January 18, 2023

Winter Mending Project: Barn Jacket

In my last post ("Japanese Mending,") I promised to show you my visible mending project - my old barn jacket. There's a story to go along with this project, which means this post will be wordy. But for those who prefer to scroll and scan, there are lots of pictures too, which will probably stand on their own.

About the jacket. At one time, this denim jacket was my favorite fall and spring work jacket, and I wore it for years. It has a warm fleecy lining and the outer fabric is denim, which I love because it wears well and isn't prone to getting straw and hay stick in it (a huge plus when one works with barn animals!). Gradually, it got torn here and there, and the cuffs began to fray.

Lots of small holes on the jacket front and sleeves.

But it wasn't until it got a big tear in back that I stopped wearing it. 

Big rip in the back.

By that time, the denim was badly torn, worn, and stained in too many places anyway. The jacket wasn't even fit to donate to the thrift shop, and I decided to discard it. I went so far as to cut off and save all the buttons, but I just couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Instead, I buried it in my mending box.

I pulled it out a few years ago when I needed a mending project for a Permies SKIP merit badge. SKIP is a free online program at permies.com, for learning homesteading and permaculture skills. That link will tell you all about it and what's offered, so here, I'll just add that it's an excellent resource for learning, documenting, and sharing a wide range of skills. In this case, I was working on the first textiles badge and needed to sew on a patch. The jacket was perfect.

A series of tears on the underside a sleeve.

Even then, I got a bit creative in stitching down the large patch.

As I worked on it, I remembered how much I liked this jacket. But there was still a lot that needed mending, so I stuffed it back into the mending box and forgot about it for several more years. Until I was stuck inside due to inhospitable winter weather and came across several interesting YouTube videos about visible mending (which you can read about in my previous post). I pulled the jacket out again and gave it another look. It would be a good canvas for learning and experimenting!

The next time I was at the thrift store, I found some patching fabric that I liked. Actually, it was a pillow sham that I got for $1. I took it apart and gave it a good pressing. Perfect. 

Then I made a start. The biggest tear was first, although it wasn't too bad when I spread out the jacket and laid the pieces back in place. 

The lining was in good shape, so I sewed the torn parts onto the lining with sewing thread and drew out my top stitching lines with a fabric marker.

From boro, I learned that it's okay to have patches and stitching overlap, like the patch above, which I added to support the pocket.

From sashiko, I find the concept of working only in running stitch intriguing. I like the mental challenge of figuring out my stitching path with the fewest cuts and knots in the thread.

Once the creative ideas started flowing, I added some embroidery to my first sleeve patch (and patched a few more holes). 

Jacket right front with two patched tears.

I stopped thinking about simply covering holes and tears, and began to think more about the overall affect on the jacket.

Below is a patched and embroidered hole on the other sleeve.

In the first picture you can see the hole in the left sleeve.

One problem that developed was because the outer jacket fabric and the lining have different fiber contents. That means they shrank at different rates! It wasn't terribly noticeable before, but the patches and embroidery cause the denim to pooch out in some places.  

On the one hand, this is just an experimental project on a barn jacket, so, so what? But it was a challenge and I wanted to rise to it. As Bill Mollison, the Father of Permaculture says, the solution is in the problem. I thought about this and settled on a sashiko design that I thought would work.

I smoothed out the outer fabric as evenly as I could and pinned it to the lining. Then I added lines with my fabric marker.

With variegated embroidery thread, I'm working a pattern that will distribute the denim more evenly over the back of the jacket without puckering.

A problem becomes a design element! The result will be a quilted look that stabilize the fabrics. 

Another problem is that, apparently, I don't have full ownership of the jacket. 

Meowy staked her claim

and stubbornly refuses to give it up.

What's a human to do?

Between mending my jacket and some knitting, my cold and rainy days are interesting and productive. Maybe I'll be able to wear the jacket again this spring. 

Your turn. Anyone else care to share to share their winter projects?


SmartAlex said...

The jacket is now an authentic work of art! And I just want to snuggle Meowy!

Leigh said...

Alex, thanks! It's funny how there is actually a "battle" over that jacket. I move Meowy and she jumps right back, lol. She can be affectionate, but only on her own terms. :)

daisy g said...

Count me impressed! How wonderful to make a chore into a personal challenge. Love the way it's turning out.

daisy g said...

BTW-I clicked on the Permies.com link, and it went to a page on your blog where there is no post.

Leigh said...

Daisy, thank you for the heads up on the link! I fixed it. I need to link check more often. :)

Thank you for the compliment! I'm pretty pleased with how it looks, plus I'm having fun, so it's a definite win-win.

