Kaketsugi Mending Revisited: More Information

An hour or two after I put up the last post on mending, I got a phone call from New York. My friend Alice is a retired textile conservator. We were good friends when I lived in the West Village, and I would often hear stories of her anguish over a project she was working on. So I know she’s a perfectionist. She had strong objections. We had several long conversations about particulars I missed.  All I knew was what I’d seen in the YouTube video, “The Magic of Kaketsugi Renovation”. Here is the Video:

Both my previous post and this one refer to this video.  Look at the video to see the technique of kaketsugi closely and what is done on the wrong side. I am only showing what takes place on the face of the fabric.

This post is about Alice’s comments and advice. She made a point of saying how important it is that ideally, the repair cloth be from the same fabric that is being mended. The threads need to match thread-for-thread. She sometimes had to take small bits of threads from a hem or seam in her work. When none were available, she sometimes dyed threads. Good light is essential and magnification. Alice has several pairs of prescription glasses for her work. Other than regular and tapestry needles, one might use a tiny latch hook, or some other tiny hook. Her comments about thread loops were that the thread loop needs to be fairly long, smooth, strong, and fine enough to go through the cloth.

I found many techniques for mending on YouTube. This post is about one method of mending using a patch. A patch shows on the wrong side and needs to be in a situation where there is enough cloth to sacrifice for the patch itself. It can be for larger mends. Re-weaving is often used for small holes. Threads are actually woven in, and the mend doesn’t show on the wrong side. Remember, the end use of the fabric will be a consideration. For example, whether a shawl, or a tablecloth that will be laundered, or an elbow in a sleeve that is being repaired. In other words, consider each individual circumstance when choosing the best method. Here is the video that clearly shows re-weaving:

This photo is of my own practice patch showing the small amount done on the left when I first posted. Notice that the threads in the patch were distorted. That happened when I pulled the repair threads through the cloth too hard. On the right side of the patch you see what I did in an entire Sunday afternoon after my first talk with Alice. And I still didn’t have the technique right.

She pointed out that in the video, when the needle was wiggled, the needle never came to the surface of the cloth. This was a significant observation.  Only fibers on the back of the cloth were caught with the sharp needle. (I had used a blunt tapestry needle.) And, the needle always came out of the cloth at about at the same distance from the patch. Look at the narrow side of my patch to see this. Also, this time my needle went down to the wrong side exactly at the edge of the patch. This looks like a clear improvement from my two previous attempts where I tried to weave the needle in and out of the cloth itself.

There needs to be some slack in the repair thread so it can travel its path. In this photo the thread loop is near the tip of the repair thread.  If the repair thread slips out when pulled into the fabric, then make the loop closer to the patch. Also, notice that your thumb will need to add some tension as you pull the thread loop along its path into the cloth to keep the repair thread from slipping out of its “lasso”. How much slack and how much tension depends on any given situation. It will need a bit of a tug to get the repair thread pulled through the cloth. Check each time that the repair thread came out of the cloth and didn’t slip out of the loop. I checked the video again and I had done just exactly what the video said to do without allowing any slack! Alice explained that each fabric is different and either way would be best for a certain fabric or situation. Again, practice first to see what works for each repair job.

In this photo, the tails of the thread loop go into the cloth first and the loop with the repair thread behind.  (In the video and my previous post, the loop of the thread loop went into the cloth first. And the tails of the loop thread came out last.) The method in the photo here is perhaps a gentler method for delicate fabrics, that is, the tails of the loop thread exit the cloth first, with the loop last. It’s a matter of when the thread loop “lassos” (encircles) the repair thread. You must practice a bit on each project to see which of these techniques works better.

Which way is better— the tails coming out of the cloth first or the loop? With the tails coming out of the fabric before the loop, there are only 4 threads to be pulled through the cloth: 2 from the loop thread plus 2 from the repair thread. With a fine or delicate fabric this might be the better way. (And with your own practice, you might find the other way works better.)  Compare with the next photo.

This photo shows the thread loop exiting the fabric before the tails. Notice that 6 threads must go through the fabric: 4 for the loop thread plus 2 for the repair thread.  For hours I practiced: tails first, loop first until I could see and feel the difference. For the technique in this photo (loop first), it took more of a tug to pull the thread loop and repair thread through the cloth because what had to go through the cloth was thicker.

The reason to use the thread loop is that the repair threads are usually too short to thread through the eye of a needle the normal way. In many mending situations the mending threads can be quite short.

12 thoughts on “Kaketsugi Mending Revisited: More Information”

  1. When I was 10 years old, my father took his wool suit jacket to someone to have a cigarette hole mended. When it came back I thought a true miracle had occurred! That mystery has stuck with me all of these (60) years since then. It is still amazing to me that someone in a small town in North Dakota in 1959 would know how to do this. I think this event was part of why I was eventually drawn to weaving (in 1983). Thank you for showing me the answer after all of these years.

  2. Although living in the UK, in the 1950s my mother had McCalls Needlework and Crafts magazine every month (I still have a lot of them) and I spent hours reading it literally cover to cover and yearning for the American style quilts, toys and gadgets. Among the adverts there were nearly always some for invisible mending courses allowing you to start your own, profitable (of course) business so it was by no means such an unusual skill then as it seems to us now in the throwaway society. Let’s hope that that attitude will be changing.

    • I found great info on a few YouTube videos. I have a friend in New York who retired as a conservator and she gave me advice. I don’t know if she would coach you. We shared the same videos.

  3. What I can’t for the life of me figure out is what happened to all the frayed repair threads that were showing on the front when she flipped it over to finish the back silk patch….they were just gone when she was done?!

    • Did you look at the YouTube video? She may have put a patch on the wrong side. I had my scrap around for months and finally threw it away the other day! We had to look at the video very carefully and so will you I think.

  4. Bonjour,
    Il y a 40 ans mon mari a taché un costume prince de galles tout neuf avec un stylo dont l’encre avait coulé dans la poche devant . Une vieille dame était stoppeuse près de chez moi à Lyon et je lui ai porté sans conviction . Et miracle elle nous l’avait rendu comme neuf! J’avais été stupéfaite et je n’avais jamais compris comment cela était possible. Enfin, grâce à votre vidéo, je viens de comprendre !! C’est une grande satisfaction. Cette stoppeuse a disparu depuis longtemps, elle a travaillé pratiquement jusqu’à sa mort et j’ai toujours pensé que ce métier était merveilleux tant le résultat du travail est bluffant !! C’est magique ! Grand merci à vous.

  5. Hiya, as I was watching something similar from NHK documentary that got me interested. I am not a sewing savvy person nor interest before but this sparkle my inner life to want to move into this direction for the future of my next phase of life (I’m 62 this year). I believed I could peace and happiness to myself and people surrounding me. Now to enable me to move forward, would like to enquire how can I get to learn from the basics to master this skill? Thanks and appreciate.
    Best regards,

  6. I have been a reweaver for decades. This method is interesting but very time-consuming. I would never use the thread method. I use a fine latch hook that is much easier to use and the work goes so much quicker! It is important to just catch the back of the material that you pull the threads through so that it doesn’t disrupt the surface. When the weave is done, the threads that are sticking out on top are pulled through to the back.


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