Creative Mending Is My New Strategy to Make Favorite Clothes Last Forever

Giving new life to an old pair of jeans is both sustainable and fun.

Butterfly patch pinned over a rip above the pocket of a pair of jeans.

Margaret Badore / Treehugger

When it comes to getting dressed, one of the most sustainable things we can do for the planet is to avoid purchasing new clothes. Wearing what we already own for as long as possible requires less energy, uses fewer natural resources, and causes less air and water pollution. 

But the reality is that textiles are relatively fragile, and eventually most things will wear out, like the beloved pair of grey jeans that I’ve dubbed my “Saturday Pants.” The relaxed fit is flattering, the worn denim is soft and comforting. Originally hand-me-downs from a former roommate, they’re just a touch too casual to wear to the office, but for many years were my favorite thing to wear on the weekends for running errands or hanging out with friends. But I abruptly needed to rethink my day-off outfits when the jeans got a large rip next to the right back pocket. 

I will happily mend anything that rips along a seam, but usually when clothing in our household gets bigger holes I send these items to textile recycling or add them to my collection of scrap fabric. However, I couldn’t quite bring myself to add the Saturday Pants to either pile. Instead, they sat on the shelf under my other jeans for longer than I’d care to admit. 

Ripped jeans that need to be mended.
The "Saturday Pants" before mending.

Margaret Badore / Treehugger

Then I stumbled across Softpaw Vintage, the beautifully patched and reworked garments of Taylor Randal, a creator in Rhododendron, Oregon. Her perfectly patched up jeans gave me the inspiration to revive the Saturday Pants with creative mending. 

I’m someone who already enjoys quilting, but I had never applied patchwork techniques to repairs until now. I went ahead and added a conventional patch to the inside of my jeans to hopefully stop further tearing and to provide a solid base for the rest of the project. I then added more decorative patches to the visible, outward-facing part of the jeans. Because the pants are grey, I picked a black and white fabric to keep the same color palette.

I prefer to sew by hand because I enjoy doing it that way more, but of course, using a sewing machine would have made everything much quicker. Nonetheless, it was a project that I easily completed in one afternoon while listening to a podcast. 

Jeans creatively repaired with patches.
My jeans repaired with patches.

Margaret Badore / Treehugger

I'm excited to welcome my old favorites back into my rotation of outfits. I find it comforting that if these repairs don’t hold or work, I can add more patches or try a different technique. In theory, it means I can keep reimagining and remaking my favorite jeans forever, which is reason enough to pursue creative mending, on top of the eco-friendly benefits.

To me, creative mending takes visible mending a step further, offering a space to play and be artistic with an eye to a functional end. I have several other former favorites tucked away that could use the same treatment, and I look forward to adding more embroidery or other embellishments to mending projects. I’m now much more excited by the idea of figuring out how to fix them—they’re no longer just another to-do item on the never-ending list of chores. As we attempt to move beyond throwaway culture and fight for the right to repair, it’s also worth finding pleasure and joy in our sustainable pursuits. 

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