Boud said...

This is a wonderful transformation. I love making things beautiful as well as useful, why not? Yours is really an artwork. And as you wear and patch more, it will get warmer with layers of fabric and stitching. This is really a triumph!

Florida Farm Girl said...

Dear girl, you have done wonders! And I'll admit that I'm more interested in sashiko now than before I read your post. Guess I need to read up on boro and sashiko.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, one of my impressions of the multiple aspects of Japanese culture I have been exposed to over the years is that everything is, at some level, a work of art, a thing to be enjoyed visually as well as functionally. Carpentry, formal gardens, tea ceremony, sword training - appearance is as important as quality, utility, and function. Things are made to last and are to be repaired or used in other fashions. In "A Book of Five Rings", Miyamoto Musashi compares the warrior assigning troops to the carpenter who selects wood: every kind of wood has a use, from the strong well grained wood used for inner visible construction to the less well grained knotty wood for construction that is hidden to the pieces only fit to be used for bracing and work platforms. Everything has a purpose, everything can be used to the fullest.

Now, if you could only get the jacket to wear it...

Ed said...

I love fleece jackets but they aren't very practical on a farm because as you mentioned, they are like the sticky side of tape and everything tends to adhere to them. My favorite farm jacket is still a Carhart jacket I had in my younger days. It had a quilted interior and that signature tough canvas exterior. It still hangs in my closet. For colder days, I have a heavier insulated version. Unfortunately, I don't fit the lightweight version any more, or at least comfortably but I can't bear to part with it. I keep thinking I will be able to fit again someday and it is still perfect enough to wear for all those farm chores.

My winter projects this year is to sort through all the things I cleaned out from the farmhouse this fall. I need to get that done so that we can use my office where it is stored as a guest room this summer. I'm making progress but still have a way to go.

Leigh said...

Boud, absolutely it should be both! And thank you for your kind words; they encourage me! Between the quilting and the patches, it should become a very warm coat indeed.

Sue, thanks! I have to add that I've seen quilts made entirely from sashiko squares, each on featuring another sashiko design. They're beautiful!

TB, I shouldn't be surprised after ready Masanobu Fukuoka so many times. His point that the farmer should have time for creative pursuits always seemed like it should be everyone's goal.

Ed, that's a big goal! Nice that you have an entire season to accomplish it.

I hear you about favorite garments that no longer fit. I have seen ways to creatively enlarge garments, although I've not tried any of them. The Carhart might be worth it though.

sbrgirl said...

I'm inspired!

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Right now, I am unpacking boxes that were moved to the office, when we ripped up the kitchen floor, clearing other stuff from the kitchen floor, table top, and other places. It's a hot mess, but getting done. I'm also crocheting a blanket for one daughter's MIL. When that is done, I have a long list.

Leigh said...

Sbrgirl, that's great!

Kristina, I've been following your remodeling adventures, so I know you have a long list! It's nice you can keep a handwork project going, though. Something creative while you slowly bring order to the household chaos.

Cederq said...

Soon that coat will be a Dolly Parton Coat of many colors! For some reason repaired clothes are always more comfortable.

Nina said...

Brilliant work coat project. I love that you've extended the life of a garment that you loved too. Besides healing, I've started a double weave blanket on therigid heddle loom. It is so gratifying to be able to get back to fibre arts.

Fundy Blue said...

I am impressed with how you've revived your beloved jacket, Leigh! Obviously the kitty appreciates your craftsmanship too. I have a sewing box from grade nine, and I've been mending things since well before grade nine. My father got me going on mending when I was a young child. I've done nothing equivalent to your jack project though. My "project" for the last two winters has mostly been my health. Being diagnosed with two thyroid diseases really upended my life. I'm coming through the other side of the healing process which has taken a long time. My eyes have improved greatly, and now I'm rehabbing a frozen hip brought on by my broken rib and foot. Strength is what I'm pursuing. Have a great weekend!

Leigh said...

Kevin, it's true, mended clothes are definitely very comfortable. I suppose if they were uncomfortable, we would use them enough to wear them out. :)

Nina, thanks! I'm so glad to hear you are on the mend! You're always such a productive person, I know taking the time out to heal was a trial of it's own!

Fundy, I knew you'd had some challenges, but I didn't realize they were so extensive! I had a frozen shoulder many years ago, so I know how painful that condition is. Good for your father for encouraging you to mend things! And good for you for continuing it! Learning about decorative mending has added a very fun element to it all.