Visible Mending

Since taking up hand stitching again in 2016, I discovered I needed something simpler to work on in the evenings and on weekends than my very intricate embroidery pieces. I discovered Visible Mending through some embroiderers on Instagram and it’s become an excellent hobby.

The butt of a pair of black jeans with a Japanese wave pattern on them done in grey sashiko stitching.

I started with some simple sashiko mends on my son’s jeans which got more intricate the more I learned about sashiko techniques. Susan Briscoe’s excellent book—The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook—has been a great resource for this.

I patched things in boro boro style: 

A small pillow with many patches of an Asian dragon pattern in greys, blacks, and reds, sewn on with red thread. Some of the original red and tan Japanese wave pattern cloth of the pillow can be seen on the bottom edge.
Lia’s hand in a right hand burgundy glove. There are 3 black needle felted dots on the back of the glove.

I also took up needle felting as a way to make 3-dimensional fibre art pieces. Needle felting works well for patching smaller holes in wool!

I did some keyhole mending—accentuating the holes as design elements rather than covering them over.

A close up of a red wool scarf with holes surrounded by red buttonhole stitch. A glass weight holds the scarf down on the edge of a deck.

The largest project I worked on was this merino wool dress from Smoking Lily. It took a few years to finish this one because there were a lot of moth holes which I covered with embroidered leaves and connected with vines. 

And another visible mending embroidery patch of a heart on this cardigan.

I’ve also started upcycling a few items.

A 1940s navy blue wool coat hung against a white wall. There is a velvet leaf in the right armpit and a silver patch can be seen in the lining.

I patched this vintage 1940s coat of my grandmother’s with embroidered velvet leaves and did some sashiko patching of the lining.

This shawl was made from an old t-shirt of my son’s.

Even though I was a bit of a minimalist before, becoming ill with ME/CFS has made me further simplify my life and my possessions. Shopping was something I found frustrating before I got sick because so many women’s clothes are made with cheap materials and the sizing is usually completely random. After I got sick, shopping became too exhausting to do in person. The concept of mottainai—of using what one already has—became even more appealing. I have so many nice clothes, many of which are excellent quality, some I bought in Japan and others from small Canadian designers. Almost everything I own is black so it’s usually a matter of mixing cuts and types of fabric. Mending makes a lot of sense with such a wardrobe, and some of the mending I’ve done has personalized my clothes even further

I occasionally use my sewing machine, but I’ve been doing more and more hand sewing since it’s restor­ative as opposed to the active task of sitting upright in a chair. Mending calms me and allows me to rest, but without the intense focus that my intricate embroideries require. If you’d like to keep appraised of my mending practice, I post most things on Twitter and Instagram. I usually use #VisibleMending and occasionally #sashiko when appropriate.