Teva Explorer and photographer Tara Rock breathes new life into torn vintage denim with sashiko, the Japanese art form of mending. Words and Photos by Tara Rock.
If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that I have the ability to consume so much less. Rather than buying more clothes, it has been a great opportunity to breathe new life into old pieces.
A few years ago my dad gave me a bunch of his old work jeans and they’ve just been sitting in my closet unused. Really great pieces too—perfectly worn-in, tattered Wranglers and old paint-splattered Levi’s that people would pay big bucks for at a vintage shop.
Tara wears the Flatform Universal Mesh in Limelight.
When I was younger (and even still when I visit) my Japanese grandma would always mend my clothing for me in the style passed down through her family: sashiko. The beautiful thing about Japanese culture is that everything is an artform—even mending clothing. Boro is essentially a textile that has a story and sashiko is the process of stitching/mending (or adding to the story).
I was so fascinated with Boro (or Sashiko), I used it in nearly all of the pieces for my final project in fashion school.
So here is a quick tutorial if you want to breathe new life into some of your clothing too!
*Jeans to Mend
*Small piece of fabric (denim, thick cotton and/or linen)
*Embroidery Thread (sashiko thread from Japan is ideal but for practicality sake, embroidery thread from your local craft store will do just fine!)
*Fabric marker or chalk
1. Pick out your fabric (I used denim from another pair of irreparable jeans) and cut out desired size (at least 1 inch larger than the opening on all sides).
2. Clean up the area you will be mending by cutting away any stray threads.
3. Insert the piece of fabric under the area you will be mending and pin it in place.
4. Using your fabric marker and/or chalk, use a ruler to mark the width and direction of your stitches. In this case, I had to improvise since my son broke my sewing ruler and my chalk wasn’t visible to the camera. I used a notebook as a straight edge and a bright piece of purple chalk from my son’s collection. It’s all about being flexible and making it work! I decided to stitch vertically along the length of the jeans but it doesn’t really matter which direction you stitch as it is mostly aesthetic.
5. Create a basting* stitch with about 2 feet of thread throughout the size of your piece of fabric. These are large stabilizing stitches throughout your mending area. This helps keep the piece of fabric in place and prevents it from shifting while you are stitching. Make sure to tie knots on either end.
*Basting is a quick, temporary stitch intended to be removed once the final, permanent stitches are completed. These are long, loose stitches that can easily be taken out.
Using your fabric marker and/or chalk, use a ruler to mark the width and direction of your stitches.
6. Thread your needle with about 3 feet of thread and tie a knot at the end. I recommend knotting it twice but I actually like to do three times just to be safe.
Tips for threading the needle:
-Give the tip of the thread a good lick before threading it through the eye of the needle.
-Do not make a knot after threading the needle. It will be much harder to stitch if you make a mistake or your thread gets caught up while you’re mending.
7. Insert your needle at the beginning of your marker/chalk lines without pulling the thread all the way through and repeat, creating multiple, even stitches. Pull the needle all the way through once the full length of your needle is full of stitches. Repeat this until you finish a row.
8. When you’ve reached the end of the row, make sure your thread isn’t visible when switching to the next row. Always start a new row with your needle poking through from the backside of the jeans. You want your connecting stitch to be on the inside of the jeans.
Tara wears the Flatform Universal in Retro Multi.
Tip: If you happen to run out of thread while you’re stitching, wait until you are at the end of a row of stitches, make 2-3 knots, cut the excess thread and start a new row with more thread (using step 4 and continuing through the steps).
9: Repeat Step 7 and 8 until you’ve completed all your rows. Tie a knot at the end of your thread and you’re finished! Clean off any marker or chalk and your sashiko project is complete!