Boro: Japanese Jean Mending

Boro

Learn to mend your jeans and other projects with this decorative and practical Japanese technique!

Today we’re talking Boro, which is the Japanese technique for mending denim. Boro is awesome because it allows you to take a well-loved garment and make it new again. Similar to sashiko, which reinforces fabric with decorative stitches, Boro involves layering fabrics to patch or repair household items. These days, we are seeing it appear all over, with applications from runways to ready to wear.

Due to its layering nature, Boro is great for stash busting since you only need a small square of fabric to create a patch. Not to mention, it gives you the opportunity to sneak one of your favorite prints onto  an existing skirt, jacket, blanket, or pair of pants.

Personally, we love this technique for its practicality. Learning how to mend clothing is a useful skill that every sewer should know how to do and it looks so much cooler than a denim patch. Plus, the hand sewing element provides a meditative quality making this a pleasant activity that can be done outdoors or on the road.

So let’s get started, here’s what you’ll need:

  • sashiko or chenille needles
  • sashiko or embroidery thread
  • chalk pen or fabric marker
  • pins
  • a ruler
  • scissors
  • 1/4 yard of your favorite fabric- I used Cotton & Steel as seen here and here.
  • ripped jeans
  • optional:thimbleBoro2

First, start by gathering all your materials and laying them out. Traditionally, sashiko thread and needles are used; however, you can also use embroidery thread and chenille needles, like the ones we sell in the store, to achieve a similar outcome. Chenille needles are very similar to modern sashiko needles, as you can see below in the image, they just have a smaller eye. The sashiko needle is on the left.

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Then, choose the hole you are planning to mend. You will need to cut a square or rectangle of fabric slightly larger than the area of the hole. I cut rectangles but you could cut different shapes based on the area you are planning to patch.

scissors

Turn your pants inside out to pin the fabric square in place. The right side of your fabric square should be facing the inside of your jeans, aka the wrong side. You can turn the jeans right side out to check how the fabric is placed, adjusting  it as needed to show off your favorite section. Once you like your positioning, turn your jeans right side out again.

patch

Now we need to mark a guide for where your stitches will go. Take your fabric marker or chalk and use a ruler to create lines across the ripped area. The closer together your rows, the more durable your patch will be. For my example, I made my rows approx. 1/4″ apart. I like to have my stitches extend about a half inch beyond the ripped area but this is where you get to decide what design aesthetic you are going for.

ruler3

Thread your needle and knot the end. It’s time to begin sewing!

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From the inside of the pants, start your stitches at the bottom edge of your guiding lines. Make sure you sew through your denim and fabric patch as your bring your needle to the outside of your jeans.

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Now, it’s time to begin our running stitch. The goal here is to keep your stitches as even as possible. I try to grab stitches slightly smaller than 1/4″ but it’s okay if your stitches are a little shorter or longer. As you are starting out, try to take a few stitches at a time, making sure you are piercing through both layers each time. Depending on where your hole is, this can get a little tricky! If needed, you can use a thimble to help you press your needle through all the layers. After you complete a little row of stitches, pull the thread to ensure it has an even tension on the front and backside. You don’t want your stitches super tight! If they are too tight, your patch won’t have any give and that might not be very comfortable.

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Once you have finished your first row, it’s time to begin the second row. To begin, move your needle up to your next marked row. Then, insert the needle where your first stitch on the previous row ended. We are going to stitch in an alternating pattern now, creating stitches where there is open space below.

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Before you stitch over your ripped area, take a minute to clean up the holes. I prefer to clip away all the excess threads so you can really see the fabric below.

trimscissors

Continue stitching in this fashion, zig-zagging back and forth until you have completed the desired area. After a few rows, you should be getting into a rhythm. Make sure to keep checking the back side to ensure your stitches are pulled taught.

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Once you have reached the end of your mending all you need to do is secure the end of your patch with a knot. I anchor down a few times, gathering just a few threads from the front of the denim to help keep my knot as discreet as possible.

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Trim the excess fabric from around the edge of the area you patched and you are all done! Admire your handiwork and enjoy your newly repaired jeans!

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I can’t wait to see what you’ve mended. Make sure to tag yourself @sewyourhartout!

-Dana

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15 Comments

  • Ana

    In all my years of creative sewing and searching online how did this one completely escape me? I ran across a few images on Pinterest about two months ago…LOVE <3
    Great tutorial, thank you for helping to work out some details.
    A

  • Peacherine

    I’m in love with this technique, as well as sashiko. I’ve got two pairs of jeans that could use it on the knees, but they’re starting to wear very thin along the seat too, which would look a little strange to try to mend!

    I’d love to do this even on jean pockets, as an alternative to the normal topstitching. It’s so beautiful, in a way that handmade things often are!

  • Avia

    I’m eager to try this but with different shapes instead of the rectangle. I think this could possibly work with a heart shape.. experiment time! Thank you for posting!

  • Maureen

    That’s brilliant! And it turns out I have some jeans that need a little fixing right now. I’m definitely going to give this a try.

  • Julianne

    Never heard of this before; I’m glad you wrote a tutorial! I have a tote bag I love that has a hole from where it constantly rubs my side – I’ll have to try this with something fun looking. And maybe try some western embroidery on top of the patch or edge to reinforce the fabric and the patch as art.

  • Ashley Masterton

    I’ve been seeing this technique and trend all over Pinterest lately and LOVE IT! Kudos to your simple instructions and much appreciated gif videos. Looking forward to working some Boro on my hand made halter tops!!

  • Kris Valle

    I think I would like to use this as a design and make a hole on purpose so I can put some fabulous fabric behind and sashiko stitch it as a design element. I love it – very cool! Thanks!