Sashiko and Sustainability: The Art of Visible Mending

low- and zero-waste slow living stitching upcycling Apr 01, 2024
a white woman's hands mend a pair of blue jeans using a traditional Japanese method called Sashiko

Sashiko is not a new practice - in fact, it's quite the opposite! Hundreds of years ago, in Edo period Japan, Sashiko developed from necessity. With cloth in short supply, and the working class needing to stretch it as far as they could, the women of this period began mending with a simple running stitch. Over time, this evolved into the beautiful, more complex-looking patterns we recognize as Sashiko today.

Nowadays, more and more people are looking to live sustainably, and for good reason - with more extreme and frequent weather events happening each year, the climate crisis is truly making itself known. Many of us are looking to do what they can to prevent further detriment to the environment by reducing consumption, being mindful about purchases, and fixing the things they already own with techniques like Sashiko.

Fashion and Sustainability

When we think about protecting the environment, the oil and auto industries might jump to mind - but did you know that fast fashion also has a huge impact on our planet? According to the UN Environment Program (2019), the fashion industry is the second biggest consumer of water and is responsible for...

  • 24% of insecticides
  • 11% of pesticides
  • up to 8% of carbon emissions

Those are some pretty staggering statistics! What's more is there is really no need to be producing nearly as much clothing as we are. According to the British Fashion Council, there is already enough clothing on our planet for the next six generations, but fast fashion giants like Shein are pushing 52 micro-seasons per year - that's an entire new clothing collection being released every week.

Of course, these major corporations are at a major fault here. But as consumers, is there anything we can do on an individual level to help reduce our environmental impact?

Repair, don't replace: What mending is and why it matters

Mending is the act of repairing our garments when they show signs of wear and tear, rather than discarding them and purchasing new. It's important to repair, because that's how we can start to break our consumption cycles - if we repair a pair of jeans, for example, instead of discarding it, that's one less old pair of jeans in the landfill and one less new pair of jeans purchased.

Did you know, every time you mend your clothes and extending the life of clothing for 3 months reduces carbon, water and waste footprint by 10%. Simply extending the life of your clothing for 2 years is an 80% reduction in environmental pollution! This article has some more information about the real cost of a pair of jeans.

That's why I love Sashiko! Sashiko is a fantastic way of mending your clothing, because in many of the stitch patterns, the way the stitches lay helps to reinforce the weave of the original fabric. Combined with a fabric patch, this helps strengthen the worn fabric and prevent further deterioration.

Not only is Sashiko incredibly practical, but it's also beautiful. Our clothes tell the stories of the lives we spend wearing them, and visibly mending them is a way of highlighting those stories. It's also a bit of a quiet rebellion against our consumerist culture, drawing attention to the mend and making it known that there is another option besides discarding your worn and torn things. You never know - someone seeing your visibly mended clothing might be the conversation starter that gets them mending, too!

Ready to get started?

If you'd like to try your hand at mending your own clothes, Sashiko is a great place to start, and really not as hard as it might appear! I've written this article to help you get started, or you can download my free guide that will walk you through all the first steps, including which tools and materials are best for the job. You kind find plenty of inspiration on my Instagram page, too!

Hi, I'm Kate!

I am a strong believer in starting where you are and using what you have, wherever and whatever that may be.

Everyone should get to experience the joy of connecting to others through learning, experimenting, and creating.

Creativity doesn’t have to be expensive or wasteful. Whether we’re using natural materials, reusing materials, or shopping our own stashes first, creating mindfully goes beyond being present in the moment - it extends to being mindful of our environment and the other communities around us, too.