Visible mending, embroidery and sashiko

by Liz Beavis

I learnt to handsew and embroider as a child.  I particularly remember my first cross-stitch kit, it was a rooster (now I wish I still had the finished product!) that I was given for Christmas when I was nine.  I remember struggling and making so many mistakes, but eventually I learnt how to read the pattern, count carefully, make neat stitches and produced a nice enough rooster.  

Hooked on Cross-Stitching!

From them onwards I was hooked on cross-stitch and made several kits before my mum bought me a pattern booklet (flowers and birds) and I made many of those (my grandmother had them hanging all over her house, what else do you do with them?!).  Finally I got a full book of sampler patterns and designed several of my own themes as gifts.  And then like so many childhood hobbies, I stopped, and my cross-stitch cotton, needles and fabric sat in a box at my parent's house for years until they made me take it away.

The main reason I stopped cross-stitch was I ran out of things to do with what I was making.  They are sweet, but pointless, and I prefer to make something useful if I'm going to spend time on it, however I do enjoy stitching.  My handsewing skills have been useful, and I do have a basket of mending that I get to eventually - sewing up hems, and rips, replacing buttons etc.  Tedious, but gratifying when you get that piece of clothing back to wear again. 

Visible Mending

So when I read about visible mending on Going Grey and Slightly Green I could see how to combine my love of decorative hand sewing / embroidery with the practicality of mending clothes!  

Visible mending is mending clothes in a beautiful way.  Not trying to hide the mending, but celebrating of the opportunity to extend the life of your clothing through creativity.  Its not just a craft, its a value statement.  I am thrifty, I mend my clothes to make them last rather than buying new, I enjoy the creative process etc.  Read more about the visible mending movement here.

How exciting when I find a craft that I enjoy, that also matches my values!


Turns out that this is not exactly a new idea...  The Japanese have a word for visible mending - sashiko, and they have been doing it for centuries, creating beautiful geometric patterns while mending and strengthening clothing!  There is also a Japanese word mottainai which loosely means "what a waste", and explains why they would prefer to mend clothes than waste them.  I have had an interest in Japanese culture since I did an exchange there when I was 17, so I am inspired by the patterns of sashiko and the concept of mottainai.

I found some great posts on Instagram using the hashtags #visiblemending and #sashiko

Mending my jeans

I ripped my best jeans a few weeks ago when I climbed though a barbed wire fence to check on a calf on my way home from work (normally I wear old clothes on the farm).  It was a decent ripped in the knee of the jean and I was thinking that there was no way to mend it without it  being very obvious and relegating the jeans to farm use only.  

That is until I saw the post about visible mending and went hunting for my stash of cross-stitch cotton!  I actually started by practising on another pair of jeans that had worn through in the crotch.  I sewed them up with some green cotton and it looked ok, but was hard to keep it neat. 



More investigation on Instagram and I saw that people were using embroidery hoops to keep the fabric taught.  A remembered the difference it made to my cross-stitch when I started using a hoop.  I had my hoop stashed with the cotton so I set that up on my good jeans and started stitching.  It was so much easier and I quickly finished a neat and effective repair.

The hoop is not essential, but it does help.  You can probably find most of what you need at op shops - look out for hoops, needles and embroidery cotton.

I am excited to keep using these techniques to work through the rest of my mending pile!  Especially the pieces that I have been stalling on as I couldn't figure out how to do a neat hidden repair.  Now I can just go ahead with creative visible mending instead!  Make it look beautiful and get more use out of it.  Maybe even incorporate some of my button collection.

Have you tried visible mending?  What have you mended?



  • Chris@gullygrove

    My daughter is a fan of Japanese culture too. My experience is limited to tourists, who were wonderfully polite and tried not to be intrusive, in asking to get pictures taken with me. I was at an Australian themed park, visiting from the country – so was wearing my best country hat. I guess it looked quirky enough to want to take a photo of, lol.

    Onto mending though, I was spying a couple of items of clothing that need mending, recently too. Chel’s post reminded me of how to tackle it. Great to see you giving it a go. To see what is possible in the repairs department. Lovely, consistent stitches you have – I can tell you’ve done this before.

    One particular shirt is giving me the most grief, with the tiniest of holes, on the chest. Think, where a pocket might go. I don’t want to exaggerate it, or do circles, unless it looks like I’m trying to draw attention to…you know, lol. So then I think flower, or ladybird, but it’s also a plaid shirt with enough pattern going on. I didn’t think it would be this hard, to find the right kind of decorative patch.

  • Chel

    Good on you, Liz. I am still working on the jeans I started on at our workshop. Our simple living group’s co-ordinator did some fantastic embroidery on her jeans which inspired us all.

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