Sashiko Mending Is a Clothing Life Saver

Get more out of your clothes with this simple method of visible mending. 

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Our boys can wear out a pair of jeans in a matter of weeks. The area that gets the most damage is the knees. This doesn’t surprise us in the least since they seem to spend a good amount of time crawling and sliding on the floor. To get a little more out of the pants before they end up in a rag pile, we use the Sashiko method of visible mending to patch them up. 

Patched Knees on Jeans

Patch Hole Jeans with Sashiko Mending

Get a little more life out a pair of jeans by mending knee holes Sashiko style.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Sashiko is a traditional Japanese embroidery. The style is comprised of geometric and linear patterns, which viewed from afar look complex and intricate. This style of visible mending was mostly used in Japan to repair kimonos. The embroidery served two purposes: to reinforce the worn area of the clothing and to make the area attractive. It’s a simple technique that doesn’t take any special tools. 


Jeans, Scissors, Thread and Needle

Sashiko Mending Supplies to Patch Knees

Cotton thread and long needle are the basic supplies need for sashiko emobroidery.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

  • cotton embroidery thread (you can use embroidery floss)
  • long embroidery needle (the width of the needle needs to be uniform for the entire legnth of the needle)
  • fabric for patch
  • scissors
  • fabric chalk or soap (for marking)
  • ruler

Clean the Hole and Cut the Patch

Denim Jeans with Hole

Prep the Hole in the Fabric for Mending

The hole in the knee needs to be prepped for mending.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Ideally, you should reinforce the area before a hole appears. However, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get to it before the fabric breaks. Start by removing the threads around the hole. You’ll need a fabric remnant large enough to cover the whole knee area (not just the hole). In order to make sure the knee doesn’t continue to wear thin, make sure the piece of fabric covers the entire worn out area (it’s usually lighter in color).

Insert Patch

Denim Pant Leg with Pins

Pin Fabric Patch in Place

Pin the patch in place to make it easier to sew.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Insert the patch inside the pant leg, making sure the entire worn area is covered. Pin the patch in place. Do not pierce through to the back of the pant leg, just the top layer and the patch underneath.

Mark Sew Lines

Denim Pant Legs with Pins

Draw a Grid to Sew Straight Lines

Using fabric chalk or soap, draw a grid on the fabric to help sew straight lines.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

There are many types of Sashiko patterns. The simplest to start with is a straight line. To help you keep your lines straight, you can measure and mark parallel lines across the knee area on the pant leg. This is optional: it’s fine to eyeball it. 


Denim Pant Leg and Embroidery Needle

Thread Embroidery Needle for Sewing

Thread the embroidery needle and follow the lines for sewing.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Thread your embroidery needle with about 18-24 inches of thread. Try not to go longer than that or the thread will tangle as you sew. Knot one end and insert the needle from the bottom of one of your lines closest to the edge of the pant leg. Be sure to go through the patch fabric and the top of the pant leg. You will be using a “running stitch.” Insert the needle through the fabric without pulling the thread through. The stitch should be about ¼ inch long. Run the needle through the fabric without pulling the thread through until you have multiple stitches on the needle. If they are not uniform, no worries. It takes practice. As you near the end of the line, make sure you end each row with the needle on the underside of the patch. Start the next row by bringing the needle up through the top of the next line.  


Denim Pant Leg with Embroidery

Sashiko Embroidery on Knee of Denim Pants

When finished, the knee of the pant leg will be reinforced and decorated with a simple design.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

If you run out of thread, knot it off on the underside of the patch. However, try to look ahead and knot off the thread at the end of a row versus in the middle. It is much easier if you change thread at the end of the row. Also, as you sew, stop every few stitches and smooth the fabric out to remove the puckering in the fabric.

Sashiko is a wonderful way to get more use out of your clothes and a creative way to patch. Use colorful thread or patterned fabric to make old, worn clothes a true piece of art. You’ll never get upset at a hole in your pants again.

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