DIY Sashiko Denim Repair (Boro)

Boro is the age old Japanese art of mending textiles and is literally translated as rags or scraps of cloth. As far back as the 17th century, peasants, merchants and artisans would patch up clothing and quilts using scraps of old kimonos or hemp fabric, making the garment last long enough to be passed down through generations. Sashiko is a form of embroidery, usually a running stitch, and is literally translated to little stabs. It’s sturdy method makes is ideal for boro and perfect for mending denim. I love the exposed stitching and idea of using various patches to play with pattern and various shades of indigo. Needless to say, ever since I mended my first pair of denim using sashiko embroidery, I’ve been hooked. Not a single pair of ripped denim is safe. I’m coming after you!

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How dreamy are these vintage boro quilts?

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You’ll need:

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I should first introduce you to sashiko thread. Sashiko thread is just a tad thinner than embroidery thread. It has less sheen and it’s also bound tighter so that it doesn’t fray or split as easily. For that reason, it’s extremely easy to embroider with so I highly suggest tracking it down – especially for this project, where you’ll be stitching through thick fabric like denim. I’ve even started substituting it for embroidery thread for other projects, including these earrings. It’s good stuff!

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Before you get started, pick out your fabrics. Cut them in a shape that is at least an inch larger, than the opening in the denim, on all sides. Insert the piece of fabric into the leg of the jeans.

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Align the fabric under the opening, again, making sure there is at least an inch extra on all sides. If you’re patching denim around the knees, give the center of the fabric some slack so when you bend your leg, the fabric won’t be pulled so taut that it will tear. Pin the fabric into place. You can start stitching in any pattern or direction. I’ve chosen to stitch horizontally – so a ruler and a disappearing fabric marker helps guide that first line of stitching.

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Sashiko needles have an even thickness, a large eye and more importantly, length. As you’ll see, a long needle is necessary for sashiko embroidery. Thread the needle with about a yard of the sashiko thread and tie into a double knot at the end of the single thread.

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Insert the needle through the denim without pulling the thread all the way through. While holding the denim and fabric together, continue running the needle through the denim. The proportion of a standard sashiko stitch is 3:2 – the longer stitch being on the outside of the denim.

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Pull the thread all the way through once you have multiple stitches on the needle. Pull the fabric taut.

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Continue until you have reached the end of the row.

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Start another row, going in the opposite direction and continue that zig zagging your way up.

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A tip: a thimble can be really helpful. You’ll notice the pads of your fingers will start to get sore, after repeatedly pushing it through thick denim. To use a sashiko thimble, put it over your middle finer with the thimble rested against the palm of your hand. Press the top of the needle against the thimble and use your fingers to simply guide the needle. The pressure of the needle against the thimble helps push the needle through your line easily.

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I personally like to tie off the thread when I reach the bottom of the ripped opening and then start again at the top, working downwards. You can either stitch over the fabric or stitch around it.

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You can also stitch patches over the rips and openings. Play around with the positions and stitching!

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And that’s it . . .

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Happy denim mending!

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(images by HonestlyWTF)

Leave a Comment

65 Comments

  1. Mun wrote:

    This looks like fun. I didn’t know fixing stuff could be this cool 🙂

    9.8.15
    Reply
  2. Lee wrote:

    That looks like a lot of fun! <3

    http://www.thatnewyorkgirl.com

    9.8.15
    Reply
  3. This is pretty cool! Nice DIY c:
    Xx Ice Pandora

    9.8.15
    Reply
  4. NICE

    9.8.15
    Reply
  5. سئو wrote:

    wooW

    9.8.15
    Reply
  6. Destiny wrote:

    Love this! A super easy way to update pants, can’t wait to try.

    XO, Destiny
    destinysdailydose.com

    9.8.15
    Reply
  7. Prudence wrote:

    Such a cute DIY to reinvent a pair of distressed jeans! Thanks for sharing!

    Prudence
    http://www.prudencepetitestyle.com

    9.8.15
    Reply
  8. Ange wrote:

    Nice! Love the stitching.
    http://www.lelopez.com

    9.8.15
    Reply
  9. Alexandra wrote:

    That’s a pretty nice DIY project! Thanks for sharing!
    Alexandra ~ ArtMandy.ro

    9.9.15
    Reply
  10. jet wrote:

    Hi the embroidery ring can you make your self.
    I have learned this trick when i had a lesson of a japanese teaher about quilting , You must take a small stoke of fabric and a coin.
    then you fold in the coin, and make some stiches to make it on his place and the ends you must knot on your finger.
    I have this simple tool still.
    I hope it willl help;-=D
    I loive this kind of mending thank you for the greate tute and sharing;-D

    9.9.15
    Reply
    • Erica wrote:

      Thanks for the tip, Jet!

      9.9.15
  11. Lauren wrote:

    These look fab, this is a great way for fixing ripped jeans you don’t want to throw out
    Lauren
    livinginaboxx | bloglovin

    9.10.15
    Reply
  12. Zen wrote:

    You do quite a few Japanese DIYs, which is really cool! I should do a Chinese DIY for hapinesswherever.com 🙂

    9.11.15
    Reply
  13. Shelley wrote:

    Nice! What a great way to upcycle a pair of old jeans into something fabulous. Love the white stitching especially.
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/EarthChildArt?ref=hdr_shop_menu

    9.11.15
    Reply
  14. Rina wrote:

    Great DYI! I wonder where you got the various indigo dye fabrics that are featured here?

    9.12.15
    Reply
  15. Lily wrote:

    Hi ! Such a cool DIY , japanse crafts never stop to amaze me , thank you. Those blue fabrics you picked are gorgeous, do you know where I could find something similar ? xx

    9.21.15
    Reply
  16. Big Like … <3

    2.6.16
    Reply
  17. Stephen wrote:

    Yes, thanks for that Jet.

    4.2.16
    Reply
  18. ..inspired

    12.27.16
    Reply
  19. Such a gorgeous repair! So much better than plain jeans! 🙂 Lisa

    1.12.17
    Reply
  20. Lang Lucia wrote:

    Where can you purchase a thimble like this?

    3.1.17
    Reply
  21. arizona coleman wrote:

    champion! i’m a major fan of patching and darning so this would be perfect for my own clothing repairs. i even have leather to make the thimble. cheers!

    8.13.17
    Reply
  22. xnxx wrote:
    8.15.17
    Reply
  23. nice tip to restore your pants

    9.29.17
    Reply
  24. Sandra Obiekwe wrote:

    Fabulous way to reinvent denim. Can’t wait to put these to good use. Thanks so much for sharing.

    12.28.17
    Reply
  25. Ayesha wrote:

    Hi!

    your work is beautiful! I love it! What does the inside/wrong side look like? Thank you for a great tutorial!

    4.11.18
    Reply
  26. Jessie Walker wrote:

    This is gorgeous!! So much better than the holes held together by tiny strips of denim masquerading as fashion!! Thank you for posting this-even though years old is still wonderful.

    7.13.18
    Reply
  27. Nella wrote:

    Hello. Loved the post. I was wondering if maybe a butterfly shape for the fabric patch would be better, since it is for the knee?

    7.15.18
    Reply
  28. I love this DIY! How cool is that?! I love how it still creates the texture and vibe of a distressed jean… but I also won’t freeze my ass off when it’s 15 degrees outside.

    8.6.18
    Reply
  29. Janet Mendiola wrote:

    I love this look. Thank you.

    10.14.18
    Reply