Darn it! The art of mending and repairing


Image: Toast


Inspired by the ideas of fashion activist and campaigner Orsola de Castro I wanted to make my Loved Clothes Last, as the title of her book advocates. This is more of a ‘why to’ than a ‘how to’ text, however. Now, the artist Molly Martin who specialises in textile repairs has written the helpful The Art of Repair: Mindful Mending: how to stitch old things to new life. I’ve attended her Zoom mending workshops organised on an ongoing basis by Toast events. In these classes, and in her book, Martin demonstrates the Japanese sashiko stitching techniques. She also teaches darning workshops – and always encourages everyone to enjoy the mending process and experiment through trial and error. You only need a few tools to have a go, including: a sewing kit with darning needles, suitable threads and yarns (appropriate in weight to the material being repaired).

There are many reasons to improve your mending skills: it’s good for the purse, good for the planet and good for the person doing the hand sewing. Careful repair of damaged woven and knitted fabrics requires concentration and focus. Mending takes time and care, but it definitely has a meditative quality if you enjoy doing it.


Celia Pym’s mending and repairing on Toast garments


Now I’ve improved my basic skills I’m looking at joining the Visible Mending movement – a hybrid of mending and embroidery intended to show off your repair instead of hiding it away. The Canadian textile artist Arounna Khounnoraj has some lovely examples in her book Visible Mending: Repair, Renew, Reuse the clothes you love. There are good illustrations of her approach to both colourful darning and patchwork and embroidery. A very useful ‘how to’ manual which has inspired me to customise my clothes.

A significant practitioner of the bold, intentional approach is the textile artist Celia Pym. Her tutorials are organised by Loop Knitting in London, but these are so popular that they are often fully booked well in advance.  I’m on a waiting list and so for now, I’ll practise on an old pullover of mine. To get the right colour combinations you can always experiment on graph paper and pre-plan the coloured wools and layout before threading up the needle.


Sashiko stitching techniques  by Molly Martin – image via Toast


Much thought is now going into saving garments as we all do our bit to consume less. The thoughtful making do and mending process is a way to engage, which works for me.