Sustainable Living

Visible Mending: What’s Old Can Be New Again

Visible mending is the concept of showcasing a repair to an item of clothing rather than attempting to conceal it.

Where the idea came from

When we were researching the idea of slow fashion, the concept of upcycling and mending existing clothing were clearly a big part of reducing the impact of the fast fashion industry on our environment. Simply put, the more we wear our clothes and the fewer new clothes we need, the better it is for the environment!

As a regular mender I was fascinated by the concept of visible mending. All of my mending attempts in the past centred around trying to return the item to as new looking a state as possible rather than embracing the change to the garment and featuring the change as part of the story of the item.

My husband provides me many opportunities to perfect my mending so I found a well-loved (read: nearing the end of it’s life!) item of clothing and decided to see if I could turn it into something wearable again.

I was a bit overwhelmed by where to start as I have always tried to conceal my mending. How do you go about making something that is a functional repair but also nice to look at?

Several resources I found useful were:

1) Introduction to visible mending
2) How to mend a tear around a pocket
3) How to mend with patches

How to start

Choose your garment to repair

For my first visible mending project, I’ve chosen my husband’s very well loved work-around-the-house hoodie.

Choose your patch material

We had some t-shirts that were about to become rags so I found one that seemed to have a complimentary colour with a bit of pattern that I thought might make an interesting patch.

Cut your patch to size

I cut out a patch that was larger than the area that required repair and slowly, by trial and error, cut it down to size.

Choose your edging

I noticed in the examples linked above that the edges of the patches were tucked under to prevent fraying. In this case, I think that the t-shirt material I’m using will curl over rather than fray in the wash and I’m happy with that look, so just going to go with a raw edge!

Begin Sewing

I’ve done some embroidery and cross-stitching in the past so grabbed some cotton embroidery floss and started by sewing around the outer edge of the patch with a running stitch.

A running stitch is basically just threading a needle and weaving the thread through the fabric in evenly spaced stitiches, which can be seen in this YouTube video.

Creating the pattern

I started by filling in the patch with straight lines of running stitch. I was very interested to see how this approach would affect the structure of the weak base fabric being patched — and it really seems to give support to an area that might be thin or torn, as you can see in the picture of the inside of the sleeve below. I’ve completed one patch (just have to tidy up the loose threads!) and took a comparison picture below. I think it’s much better but my husband isn’t yet convinced!

Have you ever tried visible mending? Would you wear clothing with obvious repairs?


    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      We were pleased with how well it worked as we were repairing a well-loved hoodie that Krista’s hubby didn’t want to part with 🙂

        • A Sustainably Simple Life

          The great thing with this type of mending is that it’s meant to be seen. This pattern we used was relatively easy if you’re wanting something to start with 🙂

  • Kayleigh Zara

    I love visible repairs I think they can look so good especially if you’re trying to repurpose a piece of clothing! X

  • Richie

    Good for you! I suspect this was the norm in generations gone by – they’d by horrified by our disposable culture now. That said, I think my sewing skills are such that I might make the situation worse rather than better!

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    Great post. This is such a cool idea. We all need to focus more on mending our clothes instead of throwing them away.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks, Michelle! It would be amazing if we all got a little more life out of our clothes before we threw them away 🙂

  • darinaiv

    I have been doing this for most of my inside the house clothes coz I seem to get too attached and comfy in them. Getting to be more environmentally cautious is always a plus. I love how you combined the colors too ?.
    Darina from daramiblog

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      It’s so hard to let comfy, at home clothes go! I’m with you on that 🙂 It’s great you’ve been doing your own mending too!

  • Ming Qian

    You asked if I would be comfortable wearing clothes with visible repairs. Now, that’s a tricky one! Perhaps, if it was a decorative patch, or if they were elbow pads, I wouldn’t mind.

    For me, I don’t really face the problem of holes in my clothes. It’s usually that the seams become unsightly or the collar starts dropping after multiple washes. Do you have any ideas on how to fix those? Hmm…

    Thanks for sharing yet another great sustainability post! 🙂

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Fixing collars and seams sound like a much harder fix! My thought for the seam would be to reinforce with a pice of fabric, but am not sure how that would look. If I come across some solutions I’ll let you know!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      That’s amazing you’re able to rework and fix clothing! Such valuable skills, in my opinion. That skirt is really cute 🙂

  • Molly | Transatlantic Notes

    My grandmother did this and it always seemed to add something lovely to the look of the item; mind you, she was an expert at doing this kind of thing (a skill I have not inherited). I like the idea of something reusing and mending things in general so I will have to practice my sewing skills!

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!