Mending Clothes & Ourselves

Staff PicksChevy Chase Library

Mending Clothes & Ourselves

Inspirational and Instructional Books on Mending

As Elizabeth Cline explores in Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, our overconsumption of textiles is ecologically disastrous, contributes to labor and human rights abuses, and is bad for our souls. Reviving the art of mending is a wonderful way to transition from fast fashion to slow and sustainable fashion. The books below inspire engagement in this art, provide detailed instruction on mending techniques, and suggest creative ways to enhance fashionability of imperfect clothing. As we mend more, we can stitch more meaning and joy into the fabric of our lives.

Also, consider participating in a virtual mending meetup, where you'll receive assistance from mending experts in the Labs and connect with other menders.

Mending Life: A Handbook for Repairing Clothes and Hearts written and illustrated by Nina and Sonya Montenegro
For most of human history, mending was a necessity. Our current throwaway consumer society allows many of us to easily buy new clothes. But as sisters Nina and Sonya Montenegro show in their charmingly illustrated handbook, there continue to be many reasons to mend. It extends the life span of clothing, saves money and reduces waste. Through the act of mending, we can unplug, meditate, value imperfection and express gratitude for the earth's materials and the people who have labored to make textiles. Ultimately it is a form of healing, and through mending clothes, we might mend our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the earth too. Interspersed with quotations, personal stories, and rumination celebrating mending, this manual also provides thorough instructions for common mending techniques: patching, darning, decorative sashiko stitching, button sewing and more. Both useful and inspirational, it invites us to engage in this restorative art.

Mending Matters: Stitch, Patch, and Repair Your Favorite Denim and More by Katrina Rodabaugh, photography by Karen Pearson
In this beautiful book on mending, artist and crafter Katrina Rodabaugh weaves practical instruction with philosophical exploration of its value in our lives. She begins by sharing her personal journey from overconsumption of unethical clothes to slow and sustainable fashion. Twenty hands-on projects of visible mending follow, involving exterior and interior patches, hand stitches, darning and weaving. Each one draws on traditional sewing techniques but adds modern and bold adaptations. Accompanying each how-to chapter, essays by artists explore mending as a metaphor for valuing our imperfect selves and promoting self-reliance, ecological and emotional well-being. Approaching mending less as an unpleasant chore, Rodabaugh shows how it can be a creative, uplifting activity that heals ourselves and our planet.

Hand Mending Made Easy: Save Time and Money Repairing Your Own Clothes by Nan L. Ides
This guide on hand mending basics caters to adults and children with little or no sewing experience. Teachers may also find it beneficial for use as an instructional tool. With easy-to-read text and helpful illustrations, this reference first explains how to thread a needle, knot thread, and do basic hand stitches. It then covers common mending tasks, including replacing missing buttons, hemming, repairing seams and buttonholes, fixing broken zippers, replacing elastic, and more, all possible without a sewing machine. Not only does this book show how to extend the life of well-loved clothes, but how mending can save money and time.

Mending and Alterations Made Simple: A Complete Guide to Clothes Repair by Anna De Leo
This comprehensive manual covers the basic skills of mending, altering and fixing clothes with hand stitches or a sewing machine. With easy-to-understand language and color photographs, it explains many usual clothing repairs, ranging from redoing a seam, shortening or lengthening pants, darning a hole, tightening a jacket, to replacing a zipper. While this book is ideal for the novice, more experienced tailors can benefit from advanced mending projects also included.

Joyful Mending: Visible Repairs for the Perfectly Imperfect Things We Love! by Noriko Misumi
Some assume that while mending may prolong clothing's functionality, its fashionability is forever reduced. In this book on artful mending, author Noriko Misumi proves otherwise, emphasizing a mending philosophy based on mindfulness and the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (appreciation for imperfection). She shows how one can transform textiles with holes, rips, stains, or other flaws not just back into functional use but into items with new charm. With bold color photographs and easy-to-follow instructions, she outlines many decorative mending techniques, including: darning, needle felting, patchwork, rug hooking, sashiko and other embroidery stitches, many kinds of other stitches and crochet basics. With her guidance you can not only repair your well-loved garments for prolonged function, but add unique beauty you'll want to show off.

Make and Mend: Sashiko-Inspired Embroidery Projects to Customize and Repair Textiles and Decorate Your Home by Jessica Marquez, photography by Erin Scott
This full-color guide teaches the simple technique of sashiko, a Japanese folk hand-sewing method using a running stitch to form decorative geometric patterns. Both novices and experienced seamsters alike will appreciate the in-depth but easy-to-follow instructions on how to apply sashiko stitching in fifteen textile projects, such as making a patterned scarf or pillow, mending torn jeans or a ripped hem. With this book's assistance, you'll be able to repair your clothing and accessories in a way that is not only functional but aesthetically satisfying.

Mend It Better: Creative Patching, Darning, and Stitching by Kristin M. Roach
Using the creative mending techniques of craft blogger Kristin M. Roach, you can transform stained, ripped, or holey clothes into fashionable wear. Accompanied by full-color photographs and illustrations, her step-by-step instructions offer artistic methods for patchwork, surface fixes, seam fixes, hems, darning, zippers, decorative accents and more. Whether you desire to alter a stained shirt using embroidery or add a fun pocket to a vest, her inspirational book can empower you to spruce up well-worn items in your wardrobe.  
— Rachel W.