Visible Mending, Slow Fashion, and Conscious Consumption

I love some of the changes happening in our society. Many people are moving into more conscious consumption, utilizing slow fashion and visible mending to decrease their constant consumerism. What does this mean for the average busy bee who doesn’t have time or “skills” to put towards mending their clothes or finding someone to do it for them? Let’s talk about the ways that even the most novice among us can be conscious with our choices. At the end of this article, you’ll find specifics about how to reuse/recycle stuff you already have in your closet!

Mending Matters

If you have a garment or fabric piece that you love, one of the hardest things to see is the beginnings of its demise. Whether you’ve outgrown the piece, or it has been washed threadbare, or you are noticing small holes cropping up, it is so frustrating to see a piece you love begin to decline.

Is it still useful?

YES! Mending is a huge part of textile history, and before our age of fast fashion, was required for clothing to last any amount of time. Clothing represented hours of work, and the fabric was expensive, so maintaining it was imperative!

Now, mending matters in a different way. The more we slow down our consumption and reuse our clothing, the more money we save, and the better we serve our environment.

How do we do this? There are a few different ways to address mending.

Visible Mending

Visible mending is a returning fashion trend that attempts to bring mended articles out of the social outcast dumpster and into the chic and responsible green crowd.

Visible mending utilizes embroidery and sashiko methods to add to the story of the piece with vibrant and often colorful mended areas, highlighting the tears, rips, or wears as part of the piece’s history.

The embroidery and stitching of visible mending is design in its own right, and is flamboyant, beautiful, and sometimes snarky. The purpose of this craft is to remove the stigma around “imperfection” and create a socially acceptable place for mended clothing.

Sashiko and Friends

Sashiko is an ancient Japanese mending process that uses beautiful geometric patterns to create sturdy and long-lasting mended articles. You can read more about its history and the patterns used in my article here.

Sashiko is rapidly becoming part of the visible mending movement because of its durability and beauty. The stitches themselves create art, and the fabric used for patching need not be so vibrant. It is another option for those who wish a less flamboyant mending process.

Darning is another process for fixing clothing which has worn through or torn the fabric. Many mass-produced items like socks have wear-prone areas, like the ball of the foot or the heel. Darning is a way to replicate the fabric, revitalizing the item for longer wear.

Darning uses a needle and thread to mimic the fabric that has worn through. Essentially, you are re-weaving the item. It takes some practice, but for your favorite pair of comfy socks – this is a lifesaver. Darning also works on sweaters, jackets, or shirts, although patching is sometimes preferred based on the type of rip or tear.

Slow Stitching For Long Term Clothing

This all sounds great in theory, but what if I don’t even know how to sew a button, Hilary!? (Look below for a tutorial)

Well, that’s easy! All of these skills are easy to learn, it’s finding the small bits of time in your day to learn them. If you’re able to sew a button or a mattress stitch, or even hem a garment, you’re able to keep your wardrobe functioning much longer.

Slow stitching is about moving away from instant gratification in fashion, and learning to love and respect the clothing we have. It’s about remembering our incredible luxury with regard to clothing access, and honoring the items which keep us warm, help us feel confident, and enable us to do our jobs.

You don’t need to know how to mend everything – but the next time a beloved article of clothing has something wrong with it – ask yourself if it is salvageable as a piece of clothing. Then, send me a message or search online to find techniques on how to fix it. If it’s not salvageable, DON’T THROW IT AWAY! Fabric is something that can be reused so easily! Look in the section below for nifty ways to recycle old clothing!

 

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to sew a button:

Our Responsibility

As conversations around slow fashion continue to bring responsibility for our consumption to our attention, how we manage what we own becomes more important. What do you do with the clothing that you just can’t wear anymore, or is worn beyond repair?

Well, there are several options, and more tutorials appear online every day! Scroll down for a few ideas:

Socks:

Sock monkeys! These have been a way to reuse old socks for years, and they are just as cute today as they were 50 years ago. Craft Passions has a great tutorial to make sock monkeys here.

Sock Cozies from Diana Rambles

Do you have super cute knee-high socks that you never wear? Turn them into cute coffee cozies for yourself or for gifts! Diana Rambles has an oh-so-easy tutorial here.

