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Mending: 1 Unexpected Ingredient

Avoiding those holey-socks? I got you.

Feb 7, 2024

If you've been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that while I LOVE new clothes, I also firmly believe in nurturing those clothes once they're in your life.

To me, clothes are almost alive: like mystical members of your family. (I'm too much of a realist to actually think they're alive. But I'm happy to suspend my realism for a little enchantment on this point.)

Just as you wouldn't treat every human relationship in your life like a summer fling, the path to satisfaction in your wardrobe is generally not a throw-away approach.

Part of having fewer/better clothes, enjoying them more, and wearing them longer, is…

Mending. It's mending. I'm sorry. You know: fixing use-induced problems.

WELCOME TO WEEK 2 OF THE WEDNESDAY LOOK MENDING TAKEOVER! If you missed last week, "How to sew on a button," find it here.

If you’re terrified or just deeply avoidant of mending, you’re not alone.

But I can say from experience: Mended is ALWAYS better than not mended.

The good news is, it's actually pretty easy. So come along and mend with me!

There are two basic ways to mending clothes: patching and darning.

By far, I mostly do some variation of "darning." Darning is when you use a needle to integrate new thread into the worn out part.

It's basically weaving, like those potholders you made in 3rd grade.

The key concept is that you are basically weaving: Over, under, over, under.

Above: Serviceable darning on my husband's shirt. He cut a chunk out of it with scissors while wrapping presents. WHAT?

Here's what you need to get started: A Potato.

Or an apple, or a snow globe, or (if you're mending something flat) your phone… Really, anything smooth, and solid that can holds the fabric in (approximately) the shape it takes when worn. Since many mended things cover curved areas (knees, heels, butts), it's helpful to have a curved thing that fits inside the garment.

They sell "mending eggs", and if you have one, great. But if you don't, try a potato!

I do not recommend oranges. They smell delicious when you prick them with your needle… but they're just too soft to work well for this.

Besides your potato, you'll need:

  1. A needle. I use the needles labeled "large eye." They eye, incase you aren't sure, it the hole in the needle. Large eyes are easier to thread, and nothing I mend is so very fine that it can't accommodate a large eye going through it.

  2. Some kind of thread. If possible, match your fiber content (wool for wool; linen for linen; silk for silk…). But when in doubt, use cotton. It's easy to find in lots of colors, and “melds” into your base fibers pretty well because of the short fibers. I like to use embroidery floss.

Do you have this mental image of a wholesome and satisfied mender, sitting with a basket while minding kids or watching TV?

Well, here's the inside scoop: I have to focus on my mending. If you aren’t an experienced mender, you probably do too.

Give yourself space—mental and physical—to get into the rhythm.

It will probably look like crap while you’re working. Keep going!

Rather than making my own how-to-darn diagram, I'm just going to link to some of the many good ones already on the internet:



and here.

When you check out these links, you'll notice that there's no ONE right way to darn. You can pick a technique that suits the hole you're fixing, and your own personal state of mind.

If you like protocol, there are plenty of step-by-step resources (see above). If you're more of a see-what-happens person, like me, darning is a forgiving form to experiment with.

Here's some sort-of darning I did on a sock: FIRST, I made 4 long, criss-crossing stitches across the hole. Like drawing an asterisk (*). Then, starting in the center where the lines crossed, I chain-stitched outward in a spiral:

Above: This might not technically be darning. I chain-stitched with embroidery thread over a hole in these socks.

When the hole is covered and you take a step back from you work, it will look (and function) well enough.

Here's an unpopular opinion among perfectionists, perhaps, but I definitely think it holds true for (most) mending:

Done = 100% success.

The alternative was probably throwing it away, or letting it live forever, lonely, at the bottom of a drawer.

Human relationships are a constructive comparison here, too:

We instinctively understand that a mended relationship will be different from what it was before. Maybe even better in some ways!? More durable, more complex?

Clothing is the same.

I have a hunch that mending clothes is intimidating (partly) because we fear the results.

The garment will be changed. It won't be pristine. It won't be like it was before. (Will it be better?)

Unless you're a pro-mender (I'm not—it's totally different from making something out of whole cloth!), it's a little unpredictable.

The rise in popularity of Sashiko and other visible mending techniques is a boon to us amateur menders.

However rudimentary, you efforts will look cool and probably inspire other people to try their own repairs. Yay!


There are a ton of mending resources on Pinterest and Instagram, and that's where I go for motivation.

I particularly like this account for inspiration.

The #1 trick I go back to again and again for mending holes in pants-knees and sock-heels has been a variation on this easy star shaped thread patch.

Thinking about getting one of these.

Use small stitches (between 1/8" to 1/4" or so, if possible). Whether darning or patching, you’re basically trying to integrate new material into the old material. This is best done gradually; i.e. with small stitches. Small stitches will also keep the "tension" even, so your work doesn't bunch up so much.

Write back and let me know.

I love hearing from readers!

What's your favorite mending trick?


What's something you want to mend, but can't get started? Or something mending-related you want more depth on?

Like I said, I'm NOT a professional mender! But I do mend, and am happy to help.

Softly, Allegra

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