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Sewing Tools and Supplies for Artistic Mending

A fresh approach to repairing clothes
Threads #215, Fall 2021

Broadly speaking, mending involves repairing or concealing damage to a garment. The potential problems are as wide-ranging as the ways to solve them.

Common repairs

sweater with insect damage

Within your own wardrobe, you’re likely to find examples of these issues.

Torn seams: Where stress occurs, as in the seat or inseam of pants, or the back armscye in shirts, seams can give way. Often, it is only the stitches that open and the fabric remains intact.

Ripped fabric: This is most commonly found in areas that bear the brunt of constant bending, such as pant knees and the elbows of shirts and sweaters.

Fraying: You’ll find this at hemline folds, neckbands, and the collars and cuffs of woven shirts. It’s most common on garments that are frequently worn and washed.

Holes and snags: Knits are most susceptible to this type of damage, from wear, catching on objects, or insects.

Stains: All sorts of garments can be marred by unsightly spots that don’t come out with soaking or chemical treatments.

Two approaches

visible mending of hole on orange shirt
Hand-worked satin stitching stabilizes a small hole and echoes the top’s rust-dye treatment.

The approach we take to mending typically depends on the garment that needs fixing and the way we want it to look in the end.


A popular repair concept, often called visible mending, aims to make the repair a design feature. This approach is a favorite today among sewers as well as those who don’t make their own clothing. When you’re not worried about making a perfectly invisible repair, you can challenge your creativity and add personality to your wardrobe.


The traditional notion of mending is an invisible repair that leaves the garment looking as close to new as possible. I have a sewing book from 1943 that devotes an…

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