How To Mend Holes in Vintage

How To Mend Holes in Vintage

The one thing that vintage will always have is the odd fault here and there, that is the good thing about it, it has lived a life and can tell a tale.

Holes are a common issue with vintage clothing and can happen for many reasons; age of the fabric, wear and tear, bad storage, a mis-placed cigarette at a party. Some are small and easy to repair, others are more like a third arm hole and will need serious thought, so I have a few ways to mend those pesky issues;

Sewing - sometimes if you are lucky, a hole will form on a seam and this is usually just from a thread coming un-done or a break in the stitch. These are the easiest and just require a quick stitch by hand or machine to close up.

Darning – a classic and one that has been used for centuries. Darning can be used on most fabrics but is easier with knits and jerseys. Darning will re-create the weave of the fabric to fill in a hole, creating strength in a mesh style stitch while incorporating the fabric around to seamlessly blend the two. This can be done by hand or by using a darning machine.


Patching to the back – often a good way to mend a hole that is not too large. If you can find any spare fabric in the hem or seams this is fantastic as you can do it pretty much invisibly by matching patterns. It can be attached using a sewing machine, or by hand which often gives more seamless results. This is often the most preferred way to mend vintage as it keeps the clothing as era appropriate as possible, and does not add embellishment that would not have been there in the first place.

Patching to the front – a classic way to hide larger holes and was often used in the Make Do and Mend era. Using either fabric from the garment or spare fabric from any other source (I keep off cuts just for this) you can shape a piece to cover the hole and sew on using a machine or by hand.

Sew On Patches – a cool way to cover a hole is by using a manufactured patch with a design. This became very fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s as patches were adopted by the hippy boho movement, using symbols and phrases to make clothes both individual and for repair.



Visible Mending – there has been a boom in the idea of making your repairs a work of art, showing that a well-loved piece of clothing is a good thing. There are so many ways to do this, from contrasting fabric patches, embroidery and decorative stitching, creative darning and ancient techniques such as Sashiko and Boro. You can also add ribbons, trims and beading to hide a hole but make a statement. There is literally no limit.

 Using Accessories – a much simpler way to hide a hole if you are not handy with a needle is to use accessories. Brooches, pins and badges are fab to add alone or as a cluster to take the eye away from damage as are belts and scarves which can be added to hide issues.

Re-Make – now, I would never condone chopping up vintage just because it had a small hole. But sometimes a garment has big holes that just can’t be rectified. In this case, I would always say turn a dress in to a nice shirt, or a dress into a skirt. If the skirt is damaged near the hem, make it shorter, or turn that top into a sleeveless piece. Never throw away a piece of clothing, use that fabric as it is cloth that has taken time, money and resources to create.

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