On the Mend

by Madeline Felauer

Our learned instinct when we spot a hole in a sock, in the hem of skirt, or the butt of our jeans is to discard. Often, the discarding of these pieces is followed by the loss of a memory. This is on a case-by-case basis, as you may want to keep the memory of wearing a ‘60s midi to your mom’s 50th birthday but discard the memory of you getting dumped wearing your rattiest pajama bottoms.   

By mending clothing that has some wear and tear, we extend the longevity of these memories and preserve the nostalgia attached. Giving your garments a second half life is an opportunity to add more experiences into the fabric, or perhaps pave over bad memories with some positive encounters. Perhaps you may land a job in your darned socks or trip and fall on a handsome stranger while wearing your patched denim overalls?  

Darning, mending, or patching is a practical yet dying art, practiced widely throughout history in many different forms. Recently these techniques for preservation have become less prominent as fast fashion has dropped clothing costs and raised production rates. Some of the mending can be extremely obvious or subtle, depending on type of fabric and how prominent you want your patchwork to be. So, call up your Grandma Esther and ask her to pull out her best mending needles. It’s her time to shine!  

My favorite and easiest way to mend any hole in a non-knit fabric is to create a patch to cover up the tear. Patches can range from a simple fabric square to an elaborate custom patch with rhinestones and a Led Zeppelin logo. For new sewers, attaching these patches might seem slightly daunting. Luckily, if you do not want to go the sewing route, there are ironable patches available that you can use on both the inside and outside of the garment. 

Often, jean iron patches are the easiest to find in a variety of cloths and densities. As for sewing your patch, I suggest making the patch at least ½ inch to 1 inch wider on all sides of the hole. You can put the patch on the inside or outside and sew a simple running stitch along the perimeter of the fabric. You can even create a patch in the shape of a funky little animal and forgo all forms of geometry.

Sometimes, if a hole is just small enough, such as on the pocket of a dress shirt, you can use small stitches to cover the hole instead of another piece of fabric. This can take the form as a pointed asterisk looking star, which are just small straight stitches overlapped diagonally in all directions. You can take this concept further and transform your entire shirt into a series of constellations – make sure to add your own! To deep dive into the concept of using stitches to weave a covering, my recommendation is to look further into the Japanese technique of Sashiko (little stabs). Sashiko is the method of using visible stitches to highlight the tear in your garment and draw notice to its reconstruction. Contrast stitches are used in this instance to further show the difference from existing fabric to added patches and stitches.