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A contemporary practice of traditional Japanese mending

clothing repair mending sashiko upcycle visible mending

What is sashiko?

Sashiko, meaning "little stabs" is a Japanese style of mending. It was a technique used to add warmth and/or strength to clothing. It is a repeating pattern of running stitches, the patterns often inspired by nature. 

sashiko mending

A couple of years ago, while falling down a Pinterest black hole, I clicked on a picture of a stitched sashiko pattern, as a decorative wall hanging, and loving the way the precise stitches created a design, decided to dive in even deeper. 

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, and also branching out into a less traditional style of sashiko, developing my own style, and becoming more experimental than traditional. 

sashiko style mending

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

Sashiko Patches


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