The Power of Sashiko Mending (And My Husband's Promise to Stitch)

Dear friends,

I've fallen in love. Yup. I've fallen head-over-heels in love for the Japanese stitching technique known as Sashiko. I am not going to pretend to be an expert on Sashiko or its various techniques in Japanese quilting, embroidery, or mending but I am going to tell you that it just revolutionized my pile of torn denim.

In very simplistic terms--it's a series of running stitches usually done with white thread on denim to reinforce the fabric. But there are also several elaborate patterned stitches in Sashiko used for decorative arts like quilting, embroidery, and applique. I love how it's being used in mending. So I tried my hand at it here on this pair of torn jeans. Now, I can't wait to try it again.

When I first saw images of Sashiko mending techniques I audibly gasped. Followed by a quick, "Ohmygosh", as the possibilities for mending began to expand exponentially in my mind. The light bulb went off and I realized that with even the very basic understanding of this stitch I could approach mending like quilting. (And then the skies parted and the rose-colored light beamed down on my sewing table and I reached my arms out towards the window. I think angels sang.) 

I'm not sure why this hadn't occurred to me before but it hadn't. But, of course! We can use our quilting stitches and embroidery stitches to mend worn clothes. To reinforce them. And to make them even better. And we can apply our own design sensibility and our own aesthetic in making these repairs. They can be simple and quick or they can be elaborate and time intensive. They do not just have to be a chore to complete but also an opportunity to apply our own artistry. What a shift.

Something about approaching mending like quilting or applique or embroidery just made it so much more appealing. Mending doesn't have to be a stiff floral patch stitched poorly over a torn hole? Really? Are you sure? Because for over three decades I think some part of me has believed this.

But no. It can be different. It can be subtle. It can be full of beautiful hand stitches and it can even strengthen the original fabric. (Another reason to buy quality fabric to begin with--it will be worth the effort to repair and it will hold up to the test of toddlers, playgrounds, studio work, and other rough and tumble activities of an active mama.)

From my preliminary research I've realized that those adhesive iron-patches of my youth can be replaced with a simple piece of sturdy fabric. Any fabric. And in mending these denim jeans I just used another piece of denim as my backing.

This was actually the second time I've mended these jeans--see that tiny rectangle within the larger mended rectangle? That was my first attempt at darning. Which I also loved. And little did I know that darning is pretty much just weaving. You add a reinforcement fabric behind the area to be darned (I used an iron-on patch) and then you create a warp (lengthwise stitch) and then a weft (vertical stitch) to replace the torn fabric.

So I had replaced the tiny torn hole above my knee with my first attempt at darning. Small victory. But soon the space below the iron-on patch also gave way and resulted in a much larger gash. It was too large to darn at last week's mending circle so I stitched a piece of denim behind it thinking I'd figure out the decorative stitches later.

Fortunately for the wonderful wide world of Pinterest--my mending inspiration board became twice the size as I researched images of Sashiko mending. So simple! So inspiring. Next time I wouldn't even stitch a whip stitch around the edges of the denim patch because the running stitches would hold it in place. Just. Like. Quilting.

But the real testament to this beautiful stitch? My husband glanced over as I was mending up these jeans--admittedly over a glass of red wine and an episode of Downton Abbey after our toddler was finally asleep--and he said (and I quote), "I could even do that to my own jeans". Gasp. Faraway stare. Glance up to the corner of the room. Moment to compute what just happened. And then I replied, "Why, yes, honey. You could." Imagine my mending pile being whittled away by my dear husband and the Sashiko stitch. Anything is possible. I'm telling you, this stitch has superpowers. 



  1. That looks so cool! must try…and would love to have a smaller mending pile. Also, adore the mending circle idea. I will have to copy you! :)

    1. rebecca: our mending circle was amazing! i highly encourage you to host one too. and thank you for the kind words. xo

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! It's such a beautiful and simple way to mend.

  3. Ok. I'll get started tonight.

  4. Anonymous8/16/2014

    Did you use any special thread?

    1. This thread shown is "Dual Duty" Heavy thread--it's a polyester/ cotton blend. I've started using 100% cotton sashiko thread lately and I love it--it's much softer on the knees from the inside. Any heavy thread would do the trick.


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.