Visible Mending – Function Meets Fun!

If you haven’t yet noticed, “upcycling” is everywhere! Taking old ladders and turning them into chic bookshelves, vintage suitcases into ottomans and colored glass bottles into lighting fixtures… the list is endless! Old items are being repurposed into new funky and fun decorative pieces that you can find nearly everywhere nowadays. Recently I’ve seen so many wonderful examples of upcyling old, worn or vintage clothing items into fresh new pieces that I had to give it a try myself!

I had purchased Jenny Wilding Cardon’s book “Visible Mending – Artful Stitchery to Repair and Refresh Your Favorite Things” recently and between that and my new obsession with Sashiko stitching I all but begged Debbie to let me do a blog post on the topic 🙂 My hope is that we begin to stop throwing things away the moment they’re worn or have distressed areas and begin to take a page from our grandparent’s book and mend them! Not only is it practical, but it’s a ton of fun to add your own bit of personality to your clothing. Another great source for ideas is Jessica Marquez’s Book ” Make + Mend”.

Rescuing that shirt we love (but that has a small stain near the hem) or the jeans that fit perfectly (but the hem is frayed or the knees are wearing thin) or the hoodie that our son LOVES (but it has holes in it and we can’t stand seeing him wear it lol) allows us to not only save money, but we’re keeping items out of the landfills and teaching our kids that there is value in our things even beyond the stage where they are “perfect”. PLUS it’s a wonderfully creative way to show your love of fabric and stitching in everyday items!

So I set out to find some pieces that needed mending.  I had purchased some jeans recently that had “purposely” frayed and holey knees… they were cute, but after just a dozen times of wearing them, the “frayed knees” tore and became giant messy holes that weren’t nearly as cute. I had basically stopped wearing them (even though they were sooo comfy!) They were perfect for this new project!

Here are few photos and tips that I learned on this first attempt at visible mending… it’s by no means a full tutorial, although you’ll find plenty of those online.  I even added some Sashiko stitching to my jeans, which perhaps I’ll do another blog post on, but in the meantime YouTube is full of easy to follow lessons on the history and how-to’s of Sashiko (Japanese Quilting) if you’d like to give it a shot yourself! The Moose has plenty of the items that you’d need to start visible mending yourself, or you may have quite a few of them already in your sewing area!

The first thing that I did was take a good fabric scissors and clean up the edges of the hole in the knee. I like a little distressing, so originally I left a bit that was still intact but discovered later that it’s best to simply give yourself good clean, non-distressed edges)

After I cleaned up the hole a bit, I measured the area that needed to be mended… make sure that you add at least 1/2 an inch around all the sides. I used one of my Creative Grids quilting rulers, but any tape measure or ruler will do! It turned out that I needed about a 7 1/2″ square patch.

So I did a bit of scrounging in my kids’ rooms for jeans that they left behind, no longer fit or needed mending themselves lol – what do you know!? It was a treasure trove of different denims! I also grabbed a bit of yardage from a few of my favorite Boro fabrics at the Moose to add a bit of design to my mending.

I took a pair of my son’s jeans that no longer fit and found a 7.5″ square area to cut my “patch” from and cut. I purposely wanted a good contrast between my lighter wash jeans and my patch to give it some visual interest, but that’s a personal choice… I could have just as easily chosen a lighter wash to better match my jeans if I wanted to hide the mend a bit more.

Fitting my patch under the hole was the easy part… getting it to lay flat to baste it was not as easy. Then I remembered Jen Kingwell’s favorite product “Flatter” and thought I’d give it a try… I sprayed the jeans and patch lightly and took a hot iron and ta da! The jeans laid perfectly flat against my patch.

At this point you can stitch baste your patch, but I’ll admit, I’m a bit lazy (shh, don’t tell my kids that) so I used the amazing Roxanne’s Glue-Baste-It. Just a thin line or lots of tiny dots around the inside of my jeans and a quick press to dry the glue left my patch quickly and easily basted (you don’t want to use so much glue that hand stitching through it will be difficult, but remember that this is denim and you’ll be moving it around a lot in this process, so don’t be shy with the glue either.

