Thursday, June 11, 2020

DIY fashion of the week

I know you've been waiting for the New York Times Designer D.I.Y. and today's is a big change -- it's an idea that actually might lead to some decent home craft.  That is, if you already know how to sew, and thus would not need the "directions" supplied in the story.

This week's famous designer is Todd Snyder, who makes "torqued all-American classics," whatever that means.  (Maybe the sleeves are all twisted between the shoulder and the cuff -- I made a shirt like that once....)

His idea is to sew patches on your jeans!  Functional, and totally original!!

Here's how you do it.  Todd, the story reveals, "dusted off my old sewing machine -- the same one I used in college to make shirts, and I used it to patch some jeans."  But the directions mostly show you how to do it by hand.  You should cut your patch from an old shirt, boxer shorts or bandanna, and make it at least an extra inch bigger on all sides so you can turn the edges under.

I think we're all with him so far, but then comes an offhand remark, "Place a matching piece of fabric on the inside of the patched area for reinforcement.  Affix the two patches to the jeans with straight pins to hold them in place."

As the 50-year proprietor of a three-male household, I have probably mended a hundred times more holes in pants than Todd Snyder has, and even I have to think twice about how to get that bottom-layer patch in place before sewing.  Especially when using a machine.  If you want the layers of fabric to properly enclose the hole and reinforce the mend, and lie neatly in place, you probably should stitch the bottom patch on first, then place the top one where it belongs.  Even if you're feeling bold and want to do them at the same time, it's going to be tricky to get them both in the right place, and "affix with straight pins" doesn't quite cover it in my opinion.

Anyway, let's say you get everything pinned in place.  Now it's time to sew.  "Using a whipstitch every quarter of an inch, or with a sewing machine, sew around the perimeter of the patch."  What is a whipstitch, you might ask, and the drawing shows you:

illustration from New York Times Styles section

Hmmm... what exactly are you looking at?  There are three horizontal lines in the drawing.  Presumably one is the folded edge of the patch.  What are the other two?  The drawing makes it look like you're sewing onto the edge of the jeans, which is obviously not what is supposed to happen.  No, actually it looks like you're supposed to insert your needle between layer two and layer three...  huh?  Anyway, let's be optimistic and assume that you figure it out.

Wait, what about that patch on the back side of the jeans?  Are you supposed to catch that in the whipstitch too?  (Good luck on that part, even having affixed it with straight pins.)  Let's be optimistic and assume that you figure THAT out too.

The directions for this step conclude:  "Don't worry: the sloppier the better." (This is the part of the directions that guaranteed, will be followed most accurately.)

OK, now to the fun part.  "Using the same technique as above..."  (above where?  you mean whipstitching?)  "...stitch back and forth across the patch in parallel lines."   Here's the helpful drawing:

illustration from New York Times Styles section

Hmmm... the top drawing makes it look like we're still whipstitching the patch onto the jeans, which I thought we had finished in step 3, but what is that double row of stitching to the left?  Where did that come from?  And whoa -- what are those fancy stitches in the bottom drawing???  How in heck would you go about making them if you wanted to?  .....Crap -- NOW you tell me to knot the thread?????

illustration from New York Times Styles section

And how great are these stitches going to look executed in sewing thread, which is the only stuff called for in the supply list?

Oh well, at least they didn't show us a drawing of putting both sides of the pants leg into an embroidery hoop, the way they did when they showed us how to embroider socks a couple of weeks ago.

In mocking previous articles in this series I have thought that the designer idea was dumb to begin with, but in this week's installment I am just sad that a perfectly excellent idea -- patching your clothes -- was given such a kissoff treatment.  These have to be the most feeble and confusing "directions" I've read in a long time, compounded by the kissoff illustrations that not only don't show the right way but seem to show the wrong way.

I suspect that 99 percent of the people reading this blog post could easily put a decorative patch on their pants despite the crappy "directions" in this article, but you're not the people the New York Times is presumably trying to reach.  Giving directions to people who have never tried a technique requires a lot more precision than the fashion-drawing style, which shows the ambiance but not the detail.  This is the place for photographs, not watercolor or pencil sketches.

I find it pathetic that the only one of the Designer D.I.Y. articles to use photography in its step-by-step directions was the one that showed us how to cut up beets.

 New York Times Styles section


  1. I think this is the worst one yet since it takes a sensible and sustainable idea (mend holes, don't throw as many things away), and gives instructions that are so terrible that they virtually ensure no new person would even want to try. Holy cow!

  2. I hope the NYT doesn't change the way these articles are written, I would so miss your dissection of them. It would take much fun out of my life not to be able to read your take on these things.

  3. I certainly agree that these posts are a highlight of my week. Have you sent contacted the New York Times about what a weird job they are doing on DIY crafts? As to "the sloppier the better," well you've seen my patched jeans. The heck with turning the edges under....

  4. Just think of all the mending jobs across all crafts that have people using useless/impossible instructions.

  5. I hope you're sharing this mockumentary with the NYTimes!

  6. Enjoying your Friday series more than I think you are enjoying the NYT Thursday's! Keep it up. The illustrations are funny, but the commentary is priceless. Agree that we should link you up with them. xox