Old tea towels with hemmed patches
There are many repair techniques, and in “the olden days” it was deemed important that a repair would be as inconspicuous as possible. However, the least visible techniques are generally also the weakest, and for every item in need of repair, one had to weigh up strength against invisibility. One technique that makes for invisible repairs is the oversewn patch.
an unassuming piece of fabric with scalloped edges…
…turns out to be a oversewn patch sampler, showing many different shaped patches
This vintage sampler shows the oversewn patch technique in all its glory; as you can see, it’s possible to make a repair nigh on invisible. Not only can you perfectly match a pattern, the sewing technique used makes for a very smooth transition from background fabric to patch. On a blouse or shirt this would be a good technique to use, but if you want to repair tea towels, which get washed frequently, you’d soon end up with fraying seams, and very likely, new holes where the stitching isn’t quite strong enough to withstand the washing process.
A hemmed patch, on the other hand, encases the raw edges of the hole and patch inserted, and the double line of stitching ensures a strong repair. Of course, it is still possible to match the pattern, but the hem will always show up. My favourite books on mending will discuss the pros and cons of each technique, taking these kind of things into account.
Pattern-matched hemmed patch
When I first started using the hemmed patch, I was lucky to have a number of tea towels in different colourways of the same weave pattern. It allowed me to pattern match, yet make the repair stand out even more through the use of different colours. I was intrigued by this disruption of the pattern, and I wanted to explore this concept further.
Vintage tea towel with stripes
I sourced a pile of striped vintage linen tea towels, cut patches from the striped sections of one sacrificial tea towel, and started playing around with different ways of disrupting the stripes. The end result hints at other design possibilities for weaving the fabric used for these towels.
Red and green stripes disrupted
Bold stripes call for a bold approach to patching
Vintage tea towels with hemmed patch, available at The New Craftsmen
It was hard to stop, so I made a whole pile of these towels, and the green and red striped ones are exclusively available through The New Craftsmen.