather to make fashiony statements. As one who's family wore out (still does!) many pair of jeans doing real physical work, the fake wear and repairs just hits me all the wrong way. Is this where I put in a "Harumph!" and "Get off my lawn!" ?

  2. Well, I'm pretty sure I don't care what a NYT editor would think a great way to repair jeans IS. I spend a bit of time shaking my head every day, lol.

  3. the real mending is called boro, Aniu (Ezo) populations of Hokido island, did this.

  4. I actually got to see one of these "craft projects" when NYT let me read the paper for free last week. Really really idiotic. Their recipes are very difficult to translate also. So many useless steps. Need a "decoder ring".

  5. Yes, Anonymous, I too was thinking isn't this Boro? And had to go back and read several times to make sure I wasn't mistaken about when to stitch and attach the patch, totally backwards and upside down. Yes, the patch you've taken so much time to stitch decoratively (and not to strengthen the patch) belongs on the OUTSIDE not the inside. Who are these maroons (as Bugs would say)?

    But I am glad you have found new ones of these to share so that I could share in kind the kind of DYI projects that show up in the Home section of my local, family owned newspaper, the Spokesman Review. They call it Upcycled Life and usually strike me as craft projects, but sometimes craft projects I just might want to try, and the directions are almost always very clear. Here is the one from last Sunday which actually I think is fairly brilliant, practical and well-instructed. Enjoy!