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A contemporary practice of Japanese style mending

clothing repair mending sashiko upcycle visible mending

What is sashiko?

Sashiko, meaning "little stabs" is a Japanese style of stitching. In traditional Japanese mending, sashiko was a style of hand stitching used to repair textiles or to create layers for added warmth in work garments. It is a repeating pattern of running stitches, the patterns often inspired by nature. Traditionally, there is much consideration in the repair, and connection to the garment that today we are unable to fully understand. 

sashiko mending

Here's how my sashiko inspired journey started. Several years ago, while falling down a Pinterest black hole, I clicked on a picture of a stitched sashiko pattern, as a decorative wall hanging, falling in love with the way the intentional stitches worked together to create a design, I decided to delve further into my google search. 

Sashiko as a style of visible mending

I lean toward a more functional side of embroidery, so when a few clicks later, I learned that sashiko was traditionally a style of mending, I knew this was more than an appreciation. I had to try it. While I practiced different designs, beginning with patches, I started sharing with others, and was soon after asked to teach a class. 

I started teaching sashiko style mending. I begin with the traditional approach to stitching technique and the rules. Once the foundation is there, the experimentation of style can begin. 

sashiko style mending

While I can appreciate perfect, precise stitching, it isn't my style. I like whimsical and freestyle. I like letting the stitch guide me.

Mending with embroidery

For me the artistry is taking a piece of clothing that is no longer functional, and spending time with the garment, looking at the rips, and getting to know the movement of the fabric. In studying the fabric, the style of mending needed reveals itself. Here's an example of a pair of jeans that still has a good structure beyond the tears in the legs. 

Visible mending with sashiko

Approaches to mending

Stitch up the tear without adding any additional fabric.

Sashiko style mending by Erin Eggenburg

Attach a piece of fabric or a patch to the underside of the rip, fortifying the area.

Denim patching

Patch over the rip, obscuring the original tear in totality. 

Sashiko patch by Erin Eggenburg

A mending project can take an afternoon or month of little by little mending. Either way, when the mending is finished, it is a different garment from the original, and to me, feels like a work of art. 

Upcycled jeans

It's a feeling that I have never experienced when putting on a new from the rack piece of clothing. That feeling of wearing something that has been worn, loved, repaired, and given new life. This is what sashiko is to me. 

Examples of Sashiko Inspired Patches

Sashiko Patches

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  • Hilary jones on

    Love your approach – very inspiring

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