There is something crafty about repairing old clothes. There are some frequent spots that have damage, such as the collar of a jacket or the knee on a pair of jeans. Others are entirely unique to an individuals’ life. It is kinda like reading a journal entry with the people’s names redacted.
The tricky part is figuring out how to best repair an entire garment repair by repair. Mentally there has to be a game plan, a theme. There may be a point on a piece of clothing that helps determine a starting point, but usually it’s just experimenting with a stitched together narrative. Piece by piece, repair by repair the theme begins to take shape.
Eventually you find a place to end. With this post I wanted to share where I ended. Some of these repairs are small and simple, others were time-consuming. This is a short journey of hobos, mechanics, and nomad bikers.
There are also these Kapitalcentury denim repairs. Since the vertical sashiko threads stand out, the repair stitching looked good horizontal, and blended. The contrasting colors mix well, indigo and grey; grey, brown, and indigo. It was important to keep the texture consistent, to keep a rough and tough looking fabric.
This project; the first and last of its kind. This was a project undertaken by Narita-san and myself. The idea was to reconstruct a pair of overalls that were basically unwearable. Rather than just turn the remains into patches or thread, we took it upon ourselves to give this pair a second life.
The denim was part of a collection 2 years in the making. A precarious ordeal; fishing old denim rags out of attics of abandoned houses in North Carolina. This rescued denim made its way to our shores. None of this denim was wasted in the least during the reconstruction of these overalls. Every scrap and tatter has found its way into some repair or another. All the denim was generously gifted to us for the purpose of this project.
Piece by piece, and stitch by stitch; a total of 96 sewing hours; 2 months of concept and execution. The basic idea here is a generational heirloom repair. The stitching colours, and denim scraps create a sense of time flowing from one repair to another. Very little machine stitching was done, as most of the fabric was so old and thin from sitting in storage for years that it was too delicate. It needed a gentle hand and stitching that would shrink and stretch with more ease.
The tradition of generation after generation of railroad workers from the 1920’s passing down knowledge through the ages. Little by little adding more and more repair. The really remarkable thing is though that one person did all the stitching time on this, and put in an unbelievable amount of effort and passion. I revere Narita-san for his perseverance and tenacity.
The patchwork layout and reconstruction was more like a game of Tetris than anything else. Making sure the gradation of denim had continuity, and the wear and fade of each part matched closely to the original structure. What you have here is a sophisticated repair showing much passion and skill; a masterpiece.
I have had a few requests over the last few months for repair information and how-to’s. Who better to ask about repairs than Osaka’s own Mr. Narita from Brown Tabby. This post will be an intro to appreciation of repair and reusing old fabric to turn your jeans into something more personal.
Wearing the same pair of jeans for 1 to 3 years is pretty typical nowadays, especially with the current global interest in high quality denim jeans. However consumer behavior doesn’t change all that much even for jeans that cost in excess of 200USD. People like to fade their jeans, but few understand how to repair their own jeans. Over the next week or so, I will be going over how to do just that, simply, and cheaply. No special equipment required.
But first, onto the aesthetic appeal of damage, and repair. Let’s appreciate and respect what we have-
This first pair is Narita-san’s pair of Warehouse jeans. 9 years of wear and tear. Well-worn and the repairs are impressive. The backside and front-side patching breaks up the indigo and adds more texture to the fade. The puckered patches have their own unique wiskering. The best way of going about repairing jeans at this age is using vintage fabric, to maintain a faded look. This also saves money and wastes less if vintage fabric scraps are used.
This second pair of Warehouse is a masterpiece of 17 years of wear. An unforgettable amount of texture and contrasting colors. If these jeans could talk…
Even the reverse side is something remarkable. The patching and stitching has so much character, and they are a very true representation of their wearer. Narita-san is an interesting character.
A stitched-portrait of his daughter on the knee shows his loving side, and also his sense of humor. A mix of machine and hand stitching add so much detail to the fade of the denim.
The depth and amount of stitching, the variety of vintage fabric used for patches: these jeans are coveted by their owner. The love and care for these jeans is a reflection of character. It shows his admiration and respect for things, and not to waste. I respect this mindset, we can all learn something from repairing our own clothing and not just tossing or storing it. This is the appeal of boro, having the skills to make something beautiful, unintentionally and naturally.
I took a little trip to Miyakojima in the Ryukyu islands (Okinawa). What better chance to feature some new Kapital items in the natural and beautiful island setting.
I haven’t worn shorts since… I have no idea really, maybe since I was an adolescent. This year I had a change of mood, I had the paradise island bug and I needed something with an edge. I found these at Kapital and immediately fell in love. The quilted pockets sticking out seemed ridiculous and exactly what I was looking for, not to mention my love of hand stitched repairs. They seem like shorts for exactly the place I ended up, Miyakojima. With the sea-weathered buildings along the streets and the emerald ocean always on the horizon these shorts seemed to have a similar story.
The roughness of the cement building gave way to the soft embrace of mother nature. The ocean side, that emerald gem that is the sea that surounds Miyakojima is something to see for oneself. The tree-lined coral sand beaches are like the selvedge line to the indigo.
This is an indigo dyed ramie with sashiko details “Kenka Shirt”, kenka means fight. This shirt seems to have been inspired bythe Nada “Kenka” festival happi. It is a very odd shirt to wear, but definitely Kiro designed this. It feels like it was designed by trial and error, slowly and carefully thought out and improved upon. The fit is very comfortable, the construction solid, and the pocket perfectly placed for a phone. The inside pocket is easily accessible with one hand free, the full square cut means layering with it is no problem. It is a very versatile shirt, which could also be used as a pop-over jacket. This was featured in the Surf Cowboys Spring 2012 and I fell in love with it from there. The Kountry guys did a terrific job on the contrasting kayasashiko collar, and the chest stitching.
A little more on ramie. It is very similar to hemp as it is a bast fiber. Ramie is a traditional Japanese fiber used in textiles since ancient times. It dries super quickly which makes it good for working in, as you get sweaty.
The weather-worn sign, and the rope remind me of the shirt and the sashiko details.