Denim:

If you’re not great at sewing – you can still recycle your old denim! Curly Made has created these no-sew OR

Denim Buckets by Curly Made

sew denim buckets for use around the house. The beautiful thing about cloth containers is that they are sturdy AND can be washed. Perfect for kiddos’ art supplies, or even fruit!

Denim is also great for dog toys – it’s durable, washable, and easy to sew. Pillar Box Blue has a super-simple pattern for sewing dog-bone-shaped toys out of your old pants. If you’re learning to sew, this is a great project – as the pupper won’t mind if it’s a bit wonky!

Sweaters:

Sweaters are hard. We love them, but they don’t always love us for quite as long. However, you can continue to love your sweater with boot cuffs made from the sleeves!! There is a simple tutorial here at Petit Elefant to turn your old sweater into a chic pair of boot cuffs or legwarmers! Don’t be intimidated – these are simple patterns with great explanations. Give it a shot!

If you’re feeling adventurous and have a brightly colored sweater from the 70s or 80s, you can use it to upholster an old stool! You really only need some staples – and the willingness to try. Upcycle-That has a great tutorial that walks you through the whole process.

Flannel Shirts:

Oh maaaan. This brings me back to high school. I loved my flannels. Now that I’ve dated myself, join me in turning those old, amazing, comfy shirts into a shopping bag! The Art of Doing Stuff calls it her “Lumberjack Bag” and it is SO stinkin’ cute! It requires a minimum of sewing – only a couple of seams, and you’ve got your own personalized bag.

For someone more experienced with sewing, Scratch and Stitch has a fabulous pattern for an up cycled flannel shirt-into-reversible-vest combo. It’s gorgeous, useful, and exactly what I love to think of when I think of recycling clothing. She also has a sweet orange tabby. Bonus cat tax!

Bras:

Bras are annoying and difficult, because we wear our favorites to death – and by the time we need a new one, there isn’t much left. Don’t lie – I can’t be the only person who does this. However, there is STILL a way to get new life out of those sad, dead cups. Skunkboy Blog has a great idea – cut the cups out, and attach them to your thinner summer dresses for added support, and less worry about straps showing if the dress is backless!

T-shirts:

For a more experienced sewer, Alice and Lois has some adorable baby hat patterns made out of T-shirts – and these would be fantastic gifts to local charities, hospitals, or women’s shelters.

For someone with almost no sewing experience, a braided rug is a time-honored way of reusing fabric scraps into serviceable and beautiful floor coverings. Wonder Forest has a no-sew rug pattern here that is easy, beautiful, and perfect to keep you in the reuse/recycle mode!

No-Sew Braided T-Shirt Rug by The Wonder Forest

Mommypotamus also has a no-sew project for your old t-shirts – a 10-minute tote bag! If you can tie a knot, you can make this bag!

You can see so many options here for reusing your old clothes – and getting just a bit more mileage out of your current wardrobe. What is your first project going to be? Has anything here inspired you to create something different? Please let me know in the comments – I want to learn too!

18 thoughts on “Visible Mending, Slow Fashion, and Conscious Consumption

  1. Dear Hilary,

    What a stunning article and the references, ideas and articles are just lovely. Who doesn’t smile at the sight of a lovely sock monkey and the idea of making dog toys? That’s such a lovely idea.

    I’m currently working hard at reducing waste in my own home. It’s a constant search and a mindset and this post has given me some great ideas but also encourages me to keep up the lateral thinking on how to repurpose when all that mending won’t do anymore.

    Keep up the good work.
    Kay

    1. Thanks Kay! I think it’s so important to find ways that work for each family – and you hit it on the head – we all work at reducing our own waste in different ways. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you find something that works for you!

  2. This is a very nice post. I am excited to try some of the things that I learned here.

    I love the idea for the socks! My friend wanted me to make quilted covers for her jars for when she would pack them for travel, this is a better idea, less work and they will do what she wanted them to do, protect her jars while in transit.

    Want to also delve into some the of visible embroidery mending, I think that is the coolest!

    Thanks for this fun useful information!

    1. Ooh, I would love to see your finished jar packing stuff! That’s a great idea for camping too! We might utilize that for our camping trips. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Hilary

    In order to reduce our carbon footprint, we all need to become a society that mends clothes instead of the throwaway society that we have. The problem is most clothes only need minor repair but we are not confident in doing it ourselves.

