Visible Mending

Did you know by keeping a garment in use for 9 months longer can reduce its overall environmental footprint by 20-30%? How do you do that? By.........MENDING!


This week I attended a panel discussion focussed on solutions for fashions problematic and often harmful supply chain and manufacturing. The founder of We Wear the Trousers, a not-for-profit organisation aimed at empowering people to keep clothing in active use for longer, was on the panel. Although a Norfolk based organisation, their values of repairing can be applied across the whole world. After attending the talk, I decided to focus on mending this week and discover ways to mend clothes.


By keeping a garment in use for 9 months longer can reduce its overall environmental footprint by 20-30%

Mend in Protest


On Wednesday I attended a Mend in Protest workshop ran by We Wear the Trousers. The workshop focussed on visible mending as a badge of honour and encouraged you to bring a garment that needed mending. Visible mending is mending which you can see on the outside of the garment.


Mending can be used as a political statement to show governments that change needs to occur and you are repairing something over buying a new garment and supporting unsustainable fashion practices.

I took a top I brought from a secondhand shop in Bologna, Italy 3 years ago with me as a garment I wanted to mend. The top had various tares in and the fabric is extremely delicate. I am not entirely sure what material the top is made of as there is no label but it is similar to a fine silk/chiffon material.


Visible Mending on Top

I cut out little flowers from a fabric which the workshop provided to use for mending. All the fabrics and clothes available to add visible elements were purchased from a charity shop or donated therefore, using them was giving a second life to 2 garments (the one you were repairing and the one you were using to repair!).

Flowers patched over holes and centre coloured with contrasting thread.

I sewed the flowers on by hand covering the holes then added a few flowers as a design statement around the collar. I chose thread which matched the colours of the top to add a middle to the flowers. I kept a few extra flowers so that I could patch any additional holes that might appear in the future.

Visible Mending Techniques

Visible mending can cover the hole/stain or it can highlight the problem; for example, stitching around the stain. Visible mending gives you the power to add design elements and customise the garment. Mending techniques include:

  • Adding a patch and stitching in a contrasting thread.

  • Applique a shaped patch.

Patch added to a pair of white jeans. Button hole stitch used to secure patch in contrasting thread. Source: Hello Future Fashion Exhibition, Norwich Science Festival.
  • Decorative embroidery stitches.

  • Darn in a visible thread.

  • Sashiko mending, a Japanese for of repair which has been practiced for thousands of years in Japan. Boro is the result of continuous and ultimate repetition of Sashiko.

Decorative cross stitch in contrasting thread to cover a stain. Source: Hello Future Fashion Exhibition, Norwich Science Festival.

Benefits of Visible Mending

  • Allows for self-expression.

  • Values sustainability.

  • Gives us a different way of relating to our clothes through design choices.

  • Can be used as a political statement to drive change.

How Can You Start Mending?

Mending has gained in popularity and doesn’t always have to be visible. Sewing on a fallen off button or adding poppers to get a top to fasten correctly are also forms of mending without being visible. This week, I mended 2 tops with invisible techniques.

To get inspiration follow #visiblemending and #makedoandmend. There are loads of examples to get your creative juices flowing.

There may be also workshops or mending get togethers near you. We Wear the Trousers run a monthly Mend with Friends in Norwich. If you are ready to share and encourage others to mend how about joining a Stitch It Don’t Ditch It group near you?


What Do I Need to Start Mending?

All anyone needs to mend something is a needle and thread. If you enjoy mending and wanted to try other techniques, you can expand your thread colour range, needle range and get an embroidery hoop to do more decorative stitches.

You can also buy mending kits for example the one sold by Merchant and Mills which gives you a selection for all your basic mending for only £15.


So this week, I challenge you to mend something either visibly as a badge of honour or invisibly just for you. Feel free to share your mends using ##visiblemending and #makedoandmend.

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