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How to Easily Mend Your Clothes with The Running Stitch

The running stitch is a simple and effective hand sewing stitch that is commonly used for mending garments. The running stitch has its name because the needle and thread run in and out of the fabric in a continuous line, like a dashed line.

Here are a few reasons why it's commonly used for mending clothes:

  • Speed and efficiency: The running stitch is a quick and straightforward sewing technique. It involves passing the needle in and out of the fabric in a continuous line, creating a series of small, even stitches. This simplicity allows for faster repairs, making it an ideal choice for quick fixes.

  • Temporary repairs: The running stitch is often used for temporary fixes or small repairs that don't require heavy-duty stitching. It can hold together small tears, fix loose seams, and reinforce fabrics.

  • Subtle and inconspicuous: When mending clothes, you may want the repairs to be discreet, especially if the area needing mending is in a placement you don’t particularly want people staring at. The running stitch creates a neat row of stitches that is generally unobtrusive, blending with the surrounding fabric and minimizing the visibility of the repair.

  • Versatility: The running stitch is suitable for various fabric types and can be used for different mending purposes. It can join two fabric edges, close small holes, reinforce weak spots, or secure patches in place. Its adaptability makes it a go-to choice for quick fixes on a wide range of clothing materials.

Now that you know more about the running stitch and its uses, let me show you how to use the running stitch to easily mend worn areas of your clothes.

Here’s the materials you’ll need to starting mending:

  • A garment that is worn but doesn’t yet have a hole in the fabric

  • A sashiko, darning or hand embroidery needle

  • Mending, Sashiko, perle cotton, or crochet thread that is a similar weight to the garment being mended

  • Scissors

Optional materials:

  • Transfer pen

  • Ruler or Sashiko stencil designs

  • Thread gloss or beeswax

How to get started mending your clothing with the running stitch:

  1. Start by choosing a garment that has a worn area. Identify the worn areas to plan out your mend. Is this a large area that needs mending or small sections over the entire garment? You’ll notice in the photo above, my garment has quite a few small areas close together that need mending. Because all these worn areas are near each other, I decided to cover the garment with a larger-overall mend instead of small mends. This adds more strength to the garment fabric as a whole.

  2. With the areas needing mending identified, measure out an arm’s length of thread and cut it away from the spool.

  3. Thread the needle. Mending thread is a single ply thread so you won’t need to split it apart like other needle art threads. With that being said, mending thread can also be somewhat hard to thread through the eye of a needle. Try flattening the thread into a line when threading the needle. Running the through thread gloss or beeswax will also make it easier to thread, help with thread knots and tangles, and allow the thread to glide through the garment smoothly.

4. From the front of the fabric, bring the needle into the garment. Weave the needle in and out of the fabric roughly every fourth of an inch or so to create evenly spaced stitches. Tug the needle through the garment fabric so that the thread slides thread and lays flush within the fabric. Do not pull so tightly that the fabric bunches.

You also want to leave about a three to five inch tail of thread on the front of the fabric at the start of the stitched row. This thread will be woven into the underside of the garment later.

5. Create the running stitch by following one complete row. At the end of the row, pop the needle over to the next row, about a fourth of an inch away from the current row of stitches. The stitches in the second row should be offset from the first row; wherever there was a space in the first row, a stitch will be in the second row.

6. Repeat filling in the space with offset rows of stitches all going in the same direction, until the area is covered.

7. To knot a thread, bring the needle to the back of the garment. Next, run the needle under a few stitches in one direction then in another direction. This wraps the thread around the stitching you’ve already created and locks the thread in place on the back of the fabric.

The reason I don’t like to use a knot with this kind of mending is because knots can be bulky and uncomfortable against your skin. They can also pull through already worn material, creating a hole.

I like to weave in all my thread ends together. When I’m knotting off the end of a thread on the back of a garment, I also like to knot off the start of the thread too. This is done the same way. Bring the starting thread to the back of the fabric and run the needle under a few stitches in one direction then in another direction.

8. After the mended area is filled with stitches going in the same direction, it’s time to stitch rows that are perpendicular to those already stitched. This next set of rows can be under or above the previously stitched lines or even cross over the lines to create a design such as, stairs, plus signs, stars, and more.

***If you’d like to use a specific pattern on your garment, lay the garment on a flat surface. Using a ruler or stencil and a transfer pen, trace a pattern on top of the worn area of the garment. I prefer the Pilot Frixion Erasable Pen because it creates dark lines and writes easily on fabric. Other transfer options include chalk pens, water soluble pens, and carbon paper. The traced design should cover the worm area as well as extend into the structured/ not worn section of the garment. I like to aim for an inch to half an inch of stitching into the more structurally sound section of the garment.

Have fun breathing new life into your worn clothes with this easy running stitch mend. I can’t wait to see what you create.


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