I started with small dots (as I would use with quilters cotton and found that it didn’t hold as well as I’d like so I went back and simply used a thin line… (little tip… be aware of where you’re gluing and don’t hesitate to put some cardboard or your hand inside the garment so you don’t glue too far and glue the pant leg or shirt etc. together (don’t ask me how I know this… lol)

However you decide to baste it, once you’re done, the fun can begin! Gather all your “pretty” pieces that you’d like to add for a bit of color and whimsy! In my case I chose some amazing mini charm squares from Jen Kingwell’s Remix collection, cut some squares from my chosen Boro fabrics and even added a small piece of vintage Japanese fabric from an amazing store in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Haberdashery.

Now comes the fun part! Decide how and where you’d like to add your patches to create the design that you’re looking for.  In my case I wanted to use my new Jen Kingwell Postcard Project Hexie Template to add some color and “quiltiness” to my jeans… I used Postcard#6, the 1″ Hexie template and started cutting! As I started laying out my hexies I realized I wanted a bit more color (shocking right? lol) so I used a few more mini charm squares.

At this point I added some Soft Fuse fusible web to the back of my hexies so that I could adhere them to my jeans. I considered paper piecing them and using an appliqué technique to add them to my jeans, but in the end I thought I’d keep a bit of “distressed” look that my jeans already had and simply stitch them raw edged to the underlying patch.

Now comes to the trial and “error” part of my project (Did I mention this was my first time?) I wanted to add some gorgeous Sashiko design to my pants and so I set out to mark the design on my knee… Having not done this before I tried a few different methods (pouncing chalk on the template, a red Frixion pen and a Clover White Marking Pen. All of the methods worked in marking the template, but I ended up moving forward with the red Frixion pen (the chalk went on quickly! However it seemed to rub off a bit too easily for all the handling that the Sashiko stitches were going to require, and although the Clover white pen marked the dark denim really well, it wasn’t as clear on my lighter denim. So I marked up my jeans with my trusty Frixion pen and even ended up going around a good portion of my leg!

TIP:  Try your jeans (or other item) on at this point to ensure that the pattern is where you want it, is straight and is appropriate for your project.

It was at this point that I realized that perhaps my Sashiko pattern, while beautiful, was probably not best suited for the big mending job ahead of me. When I added the hexies on top of the design I realized that too much of their edges and the hole itself wouldn’t be covered with stitches and wouldn’t hold the fabric around my knee as I wanted it to (defeating the purpose of mending entirely lol)

So, as with many of my projects I had to head back to the drawing board! I ironed off my markings and decided to go with straight Sashiko stitches instead… they’re sturdy AND cute!


I dug out my Sashiko supplies and chose my thread…  I was lucky enough to have picked up some sample thread from a lovely vendor at Quilt Market (Debbie has on order, btw) but you can use a variety of threads like Pearl Cotton, doubled up DMC embroidery thread or even very fine yarn! For my projects I use traditional sashiko thread and I double that up! (Skeins of Sashiko thread are cut to the exact length needed to double your thread and work with it) I also used my favorite Sashiko thimble (the black leather one on the right that actually covers your palm at the base of your dominant ring finger.

Then I laid out my hexies, ironed them down and got to work- using the traditional Sashiko method of stitching I ran a few lines of stitching to “baste” down my patches and then filled in the rest!

From there it was just a matter of stitching! I chose to highlight my hexies a bit by stitching around and inside of them… some straight lines ran through hexies, others did not, and I even added some simple crosses in a square section. The top is fairly even in my stitching but the bottom of the stitches are random and (much NOT like me) I chose not to draw straight even lines, but rather go about the project organically, so my stitches and rows aren’t even. I loved the end result! I’m wearing them at the shop today and the hexies are already pulling up a bit on the edges with a tiny bit of fray that has added even more character to my project.  I LOVE THEM!

Here is the end result (with my Jack Russell Terrier Kea and my Yorkie Ellie photo bombing the pics – they are photographer’s “children” after all lol)

So grab that old pair of jeans or that hoodie or shirt and give it a go! It was fun, functional and a wonderful way to showcase your own personal creativity!

Until next week friends!