Visible Mending Lets You Customize Clothing As You Repair It

Turn a hole in a well-loved jacket or duvet from a bummer to a style opportunity and revitalize your treasured pieces with some decorative mending artistry.

In antique shops, you'll often find vintage tablecloths that have been patched by hand, a charming sign of the item's long, happy life. These days, as we think more about sustainability, we're coming back to the idea of visible mending, and making it stand out with high-impact patches and stitches. And we're not alone—there are currently more than 128,000 Instagram posts tagged #visiblemending.

With the techniques here, you not only extend the usefulness of a piece but also give it a custom look entirely your own. Get our helpful visible mending tutorials for patching clothing, adding appliqués, and darning socks. Learning how to use visible mending requires just a few inexpensive materials and basic embroidery stitches. Inspired by the Japanese art of Sashiko mending with visible stitches, these bold ideas will help you repair your clothes and linens in a truly beautiful way.

blue and purple place settings on quilted cloth and napkins
Carson Downing

Visible Mending Stitches

As you mend, don't worry about every stitch being identical. Freestyling will result in a handmade effect.

01 of 03

Running Stitch

illustration of running stitch
Illustration by Rachel King Birch

This stitch is so easy that you may have learned it as a kid. Poke a needle through the fabric from back to front then down again about 1/4-inch away; repeat in a straight (or straightish) line.

02 of 03

Crossed Straight-Stitch

illustration of crossed straight stitch
Illustration by Rachel King Birch

Not to be mistaken with cross-stitch, this is a series of horizontal running stitches covered by vertical running stitches.

03 of 03

Seed Stitch

illustration of seed stitch
Illustration by Rachel King Birch

This is a series of running stitches going in random directions rather than a straight line.

patched jean jacket with cloth swatches
Carson Downing

How To Patch Holes in Denim Jackets or Jeans

Supplies Needed

  • Item to mend
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Fabric glue stick
  • Straight pins
  • Needle
  • Embroidery floss

Step 1: Prepare Patch

Patch holes in a denim jacket or jeans with fabrics that reflect your personal style. Extending decorative stitching beyond the patch makes it stand out. To begin, clean up any messy strings around the hole using scissors. Cut a fabric patch ½-inch larger on all sides than the hole. Turn the jacket or jeans inside out.

Step 2: Attach Patch

Attach the patch to the hole using a fabric glue stick ($3, Joann). Reinforce the patch with sewing pins ($3, Walmart) and ensure the right side of the fabric faces out through the hole. Turn the item right side out.

Step 3: Add Decorative Stitches

Thread a regular sewing needle ($3 for a five-pack, Walmart) with embroidery floss and knot at one end. Start on the backside of the fabric with a series of horizontal running stitches. Create a new stitch every ¼ inch. Overlap the hole by a few inches on each side. Repeat the process with a series of vertical running stitches so the visible threads create small plus signs. Knot thread when finished.

lavender bedroom with quilted blue bed spread
Carson Downing

How to Applique Patch

Supplies Needed

  • Freezer Paper
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Fabric glue stick
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Tweezers

Step 1: Prepare Patch

To cover and reinforce holes try an appliqué method for a seamless appearance. Iron a circle of freezer paper ($5, Target) shiny side down to the wrong side of patch fabric; cut out fabric, leaving ¼-inch allowance around freezer paper. Dab a fabric glue stick onto freezer paper; press over the hole.

Step 2: Stitch Patch

Working around the circle, fold fabric's ¼-inch allowance under the paper and whipstitch the outer edge of the circle to what you are mending. (Try not to stitch through paper.) When there's ½-inch left unsewn, pull out the paper with tweezers. Sew up hole.

mended socks and yarn on mauve cloth
Carson Downing

How to Darn a Sock

Supplies Needed

  • Wool or cotton socks
  • Cotton crochet thread, embroidery floss, or wool yarn
  • Needle
  • Darning egg or darning mushroom

Put a kick in old socks or sweaters by covering up holes with vibrant yarn. Visible mending darning is an easy-to-master technique; you can get through a pair of socks while watching a TV show.

Step 1: Sew Vertical Stitches

Trim the hole to remove excess threads. Place a wood darning egg ($10, Etsy), a wood darning mushroom ($13, Etsy), or even a tennis ball inside the sock behind the hole. This helps maintain the sock's shape as you mend. Thread needle with yarn, embroidery floss, or thread. For wool socks, use wool yarn. For cotton ones, cotton crochet thread or embroidery floss works. Sew rows of vertical running stitches back and forth at least ½-inch beyond hole on all sides, taking long stitches over the hole.

Step 2: Repeat Horizontally

Repeat the process horizontally, weaving the thread over and under the long stitches, until you've completely covered the hole. Weave in ends of yarn and trim.

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