In some cultures, mended items take on a new, greater value.
The Japanese art of Kintsugi, where damaged pottery is repaired with lacquer containing gold or silver, is a great example of this. The finished repair isn’t intended to be invisible. The seams are highlighted with precious metals, proclaiming to the world that this is something important enough to be worthy of repair.
Visible mending applies the same principle to clothing.
I wrote recently about how to darn a sock and showed off some of my own, very visibly-mended socks.
I read an article recently about the idea of mending as an act of rebellion.
That’s an image I love.
Wearing mended clothes is a quiet, domestic way of sticking two fingers up at the more-more-more culture, and embracing a gentler way of living, treading more lightly.
We’re all familiar with the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra. Most of us are pretty good at recycling, but I don’t think we give enough attention to the idea of reducing our consumption and reusing the things already in existence.
A visible mend is a badge to be worn proudly. It proclaims your membership of a secret menders’ club that I’m proud to be a part of.
So, today I want to showcase some of my favourite examples of visible mending.
I never tire of saving this stuff on Pinterest (hop over & follow me if you like this kind of thing.) Sometimes I like hunting down especially inventive or creative mending, sometimes I just enjoy the honest beauty there is in a neatly-darned sock or a functional repair.
Sashiko Mending On Jeans.
The funny thing about jeans is that it’s completely acceptable, normal, even, to wear jeans with rips in them.
People buy ripped jeans, much to the confusion of my parents’ generation.
I think that makes them the perfect garment to try your visible mending skills on.
We’re used to seeing jeans that aren’t pristine. It feels like only a small step to acceptance of patching and mending jeans.
The simple sashiko style stitching here is in white thread, a bold contrast to the blue of the denim, but it still looks neat and nicely finished.
Crazy Patchwork Mending.
More jeans, this time featuring a riot of patches and visible mending.
I first pinned these years ago on my personal Pinterest account, and they keep popping up again and again in my feed.
I love how these jeans tell a story.
You can imagine the mending building up little by little over the years. Patching up new holes as they appear.
Patching clothes is definitely a very useful, practical skill to have, and I love it when the patching creates a beautiful piece of wearable art like this.
A Beautifully-Darned Sock.
Look how neat this visible darning is!
There’s more darning than there is original fabric in the foot, and it makes these socks look so well-loved.
This is the darning I aspire to. Mine gets neater all the time, but this sock is truly a work of art. Imagine the patience and time needed for visible mending on this scale!
A Duffel Coat With A History.
I picked this gorgeous red coat because it reminds me of a red boiler suit my children all wore when they were little.
It was a St Michael’s labelled charity-shop find, and the perfect coat for puddle-jumping and mud-stomping toddlers.
The outer layer was in perfect condition, but the lining was very worn. I have five children, and they all wore that boiler suit a lot.
I couldn’t begin to add up the time I’ve spent mending it!
Gloriously cosy mittens with darns upon darns, and mends upon mends.
There’s a delicious freedom that comes from wearing clothes that are already mended. You’re released from the need to ‘keep things nice’ or save certain things for ‘best’.
Mittens like these are obviously precious treasure, why else would they have been mended so carefully.
I laughed out loud when I came across this image!
Such a witty way to deal with a large hole in a garment, integrating it into a fun new design.
It’s got me thinking about different ways of incorporating holes into embroidered designs like this … maybe a flying saucer about to disappear into a black hole?
A Creatively-Mended Sofa.
I’ve mended chairs and sofas before, but not quite like this!
I love the crochet mandalas used to cover up the worn areas on this sofa. So unexpected, but so pretty too.
I feel like the crochet appliques would make for a fairly sturdy repair job as well, making this a practical approach to the repair.
Japanese sashiko stitching is a great technique to learn for decorative purposes, as well as for mending clothes.
Sashiko mending uses a simple running stitch to create geometric designs, like the spirals seen here.
Traditionally sashiko was worked in white thread over indigo-dyed fabric, which makes it the perfect mending technique to use for patching jeans.
I love how the stitched design is carried over from the patch fabric into the main jeans fabric, blending the two fabrics into one.
Mending With Moths.
Got moth holes in your sweater?
Why not mend them with moths?
Once I’d pinned one moth embroidery idea, Pinterest started showing them to me by the dozen.
Such a clever idea, subtly witty.
This example uses embroidery, and there’s a detailed tutorial in the blog post. I’ve also seen needle-felted versions, which are very pretty too.
Using reverse applique can be a good way to mend things creatively, and without them necessarily looking mended. It’s a visible mend, but it doesn’t scream for attention.
Since you’ve already got a hole in your jeans, why not cut it into a neater shape, and make it part of a reverse applique design?
I’ve added this last one in because I love how bold the repair is on these jeans.
Brilliant red and white striped patches inserted into the holes on these blue jeans – there’s no attempt to hide the repair away!
Try It Yourself.
Have these pictures inspired you to try a little bit of visible mending yourself? Or are you already an expert?
If you’ve never tried mending anything before, why not start with something that’s mostly hidden away?
Darning a sock is the perfect way to start learning some mending skills. The sewing techniques are very basic, and it’s a very forgiving art. After all, once there’s a hole in your sock, there’s not much you can do to make it worse!
Also, if you know someone well enough for them to be seeing the soles of your socks, then you should feel safe enough to show off your visible mending.
If you’ve got visible mends of your own you’d like to share, I’d love it if you joined me over on Pinterest. I’ve got a group board for sharing visible mending ideas and inspiration. You’re very welcome to request to join.