Sashiko is a Japanese form of repair and translates directly as little stabs. It is typically carried out with a white cotton thread on indigo fabric. This visible mending technique has been practised in Japan for thousands of years.

Molly Martin has been mending old garments in TOAST Shops for the past two months, using the Sashiko technique. Here she details how to do it yourself, should you have any small holes or tears that need repairing.

Sashiko Repair

What You Need

1 - Needle

2 - Thread (I just use sewing machine cotton or embroidery thread, but you can buy proper Sashiko thread online)

3 - Pins

4 - Iron

5 - Scissors

6 - Fabric for patch

Helpful tips :

* For patching fabric, try and find the same type of fabric to match the original piece - or as close as you can get. Eg - Silk should be patched with silk and linen should be patched with linen or a light cotton. (Jeans are more versatile but it's best to patch them with something hard wearing).

* For silk and fine fabric, I like to use beading needles, which are very fine and long. They're the perfect length for making multiple running stitches and they pass through the fabric seamlessly as they are so thin.

Step by Step

Fig 1 - Prepare your broken garment. Cut any stray threads so that it's nice and clean.

Fig 2 - Prep your patching fabric. Fold and iron down all four sides flat to avoid any fraying.

Fig 3 - Turn your garment inside out and pin the patch the right way up onto the hole / damage.

Fig 4 - With a different coloured thread, loosely tack the patch down onto the garment - making a square border.

Fig 5 - Turn your garment the right way round again - you can now use the tacked square you've made as a guide.

Fig 6 - With your chosen thread sew a small running stitch up and down across the hole / damage.

(Sashiko' translates into little stabs'. Try and see your needle as a miniature sword, securing the broken fabric down like tiny teeth as you go.)

Fig 7 - Continue the Sashiko stitching over the damage. You want the stitches to be small and close together to reinforce the fabric surrounding the damage as well as the hole itself. Like mowing a lawn up and down.

Fig 8 - Once you have completed the stitches across the square - you can do the same thing again, but in the opposite direction. This is to make sure that the hole won't stretch or tear any further and reinforces the fabric into a quilted patch.

Fid 9 - Lastly, unpick the tacking thread from the back, and you're finished!

Note from Molly:

"I have always loved repair, and the ethos around it. I remember my mother teaching me how to darn a pair of socks a long time ago, and I really loved the slow process of fixing something broken, and giving it new life. I found it very meditative and went on to discover the art of Japanese Sashiko repair, which I fell in love with.

In traditional Japanese thinking, 'wabi-sabi' is a world view centred on the acceptance of imperfection - 'Nothing lasts, nothing is perfect and nothing is finished'. In this way, the idea is to look at an imperfect bowl, chair or piece of worn clothing and embrace the flaws and cracks. It seems that most of us have a precious jumper, dress or pair of jeans that we treasure, no matter how baggy and worn they might be. For me, it's the breaks and tears that make our favourite clothes special. I recently repaired a cardigan for someone that had 136 moth holes! The lovely thing was, that the lady who gave it to me didn't care how much it cost her or how long it took, for her it was irreplaceable."

Illustrations by Molly Martin. Film by Rory Gibson.

At TOAST we are always seeking to find conscious solutions that increase the longevity of our garments and reduce waste. TOAST Repair is our free mending service that brings new life to your worn TOAST garments. Bring any TOAST clothing item in need of repair to one of our shops and discuss mending options with a TOAST Shop colleague.

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1 comment

Love it!!! The idea and article both. It’s very inspiring.I want to try.

Lauren 1 year ago