Visible Mending Masterpieces: Repair and Revamp Old Garments | Skillshare Blog

A few decades ago it wasn’t that uncommon to be sewing and mending your own clothes. Before the days of fast fashion and inexpensive outsourced clothes from countries around the world, each piece of clothing was treasured, treated with care and made to last. Today, you might find stitches in your new blouse coming undone after just a few uses. 

Well-made clothes aren’t as accessible to everyone, but that doesn’t mean repairing the clothes you already have should only be left to the experts. Visible mending is both an easy and aesthetically pleasing way to stitch up holes and tears. It can also infuse life into the clothes you don’t reach for in your closet by giving them an artistic and beautiful twist. 

Popular Visible Mending Techniques 

There are dozens of ways to patch up holes or stitch up a rip in your garment that will make your upcycled clothing look good as new. With visible mending, you aren’t only able to fix the damaged and worn-out clothing you have, but also add an entirely new design to it.

If you love the look of artisan-made, handcrafted clothes and sewing techniques, visible mending can be just the thing you need to refresh your closet. 

All About Sashiko Visible Mending

Two hands press a piece of dark blue fabric onto a wooden table. On the fabric is a scalloped design stitched in white thread.
Still from Skillshare Class Sashiko: A Japanese Embroidery Technique by Cerise Montauban
Scallops, crosses, waves and zigzags can all play a part in a stunning sashiko design.

Sashiko was born hundreds of years ago in Japan in order to preserve fabric, which was expensive to make and not always easy to come by. Those who practiced this functional craft leaned further into the aesthetic side of it in order to make something that was equally practical as it was pretty. 

Since its creation, sashiko has evolved to include thousands of different stitches and patterns. From popular Hanafukin, which seamlessly incorporates different patterns into one, to simple patterns made of stars, there is an inspiring sashiko design for everyone. 

Diving into Boro Visible Mending

A hand holds a colorful patchwork rectangle covered in white, multidirectional stitches.
Still from Skillshare Class Boro Stitching Basics: Sewing an Upcycled Pouch by Casey Gallagher Newman
Switching up the direction of your boro stitches can create some breathtaking movement on your garment. 

The lines between sashiko and boro can get a little bit blurry when looking at the two Japanese visible mending crafts. Since sashiko and boro stitching were both used among the working and lower classes in Japan, it wasn’t for a while that the two were considered true art. Because of this, there weren’t a lot of official definitions of the two works. 

In Japanese, the word Boro means “rag.” This is because boro most often defines a textile work that was created by patching together different fabrics to create a new piece like a jacket or blanket. Often, new patches are added on top as the older fabric starts to break apart or fade. 

So while it is possible to use sashiko stitching to stitch together the patches of boro, boro is not considered a type of sashiko, but rather an art of its own. Today, vintage boro pieces are beloved for their soft, faded fabrics and quick stitches. Since there aren’t a lot of boro pieces that have lasted through years of use and repatching, a lot of artists have started creating their own modern boro pieces with inspiration from boro’s patchwork style. 

Understanding Visible Patch Embroidery

Two thumbs sit on the edges of an ocean blue, hand-embroidered rectangular patch on a gray t-shirt.
Still from Skillshare Class Your First Visible Mend: How to Mend a T-shirt with Embroidery by Library of Lily Lol
This blue hand-embroidered patch is just bright enough to catch any passerby’s eye, but still pairs perfectly with the dark gray fabric of the t-shirt.

Making a patch using embroidery techniques is also a wonderful way to add a little bit of flair to your visible mending. By overlapping common embroidery techniques, textile artists can create unique shapes and add pops of colors to worn or damaged garments. 

There is lots of freedom for creatives in this visible mending form since you can create a patch in any shape you like. Dainty, little hearts, bright sunflowers and adorable sea shells can easily be embroidered over a hole or rip in any of your clothing. This visible mending technique works great for jeans. 

Extra Creative Visible Mending Ideas

If you’re looking to get started with visible mending, but are feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the mending options out there, you’re in the right place. The mending techniques you use for your clothes will largely depend on your style and goal with your projects. 

If you’re looking to create a completely new creation from fabric scraps, boro is probably your best bet. Creatives have handcrafted cosmetic pouches, handbags, jackets and blankets out of leftover or deadstock fabric and boro stitching.

For a more classic look where the design of the actual stitching is what interests you most, you should probably give Sashiko a try. There are countless patterns from simple to intricate made of tiny stars, calming waves and funky swirls and circles. If you’re looking to cover up a hole or tear while adding a completely new aesthetic, you’ll love the endless possibilities available with sashiko. 

Finally, with embroidery stitching, you’ll truly have the freedom to create the shape, motif or stitch type of your dreams. Once you stitch up the hole using a ladder stitch or zigzag stitch, you’ll be able to reinforce and adorn your piece further by using embroidery stitches to create the form you’re after. 

Make Your Own Visible Mending Flower

One of the most popular embroidery forms used for visible mending is a flower. Since there are so many stunning flowers out there, this embroidery motif is both versatile and eye-catching. There are also a lot of simple embroidery patterns involving flowers, which makes this motif a great option for beginners. 

Explore Visible Mending Embroidery Ideas

If flowers aren’t your thing, there are a ton of other visible mending ideas out there. Pretty much any shape can be turned into a visible mending masterpiece. If you’re a beginner, simple shapes like hearts, stars, suns and fruit like strawberries, apples and kiwis can be a fun place to start. 

If you’re looking for something a little more advanced you can try adding a butterfly, a whole field of flowers, a forest, ferns or feathers. Flipping through magazines, taking a walk around town or looking around your own home can also provide creative inspiration for a completely unique visible mending design. 

Discovering Darning

If you like the look of visible mending but are looking for something a little more subtle, you’ll love the darning stitch. Created by using a classic running stitch to work with the grain of the fabric, it creates a truly seamless design in any garment. Often used in places where a seam would look unsightly or be uncomfortable, it’s great for repairing a heel of a sock or visibly mending a sweater. 

How to Do Visible Mending

Since there are so many different ways to do visible mending, it’s up to you to decide which technique will be best for your project. This basic guide will provide a helpful overview, but once you know which type of visible mending you’ll want to do, you might need to dive a little bit deeper to achieve your finished product. 

Collect Your Materials

The first thing you’ll need will be your damaged garment. Based on its material you might need either yarn or thread. If you’re looking for your visible mending to be the star of the show, you can choose a color that contrasts the color of your garment. The thickness of your thread or yarn will also affect the texture of the design and make it more or less eye-catching. 

Get Stitching

Once you’ve gathered your materials, it’s time to start stitching the design of your choice. Don’t worry if your design evolves as you stitch it. Your unique changes to a pattern will make it even more special. 

It’s Visible Mending Time!

Now that you’ve discovered the beauty of visible mending, it’s time to bring that beauty home to you. Everyone has garments that could use a little extra love. This week, do a closet audit and see if any of your clothes could use a patch up. If not, make a trip to the thrift store and you’ll be sure to find some upcycling ideas while you’re there. Happy stitching! 

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