on shoe repair.

March 7, 2019
repaired canvas sneakers | reading my tea leaves

I sewed up two holes in my sneakers this week.

I’ve been watching online videos of sped-up mending. Lots of them. The clips track needles bearing colorful embroidery thread, diving below the surface of the fabric and breaching up again, never a stitch missed, never a finger poked. Each time the repair is perfectly executed.

Whatever bit of algorithmic sorcery there is operating behind the scenes, it’s endeavored to ensure that I see these videos any time I open an app or the lid of my laptop. My most innocent internet check-ins run the risk of being sidetracked by flying needles and attending thread.

repaired canvas sneakers | reading my tea leaves

Inspired, I took a needle and dusty pink embroidery thread to my dirty cotton canvas sneaks. The creases of my high-tops have worn soft and thin and split in the identical spot on each shoe.

In the course of the repair, I displayed none of the dexterity showcased in the clips I’ve watched online. I poked my fingers more times than I poked the canvas. Still now, as I type I can feel the dull pain of one particularly aggressive jab straight into the top of my middle finger, repeated twice more—needle not wanting to stray from its original trajectory, finger too slow to move out of the way.

While sewing, it’s possible I encountered a smear of dried dog poop, smushed along the edge of the rubber sole. Or perhaps it was just a smear of park dirt, unexpectedly thawed during a rare afternoon of sunshine and eager to join me for a stroll. Both possibilities, of course, only accounting for the dirt and grime visible to my naked eye. (Hazards of New York City shoe repair.)

repaired canvas sneakers | reading my tea leaves

The finished product has an effect that isn’t un-wart-like. The pale pink puffs of embroidery thread have a fullness and luster that make them look more like a mild skin anamoly than an artful repair to a utilitarian object. There are no intricate leaves or flowers or geometric shapes, only amorphous blobs.

Of course, I love them.

How useful any of this stitching will prove is anyone’s guess. The soles of my sneakers are wearing thin. There will be holes through the heels come summertime, it’s practically guaranteed. But for now, the gaping tears have been cinched and the creases fortified. My brand-new bright white laces are getting satisfactorily dirtied.

Marching on, warts and all.

For the curious:

These same shoes this time last year, plus a whole bunch of recommendations for other classic canvas sneakers.

Make your own sewing kit.

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  • Reply Laurie March 7, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    This is lovely! Unfortunately for me it’s the soles of my sneaks that tend to wear out before the canvas…

  • Reply Kellyn March 7, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve started doing sashiko style mending on my clothes – a knee hole in some pants and the elbow of a cardigan. I find it very calming!

    Also just placed a fourth patch on well-worn pair of jeans. Hope your sneakers make it past the summer. Nice job with the fix 🙂

  • Reply Katrina March 8, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    I have had good luck with a product called Shoe Goo. I used original, but I noticed on Amazon there are other options. I have used it on shoes and boots with holes in the soles…seems to be water tight! So far it’s saved 3 pairs of boots for a small cost and plenty left in the tube. Maybe it will keep the beautifully mended sneaks going a little longer ?

  • Reply Heather Hall March 18, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    I’m late to see this post, but I wanted to chime in to say I love mending things! I own more than one carefully patched wool sweater, and I just stitched up a couple little holes in my favorite shopping/everything bag. I’ve done some simple repairs on shoes too. Hurray for mending! 🙂

    • Reply Chiara Pepe April 17, 2019 at 6:11 am

      I’ve just repaired my favorite sneakers, hope I can use them for long time! ❤️ Greetings from Italy!


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