It's Time to Mend

Throughout the pandemic, many Americans have been repurposing their own clothes as a way to save money or test out a new (at home) hobby. Sewing machine sales have skyrocketed. Knitting needles are sold out. Tie dye is making a comeback. Mending, in particular, has not been this popular since the “Make Do and Mend'' campaign implemented by England’s Ministry of Information during WWII. For six long years Brits and Americans were forced to be frugal, and took to repurposing their own wardrobe as a way to make do with what they had. Pamphlets were distributed with different design ideas in the hopes that this collective act of resourcefulness could also bring about unexpected joy and creativity in the home. Eighty years later, under different but equally difficult circumstances, people have a renewed interest in this traditional craft. Since most of us are still working from home and searching for indoor activities, we thought we’d share repurposed pieces from Tara’s wardrobe, one of our leather shop artisans, to spark your interest in reviving your own closet. Tara used to make costumes for the theater, so she has sewing experience. The pieces below offer suggestions for a range of experience levels, from dyeing (you'll need pigments) to sewing patterns (this requires a needle and thread). Hopefully her skilled hands inspire you to rework some of your own wardrobe items.


All of Tara’s pieces are well-worn and well-loved with their own whimsical backstory.

Orange Silk Scarf 

orange scarf styled as a headband

Sahra, a new and lovely friend, hand-stitched this silk. She’s an artist who is so grounded in the earth around her, and the garments she makes reflect that. We spent a morning in my kitchen dyeing this, and whenever I wear it, I think about it hanging off the wooden spoon, and how much I miss her.” 

  • If you’re interested in natural dye, Maggie Pate has natural dye classes available online. Course selections include “Petals and Pigments,” “Flower Power Bundle Dye Kit,” and “Steam Color Bundle Dyeing”. From $25~
  • If you’d like to revive an old sweatshirt, or you accidentally put your white t-shirt in the wash with your colored clothing, try tie-dye. From $4.49~
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    JR Ranch Sweater

    mending on an old sweatshirt

    “My mom’s been a horsewoman since high school, and JR is where she’d skip school to ride. Just beyond state lines (she grew up in Columbia Heights, MN), I always think of her feeling a little like an outlaw heading to Wisconsin to ride. At some point, this sweater might be beyond mending, but until then, it’s a weekly backstitch.”

  • If you have a shirt with a hole or a snag, mending is a great way to extend the life of the shirt and give it more character. Here are two books that include step-by-step guides to at-home repair: Mending Matters, by Katrina Rodabaugh and Darning: Repair, Make, Mend, by Hikaru Noguchi.
  • A popular form of mending that is trending right now is Sashiko. Peasants during the Edo Period in Japan (1608-1868) mended their own clothing and created their own design technique known as Sashiko by arranging white stitches in geometric patterns on indigo dyed fabrics to mend household garments like quilts and pants. Holes and tears were also reinforced with multiple clothing rags, known as ‘boro’. This layered mending approach, where textiles are overlapped and stitched together, also made garments warmer. Clothing companies incorporate patchwork designs into their products and some reference sachiko designs, like Kapital Global, based in Japan, while others are inspired by a more general concept of layering and patching, like Bliss and Mischief, which features patchworked fabrics from the 1900s on their vintage inspired denim. 
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    Carhartt Overalls

    patching on a pair of carhartt overalls

    “The butt on these have blown out more times than I can count, but the latest patch seems to be holding up well. I don’t think I can ever part with these, even though the elastic stretches past the point of utility.”

  • Patching is arguably the easiest way to mend an item of clothing. A patch can be decorative (sewing a ready-made patch onto your denim jacket is a classic look) or practical (cutting a rag or leftover piece of material into the appropriate shape and sewing it over a hole). 
  • Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to sewing a patch onto a shirt.


  • Waggy Baby N Tee

    tara wearing the n tee

    “My friend Jade used to run artist residencies at her home in Happy Valley, Oregon. Nora Jane Slade (Waggy Baby) made this incredible run of alphabet tees, and the N just felt right.”

  • In these trying times, purchasing a shirt from an organization or small business you support is an important gesture. Here are several shirts we’ve selected from companies and people we admire throughout the West.
  • Ed Roberson has a weekly newsletter where he shares job opportunities, conservation news, and event information throughout the American West. This bison tee is our pick.
  • This pronghorn tee from Public Land Tees feels especially close to home for us, since the Chico Basin Ranch is home to hundreds of pronghorn. $5 from each shirt goes to Backcountry Hunters and Anglers to support the protection of public lands.
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    Photography by Claudia Landreville.