DIY // Boro: The Japanese Art of Mending / by Katie Turner

Not long ago, I was talking to a coworker about how I wanted to fix up some thrifted denim of mine that didn't quite fit and I've also always wanted a patched up pair of jeans, and she mentioned Boro: the Japanese art of mending textiles. Boro was born of forgotten values of ‘mottainai’ or ‘too good to waste’. An idea dangerously lacking in the modern consumer lifestyle.

Before this project, I had three pairs of high waisted denim that I thrifted just sitting in my closet. I never liked the shape of them, but the waist fit well so I was holding onto them for upcoming DIY projects. I picked out a pair that was cropped and flared at the same time creating a very interesting silhouette that just didn't fit in with my current style. These were going to be my mending practice jeans!! 

I chose to go with the mending style of Sashiko. It's geometric and linear patterns are beautiful yet misleading in their complexity. The trick is that for even the most detailed design, the maker can find the longest linear route for her stitches and rarely begin a new thread. The real beauty of Sashiko is that it was meant to be tough. The style of embroidery began as a way to mend and reinforce elbows and knees and other clothing spots prone to uneven wear. But like all Japanese arts, someone along the line realized that it might as well be beautiful too, and Sashiko is a perfect example of combining utility and beauty. As the craft matured, it evolved from just a mending technique into its own art form.

What You Need:

  • Pair of Denim
  • Embroidery Thread (or any thick thread)
  • Embroidery Needle
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery Hoop (optional) 
  • Scrap Fabric of Your Choosing

To start the DIY- I put the jeans on inside out and pinned along the sides where I planned on taking them in. I wanted them to fit more of a tailored, cropped straight leg. After pinning them, I took them off and started stitching. I used my machine to take in the sides. After taking them in, I tried them on right side out to be sure they had the look I was going for, and they did! 


Now that they fit the way I wanted them to, I started deconstructing them. Boro is meant to mend the natural wearing down of clothing, but I figured I'd speed up the process a bit! After cutting out the holes, I made patches out of scrap fabric and pinned them in place. Then I started making stitches around the patches. I found that using an embroidery hoop helped hold everything in place as I stitched, especially because the denim was quite thick! 

For one of the patches, I made a patch from another pair of denim that was a darker wash creating a nice contrast patch, while not taking away from the stitching and the bold patch that was placed on top of it. 

After most of the holes were patched up, I took my embroidery thread and added some detail stitching on the pocket. I really love the way the white thread looks on top of the denim, so I thought this would be a nice extra touch. Overall, it was a very easy DIY. It's one of those ones you can sit and do while watching Netflix because it doesn't require much attention! For me, I like that it doesn't look perfect. Now that I used this pair for practice, I'll be ready for when I actually wear out a hole in a pair of my pants! 

Keep an eye out for an outfit post featuring the mended pair of denim soon! 

Informational Sources: Design Sponge, Honestly WTF, FurugiStar

Photos by Elisha Knight // @elishaknight