I now know why mending is also called darning. It must be because every time I remember I need to mend something (like another pair of my 8-year-old boys jeans), I say, "Oh darn." =)
This morning, when my oldest came into my room informing me his last pair of jeans has a hole in the knee and he had nothing to wear, I decided I couldn't put off mending his (now 4) pairs of jeans any longer. I decided to try something different this time, and it rocked my world!
Last time I was in JoAnn's, I saw this thread specifically made for mending jeans (weight is normal thread weight, it's just the variegated color), and I bought it. Let's say - it is amazing!
I trimmed away any loose white threads and pinned the patch piece underneath. (I make an extra-large patch piece, to reinforce the worn spots of the knee). Then here's where I tried something new. Rather than use a zig-zag stitch, I used my darning foot (imagine that, isn't that what mending is? Darning?), dropped my feed dogs, and stitched a large loop around the edge of my patch piece (without ever changing the direction of my jean leg!).
I circled the patch a few more times, in a swirling motion towards the center.
Then I moved the fabric in a zig-zag motion around the raw edge of the hole. It worked flawlessly. And you don't even have to know how to machine quilt to do this! So what if your stitch length isn't perfect. Small stitches make it nice and secure. =)
Turned the pant leg inside out and trimmed away the excess patch fabric.
And here's the outside knee. Now my boy has jeans to wear, and I no longer have 4 pairs nagging me every time I walk past my sewing machine. =)
Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is the "correct" way to mend jeans. It's just the way I've come up with, and it works for me!