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SO, you've got some free time? How to upcycle your clothes at home.

Wow…a LOT has changed since I wrote my last blog post, and to be honest, this isn’t the piece I’d originally planned to write. The article I’d planned to write was about ‘old vs new’ within the fashion industry, but it just felt too heavy for the world we’re living in right now.

I’m going to be truthful; the ‘C’ word and its effects have truly knocked me for six. As a small business owner, I am completely unsure of what the future holds for me and for Wild Strings and I wake up most mornings a little scared about what the next days, weeks and months will hold. For now, I’m going to keep muddling through and making things, the online shop will remain open and I will be posting any orders once a week to minimise contact.

One thing that keeps me going and holds my positive pants firmly on is sewing. I love escaping with some embroidery or getting stuck into an upcycling project, so I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite techniques with you.

A lot of us have suddenly acquired a lot of downtime, so, if you’ve been meaning to sew up that hole in your favourite jeans or just want to spice up an old shirt, now’s your chance! I’ve tried to keep the two techniques pretty simple, so that anyone and everyone can have a go, but the best thing I have learnt about embroidery and upcycling is to be patient, give it a go and see what happens. Whatever the outcome, you’ll have a completely unique garment that you’ve saved from the rubbish bin!

I’ll link all the supplies I list so that you can get your hands on any supplies, but most of the things you’ll need will be lying around your home already so try to improvise and enjoy!


First up is my go-to fix for any hole or tear, using Sashiko (visible mending) inspired techniques and a simple running stitch.

For this little project you’ll need:

Fabric scissors, embroidery thread, cotton, pins, needle and pencil

A pencil (or erasable pen if you’re already a bit of a sewer) // Pins // Ruler

A patch of scrap fabric (needs be to a similar weight/feel to the fabric you’re fixing)

Embroidery thread // Cotton thread (for tacking on your patch)


In preparation, trim down your rip/tear/hole so there is no loose threads or fluffy fabric around its edge.

You want to start by tacking on your patch of fabric. You can either do this underneath the rip or, if you’d like to make more of a feature of your fix, you can place the patch on top of the rip. Tack on the patch using large stitches (don’t worry about neatness, you’ll be taking the stitches out later)

Next, trace out a grid on the right side of your fabric, this will be your stitch guide. I use a 5mm x 5mm grid, but you can use any measurement you’d like (a quick tip is to use lined paper to help keep straight, even lines). I use a dissolvable interfacing – which you can purchase here – that I pin to the fabric, but you can literally trace out your grid straight onto the fabric (remember to go lightly; light pencil will fade over time and come out in a wash).

Time to get sewing. With your embroidery thread (split in half), use the lines of your grid to stitch alternating rows of wide running stitches. Do this until all lines of your grid have been used. You can have fun with this, making different lines longer and shorter or creating cross and star stitches using the grid for guidance on an even stitch.

Carefully snip and pull out your tacking thread, and (if underneath your tear) trim down the patch to the edges of your stitching.

The process of patching and stitching a rip by hand

There you go, a perfectly fixed up hole, a fun new feature and a hardwearing, long-lasting garment!

Needle Weaving

Next up is an awesome weaving technique I use to cover up and reinforce more substantial holes. This one is a bit fiddlier and more time consuming but I promise it is worth the effort and is very therapeutic!

For this project you’ll need;

Fabric scissors, fabric scrap, embroidery threads and hoop

A pencil (or erasable pen if you’re already a bit of a sewer)

Ruler // A Needle // Scissors

Embroidery thread (a couple of different colours gives some added wow and helps you when weaving)

Embroidery hoop (this isn’t essential but really helps to keep the fabric taut.)

How to

In preparation, trim down your rip/tear/hole so there is no loose threads or fluffy fabric around its edge. Then, trace out a rectangle (or square or any shape you fancy really) around the area you want to repair, making sure to extend at least 0.5cm onto ‘healthy’ fabric.

Start out by stitching the vertical thread following the lines of your traced shape. Come up from the wrong side of your fabric and place the needle down through the opposite side of the shape, keeping the tread slightly loose, so the fabric doesn’t pucker (it also makes weaving easier).

Continue this until your whole shape is full - it helps to work from the centre of the shape outwards to keep your stitches straight (add running stitches to some rows to strengthen the stitches if you fancy).

Here comes the fiddly bit! Stitch and weave your horizontal threads. Again, begin by coming up from the wrong side of your fabric, then use your needle to weave through vertical threads (over, under, over, under etc.) until you reach the end of the row.

Continue this until your whole shape is woven, making sure to alternate the weave. Use your needle to push up and straighten out your threads as and when you need to.

Repairing a tear with needle weaving

Your weave is complete! The structure of the weave means your tear won’t fray or rip further and you have an awesome new (and unique) design feature for your favourite piece of clothing!

Sew then...

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting stuck into these two techniques and that they’ve helped you pass the time and upcycle some lovely garments in this time of isolation. I’d love your feedback on this guide and any pictures you have of your upcycled pieces – are these tutorial blogs something you’d be interested in seeing more of? I’d love to know what you think, so please get in touch!

If you’ve loved this and caught the sewing bug, here are a few recommendations on where to go for more knowledge, information and inspiration.

Where to find more...

Make & Mend – Jessica Marquez – purchase here.

I swear by this book and have used in loads of my upcycling projects. There are some great projects in here, but there’s also loads of info about how to use Sashiko embroidery in your own pieces and the history of this Japanese art.

Upcycily – visit here.

Before this damn pandemic, Virag gave incredible workshops on how to upcycle and jazz up your clothes using embroidery. Obviously, these have had to be cancelled, but she has adapted tremendously well and is now offering Embroidery Kits, which include threads, a hoop and fabrics AS WELL AS online tutorials on how to get started! I 100% recommend if you’ve decided that sewing is going to be your thing during isolation.

Customize Your Clothes – Emma Warren – purchase here.

This book is great for wardrobe update inspiration and is full of info on embroidery and where to start. Using a range of stitches, techniques, materials and designs, this book guides you through which tools to use, which stitches work best with certain designs, and also teaches you how to embellish with a range of materials to add a special personal statement to your items that costs next to nothing.

If you have any recommendations on embroidery materials, or you’re a maker who fancies featuring on the blog, don’t hesitate to drop me an email or comment on the blog!

I think we have to use this weird time in a positive way, by learning new things and getting creative. I truly believe embroidery is a great and meditative craft, and by customising and upcycling your clothes, you’ll have your own unique collection, embroidered to your own tastes, and best of all, hand stitched by you!

Stay safe, stay home and happy sewing

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