Stopping ripped knees in Women's pants
February 5, 2011 10:18 AM   Subscribe

My pants keep ripping at the knee. Looking for prevention and repair ideas!

The pants in question are jeans, cotton chinos/cargos... Generally jeans-styled everyday women's pants from Esprit and Banana Republic. Denim itself is the worst offender; I've basically stopped wearing jeans because the knees rip so quickly.

I do a lot of clambering, kneeling, squatting (toddler wrangling, landscape photography), but it's not like I'm rock-climbing. I carry important stuff in my pockets, so yoga pants and other knit fabrics don't really fit the bill.

So: is there another fabric pants I should be buying? Will "ripstop" fabric make a significant difference?

How do I patch my existing pants so they will last a little longer?

Can I reinforce the knees of not-yet ripped pants to stave off the inevitable?
posted by xo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd say you need jeans and pants actually designed for work. Women's fashion jeans are meant to look pretty; they're not designed for durability. I'd start by trying something like Land's End or Eddie Bauer, which are meant for outdoor wear. But you may need something like Carhartt, which is explicitly built to be durable. Good luck!
posted by decathecting at 10:21 AM on February 5, 2011

I am a guy but this kept happening to me. I had to go and buy dickies. they have pants specifically meant to not rip at the knee. I know they have a womens line. they can be expensive but to me anyway its worth it because they last a lot longer.
posted by majortom1981 at 10:34 AM on February 5, 2011

Yeah, if you're doing much kneeling, the only solution is getting pants that are more durable.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:34 AM on February 5, 2011

You can get basic Clover brand iron-on denim patches almost anywhere. Ideally you'd have a sewing machine to also reinforce the border of the patch. Apply them to the inside of the leg, you might want to put on the pants and note where your knees sit when in a crouched position, when standing this will make the patch look a little low, but bending causes the leg to ride up (unless this is an existing rip, then just put it over the hole). Lay the fabric as flat as possible (inside out) so the patch won't show through any rips and attach as directed, you might need to put some parchment paper inside the leg to stop the adhesive leaking through to the back leg panel. If you have a sewing machine you'll need to open the OUTSIDE leg seam to access a flat work surface. The outside seam is the easiest to sew back together as the inseam has topstitching which is hard to replace on a closed leg. You can get denim coloured thread as well, or depending on the wash a dark grey-toned cadet blue would work. Be sure to get a good quality thread like Gutermann, cheap thread will break sooner rather than later. Use a zig-zag stitch to pin down the border of the patch. Sew the leg back up. You can do this to both ripped pants and to prevent ripping.

I've never used iron-on patches, so I don't know how the adhesives react, you might want to cut a small corner off first and apply it to an inconspicuous part of the leg to see if it discolours the fabric or leaks through.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 11:02 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A tutorial on patching jeans.

As Majortom says above, Dickies is a good brand, although some of their women's stuff is very "fashion" so buyer beware. In the men's section they have "double-knee" pants but they're going to be pretty unflattering as far as fit goes.

These Carharts have an explicitly reinforced leg front, might do the trick.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:16 AM on February 5, 2011

You can try patching your existing un-torn pants with the remnants of torn pants like my mom did for my brothers and her mother did for my uncles.

Turn the pants inside out. Mark 2 to 4 inches up on either side of the knee crease. You're going to have to experiment with how long to make the patches. You'll want them long enough to protect the area & bend easily without being so long they feel or look funny. Cut a piece that will cover that area from seam to seam. Sew in the patch only on the seams sides leaving the top and bottom open. Basically, you're running two straight seams but you're going to need to be right on or next to the original seams for the best look. My grandmother used to sew in the patches with an upholstery needle by hand.

You could experiment with adding an additional layer of a cushioning fabric (like a fleece maybe?) to prevent future wear & tear.

You could also re-hab torn pants (especially jeans) by sewing in the patch in complimentary or contrasting colors for casual wear.
posted by jaimystery at 6:00 PM on February 5, 2011

Have you tried jeans/khakis/etc. that stretch slightly? Not too much – that can be annoying – but
I find that my pants only rip at the knee when they're inflexible. When they give a bit, they handle kneeling and so on much better. Perhaps a combination of a slight stretch and reinforced knees?
posted by bassjump at 9:40 PM on February 5, 2011

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