Fix a fabric burn hole with this invisible mending technique

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Replacing a large piece of fabric to eliminate a tiny burn hole is expensive, both in time (yours) and money (your customer’s), and may be unnecessary because many fabrics can be invisibly rewoven. A cigarette or other smoldering agent can cause damage to fine upholstery fabrics. Plain tweeds are the easiest to work with, and fabrics with loosely woven threads usually work. Patterned fabrics can be rewoven, but demand extra patience and keen eyesight to duplicate the pattern. Velvets, velours and chenilles cannot be rewoven.

Fabrics coated on the back with stabilizers require extra care. The backing material makes teasing out individual threads more difficult. Threads may fray or even pull apart. Backing material also hinders weaving the replacement threads through the fabric. Trim the backing as close as possible to the threads’ edges without damaging the fiber.

Getting ready to reweave

Reweaving requires some basic tools that will make the project much easier. Typical tools for your invisible mending kit include tweezers, needles and cuticle scissors. A 50-foot extension cord allows for flexibility in locations where outlets may be far apart. It also lets you run your cord where employees and clients are less likely to trip over it.

Good lighting is essential when reweaving. If the location lacks a good light source, use a gooseneck lamp. Always set the lamp on a level spot where it won’t tip over and possibly burn something.

Have several needles of different sizes to match the right size of the threads. The eye of the needle should easily accommodate a thread, yet be slim enough to slide easily through a tight weave. Always have a spare—or two.

Thread supply

Ideally, replacement threads will come from new, matching fabric. If that is not possible, use a swatch from a hidden part of the furniture, such as from around a rear sofa leg or from an anchor portion of an inside arm.

If you cannot locate a hidden piece to supply long enough threads, loosen staples and tease out individual threads along an edge, a few threads on the weft, a few threads on the woof. On a cushion, tease threads from zipper border seams or from along the rear-most seams. Never compromise the integrity of a seam by teasing too many threads from one place.

Separate the woof threads from the weft threads. They are seldom identical in width, thickness or color.

Mending process

Using fine-tipped scissors, trim away any hard, melted edges around the burn hole, as they could show as a ridge or cause undue wear on the replacement threads.

Thread the needle with a single strand, folded down from the eye so the smoothest surface will lead going through the weave. The needle is threaded to replace the first thread, to the right of the burn hole. Backing exerts drag on the thread and could weaken it.

Begin by splitting one thread with the point of the needle at least an inch from the hole. Bring the needle to the surface several threads closer to the hole. Weave the needle under at least three cross threads, for firm anchoring, before skipping over the burn hole to the opposite side.

Leave at least half-an-inch of thread lying on the surface where you began to identify the thread you’re repairing. Use the extra to tie the thread in place in case you accidentally pull through more thread than you intended.

Continue on the opposite side of the burn hole, weaving the needle under three cross threads before stabbing the point farther along on the same thread. Leave any excess thread lying on top of the fabric until all repair threads have been woven in.

Work from one side of the hole to the other, or from top to bottom, one thread at a time, so you don’t jump to another thread partway across. This creates a messy, noticeable mend.

To achieve an invisible mend, follow one thread at a time so you stay in line and don’t become confused. Except for trimming thread ends on two sides, the mend is completed. Do not allow the thread to twist or flip over because the backing will show. If it does show, either remove the thread and start again, or use tweezers to manipulate the thread so the backing no longer shows.

When all damaged threads have been rewoven, use cuticle scissors to trim the end of each thread—one thread at a time—flush with the fabric surface. Use the needle point to poke any thread stubbles out of sight.

Invisibly mending a burn hole—or any reasonable sized damage—is a good option for many reasons. If the fabric can be rewoven, doing so can save your customer yards of fabric, hours of reupholstering, the hassle of hauling the damaged piece to your shop, the inconvenience of doing without the piece while you have it for repairs, and money.

Claudette Sandecki is a retired upholsterer and freelance writer in Terrace, British Columbia, Canada.


Comments are the opinion of individual posters and do not reflect the views of Upholstery Journal or Industrial Fabrics Association International.

  • Claudette Sandecki
    Claudette Sandecki

    Fabrics suitable for reweaving

    You are right -- today's fabrics, such as microfibers, do not lend themselves to reweaving. But far from being a loose weave, the fabric in my illustration was Aerotex, that's why the needle eye size is so vital -- slim enough to pass reasonably easily between the threads, yet round enough to protect the thread from being frayed by friction as it passes between the fabric threads.

    My reweaving rate was double my upholstering rate; reweaving is hard on eyesight and back muscles when you are bent over a seat for an hour at a stretch.

    My main reweaving customer owned two pubs seating 307 patrons. Having me reweave the burn holes one Christmas cost $700. Had I replaced the fabric as one does in a regular reupholstering, the job would have run to well over $3000.

    I was not short of work. I squeezed in reweaving often on weekends or in the early evening before the pubs became busy.

    Thank you for your interest in this article. I just happened to check on Upholstery Journal this evening and ran into your comment.

  • luiza

    fixing burn cigarette fabric


    Interesting article, but I have a couple of questions to the writer.

    How much would you charge for your repair work?

    I guess it must be not cheap for the time involved, except if upholstery is your hobby or you have no work.

    Don't get me wrong but this kind of repair work is in today’s fabrics very very difficult to achieve, except you have a very cheap fabric with a loose weave like you show in this article.

    I guess with your experience, the upholstery magazine could have been more selective in choosing an article more appropriate for it's readers.

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