Beginning Mending: A Guide to the Tools You Need & How to Use Them

clothing repair how to mending upcycle visible mending

Have you been looking at images of clothing mended so beautifully, you almost hope to rip a hole in your jeans? But what are the materials you actually need to get started?  

You are in the right place! I pulled together a collection of materials that I think are a must to get started with visible mending, and how and why they are used in mending. Most of these materials can be found at your local craft shop. 


Visible mending supplies by erin eggenburg

I like to use sashiko needles for mending jeans. They come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses. When it comes to stitching through 1 or 2 layers of denim, you need a thick, sharp needle to pierce through the layers. The length of the needle you use will depend on what you are stitching. Basically, you'll use a long needle when you are stitching in long straight rows and a shorter needle for stitching curves or if you are mending in a small area. 

Sashiko Needles


 types of thread for mending

There are lots of different types of thread to choose from, and it can feel overwhelming. The good news is, you have options! There are 4 types of thread that I have found to be a good match for repairing denim. 

Sashiko Thread is comprised of multiple strands of cotton tightly woven together to form a single strand. It has a slightly wooly look, and is soft, and not as strong as perle cotton. 

Perle (Pearl) Cotton is mercerized, cotton woven tightly together. It has a bit of a sheen and braided look. It is very strong. A size 8 is shown here. You might also use Size 5 of perle cotton, as a slightly thicker option. 

Crochet Cotton is similar to sashiko thread. It is tightly wound and soft. And if you are a thrift shopper, it's very easy to find at secondhand or charity shops.  

Embroidery Thread is cotton and made up of 6 strands, meant to separate easily. This is my least favorite option here, as the threads tend to separate, which can look a bit messy over time. 

Scissors, Pins, Wax

mending supplies

You will need a pair of scissors, but nothing particularly special. As long as you can cut through denim to prepare a patch, and cut lengths of thread, that is a pair of scissors that will work. 

I use straight pins to secure the patch in place before stitching. While they can be a bit pokey, they are easy to move around as you are stitching. It's always a good idea to have a large safety pin around for pinning pockets back while mending. 

That little tin of gold is beeswax. I have found it to be so very helpful when mending denim. When you coat your thread with beeswax, it slides through thick layers much easier. Also, I don't really have any proof, but I do believe it strengthens the thread. You can use any old beeswax bar, or I do sell it in my shop in a handy tin


mending thimbles

Thimbles are optional, and become more useful the more you get to know your own stitching. Here is a quick explanation of some types of thimbles I find useful. When you initially think of a thimble, a rounded thimble that sits atop your finger might come to mind. In this scenario, that type of thimble can be used, but isn't really the most helpful.

Ring Thimbles are worn on the finger, like a ring with the textured area worn palm-side. These thimbles are used to help push the needle through the fabric.

Palm Thimbles are worn like a ring thimble, with the plate of the thimble situated below the finger on the palm of your hand. Many people find that this type of thimble feels more natural as a way to help push the needle through thick denim or fabric. 

Leather vs Metal The problem with an all metal thimble, is that the needle can easily slip off of the plate and puncture your hand. I have done this, and it HURTS! For this reason, leather can be a good option, as it is thick and not-slip, and quite easy to make yourself even! My personal choice is a thimble that is metal and leather. This particular hexagon thimble hides a metal thimble between layers of leather. 

Whichever you choose, thimbles should be snug enough not to slip off, but not so tight to cut off blood flow. 

Patching Material

sashiko style mending

Deciding what material to use to patch your jeans or denim is the easy part. Use a scrap with the same fabric content, and a similar stretch and thickness as the jeans you are repairing. 

Washable Transfers

washable mending transfer wrenbirdarts

While washable transfers are certainly optional, they are a time saver when stitching in a particular pattern. This is a product that I created to teach myself how to stitch patterns when I first started mending. It's great to have a template to follow that doesn't move around or fade away, and is as easy as rinsing off when you are finished. 

Here's a kit I put together with everything you need to get started. Click here!

Now that you have everything you need, here's another post to help you get started stitching:

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  • Linda on

    This is a new love of mine! Thanks for the great tips! I find this relaxes my mind doing it and love the results..a win in every way.

  • Cher on

    Our hand quilting group is using the Sashiko method for the first time and I am new to quilting and was hoping you can tell me the type, size needles to use. This is a very old quilt top. Once we add the layers it is very thick. Any suggestions will be very appreciated. Thank you :)

  • Ellen on

    I have been looking at doing this. Thanks for info about what I need to buy.

  • Naomi Mitchell on

    Wow, Thank you very much. I have been following you on IG and have a whole stack of clothing that could be reusable with some mending. I was at a bit of a loss as to the right type of supplies. This is incredibly helpful.

  • Carol Jensen on

    Thank you for an excellent discussion containing everything a beginner could want. And you are correct about the beeswax; it makes sewing so much easier! I learned about it in high school home economics class, but for people who have never learned to se, this little tip alone is worth gold!

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