What would you do if your favourite item of clothing was damaged? Would you bin it, replace it or just relegate it to the back of the wardrobe because you can’t bear to part with it?
In the old days, even the most everyday items of clothing were repaired routinely. Maybe when you were a child you may remember your mother or grandmother darning socks or patching clothes, back in the days when families were larger and clothing was much more expensive than it is today. Perhaps you are young enough to have only heard an elderly relative speak of it in “When I was a young boy/girl...” tales. Maybe your family still retells stories about a jumper or dress that was handmade by an ancestor which lasted three generations and was eventually more patches than original. Today the fast fashion industry means that low-quality, mass-produced clothing can be sold at pocket money prices ; much of it is discarded after just a few uses, either because it is already disintegrating, or simply because the wearer is looking for something different to stay ahead of a trend. Sadly, the impact on the environment of increased consumption is immense, from waste-producing production methods and polluting dyeing of textiles through to mountains of unwanted clothing in landfill. The skill of the person sewing or knitting modern clothing may no longer be appreciated, with pay and working conditions often being a major issue.
However, this does not have to be the only way.
Mending and visible mending
I’ve often mended clothes. When I was a student, I couldn’t afford to replace a top with a torn pocket, or jeans with a loose seam, so it was a case of needs must. With no particular sewing skills, and just a needle and thread, I managed to get months of extra life out of many of my old clothes, although admittedly, not always very neatly. I always tried to hide the damage, and to repair the items as they were originally, and that was all.
When researching environmentally-friendly textile craft ideas for the Wellbeing Festival, I discovered a concept that was new to me:visible mending. I’ve discovered there is much more to repair than simply hiding tears or holes, and certainly a lot more than stitching a basic patch over torn knees or damaged elbows, 1970s style. Visible mending means making a feature of a repair, giving new life to favourite items, and not only that, but making them unique and personal to you. There is no need to search for a new trend before your friends find it if you can create it yourself!
Visible mending can be good for the environment - unique, fashionable, creative, decorative - and it can save money. It can also bring a sense of history, allowing you to keep and wear favourite items for longer. Designing and carrying out a repair can be a relaxing and creative activity, bringing a sense of achievement, while putting your own mark on an item can make it feel more yours.
I would like to invite you to follow a short series of posts, where I will research and discover some visible mending techniques. I’m no needlework expert - I’ve never had lessons beyond the absolute basics at school, although I’ve taught myself a few additional skills from books and YouTube. I aim to learn about and try out new techniques, and I’ll share my efforts with you, good or bad. I hope that you’ll be inspired to try some of them too.