Tutorial: Repairing an ugly tear

Tutorial - repairing a tear - csews.com

Hi, have you ever had to repair an ugly tear? Yesterday my husband tore the vest I made him a few years ago. He wears it a lot so he was really upset and of course, told me, “You have to fix this!” The tear was nearly 2 inches (5 cm) long in the center back, not along a seam. Yikes.

“Uh, I’m not sure I can fix that,” I told him. “It would be ugly. Let me ask my sewcialists on Instagram.”

So I posted this photo of the tear on IG (@csews) …

The tear - csews.com

The top photo is the outside of the vest and the bottom is of the lining. Yes, somehow the tear went through both fabrics!

I got some very helpful suggestions, including these ideas from two costumers:

@sewbrooke of Custom Style suggested doing a stripe of Petersham ribbon or matching fabric, repair patching the rip, and covering it with the stripe. She also mentioned adding a little ease.

@loranwatkins of Loran’s World who said that in theater, they would make the tear into a small dart. She suggested taking the pieces apart, making a dart and sewing it back together.

And this suggestion from @marjoriesews who wondered whether it would be good to add a piece of leather or suede over the tear – sort of like the leather patches you put on the elbows of sweaters.

I searched my scraps to see if I had any of the original fabric and only found the lining fabric. So using matching fabric was out. So what about using a contrasting fabric, not in the strip but a shape? I pulled out some black cotton fabric and cut a semi-circle. I also have Petersham ribbons in my stash. I picked this 3/4″ cotton Petersham. I posted the two options on IG and asked people which one they preferred.

Two options - fabric or ribbon - csews.com

Everyone liked the ribbon – and I did, too. Brooke said it looked like an intentional design detail and other people agreed. The fabric didn’t look very good in comparison to the ribbon. So ribbon it was!

Here’s what I did to repair the tear:

  1. Put Fray Block on the torn edges so it wouldn’t tear any further while I worked on it.
    Fray Block on tear - csews.com
  2. Took an iron-on patch I had and cut two pieces to go over the tear – one for each side of the tear.
    Iron-on patch - csews.com
  3. Ironed a patch to the outside, leaving a slight gap to add a little ease.
    Iron-on patch trimmed - csews.com
    This is a photo from the lining side, showing the slight gap to add a bit of ease.
    Iron-on patch on outside - csews.com
  4. Ironed a patch to the lining side.
    Patch on lining side - csews.com
  5. Cut the Petersham ribbon so it would cover each side of the tear.
  6. Put Fray Block on the raw edges of the ribbon.
  7. Hand sewed the ribbon over the patches.

Here’s what the finished repair looks like. As you can see, it’s slightly off-center because the tear wasn’t exactly in the center, plus the patch I cut was a bit wide. This is the outside back…
Back with ribbon - csews.com

… and this is the lining side.

Inside lining - repair - csews.com

And here’s a close-up of the back:

Close-up of ribbon - csews.com

To recap:

Repairing a tear - csews.com

I told my husband how I got advice via IG and he was really impressed that people responded so quickly. He wanted me to thank everyone for helping to save his vest. Thanks so much everyone for your suggestions and comments on IG!


Author: Chuleenan

Chuleenan sews, collects hats and shoes, and is a fabric addict. She is also the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists Meetup group.

2 thoughts on “Tutorial: Repairing an ugly tear”

    1. Thanks so much for the ribbon idea! It was nice that I didn’t have to make a trip to the fabric store to get supplies. I had some cotton Petersham in my stash, which looks better than rayon Petersham, which is thinner. The cotton ribbon was a heavier weight and looked better. 🙂

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