    The article was very useful in giving pointers to help people to become better at repairing or upcycling our clothes. You do not have to be an expert to do this but with a little time, a little money and a little patience most repairs are possible.

    I, as a male, try to repair as much as possible. I can sew a button and repair a hole in my trousers ( where it splits between the legs) but am not confident in doing bigger repairs.

    With your article, I may have to try.

    Thanks

    Antonio

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Antonio! You’re right, our throwaway society is really causing a lot of problems. I’m glad you’re looking into being able to repair more of your clothing! 

  4. This is the first time I heard about visible mending and I love it. I love to be able to personalize my clothes so they look different from other people. It is cool to know that it came from Japan. I speak Japanese but never heard of sashiko either. The slow stitching on the denim from your picture is amazing, I want something like that! The t-shirt rug is also awesome. I will have to look into how to use my old clothes for that, I have been donating my clothes so I never thought of it but this is so cool. This can become my hobby.

    1. Sashiko is really beautiful! I love its history, and I’m glad you found it interesting! Personalizing clothing is a great way to both make them last longer and repair any damages. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Hilary,

    Thanks for your incredible, amazing article about different types of sewing and handicrafts ideas.This article will help for all of those women who love to sew or who can’t do it.  I personally got many ideas that I never think about those. How beautifully you describe here different type of process that we don’t need to throw our clothes or dress in new clothes all the time. Just by doing simpler tricks, we can use those clothes again you describe very cleverly. I am really impressed by your ideas which I will definitely follow. 

    1. Nazmun, thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I’m glad that you found some helpful tips and tricks here. I love that there are so many ideas out there for people who don’t know all of the ins and outs of sewing.

  6. Your article is very educative and also informative about fashion, this is an extremely decent post. I am eager to attempt a portion of the things that I learned here.
    I adore the thought for the Sock monkeys! My companion needed me to make stitched spreads for her containers for when she would pack them for movement, this is a superior thought, less work and they will do what she needed them to do, secure her containers while in travel. I need to take action very fast. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Abayomi, thanks for taking the time to comment! I also really like the container cozies – they’re so easy and useful! I had a sock monkey, and I loved mine too! Thanks again for stopping by!

  7. What great tips for mending the cloth!

    I think reusing clothes is a big “hit” nowadays. 

    I do follow one group on Instagram; they are always showing some tips on reusing clothing. I saw a few great ideas on what can be done, with an old T-Shirt or men’s Shirt. In your blog, I see also a great idea of reusing a flannel shirt and making a bag out of it, that’s really cool. 

    All my old cloth I am putting into a container for textile, but I will be considering reusing it. I know sewing, and I used to make toys for my kids. So my first mending will start with the socks (those monkeys looks incredible). 

    Looking forward to seeing more tips in the future 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment! I wish recycling clothing were easier, and these options are just a few for making sure we use what we have responsibly. 🙂 The monkeys are SO cute!! Also, I love the idea of dog toys out of jeans – if I had the time, I’d make them and sell them!

  8. Hi Hilary

    Love Love Love this article!!! I’m definitely not an experienced sewer by any means, I can sew a button onto a shirt but it comes to hemming pants I’d rather just buy a new pair and donate my old ones that don’t fit as sad as that sounds. Your right when we say we have a responsibility to reuse our items and I am going to try and be more conscious of this. I absolutely love the suggestions you provided to make use of worn out clothing. My favorite would have to be the sock cozies for my coffee cup – I’m definitely gonna try this, wish me luck as I’m not an experienced sewer. BTW thank you for providing the tutorials, very helpful for someone like myself.

    Thanks again

    1. I’m so glad you found something to use! It is hard, in this day and age, to keep what we have instead of buying something new – but how proud will you be when you can reuse something – and it’s one of a kind, too, since you made it! I think the best way to start down this path is to find something easy – like the coffee cozies and just try it. Let me know how it goes, I’d love to see a pic when they’re done!

  9. Thanks for a great article Hilary! I have actually done some sewing in elementary school and I found it nice and interesting. For me, there is a lot of new information in this article. I will recommend to my wife to also read this, I’m sure she will love it!

    Best Regards,
    Joonas

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Joonas! I am glad you enjoyed the read, and I hope your wife does too! Please visit again anytime!

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