Repairing things isn’t a new idea. Anyone who has made anything, understands the vested interest in not having to make it again without good reason, as it’s far easier and cheaper to repair, adjust, refine, repurpose than it is to recreate from scratch.
“The early Dorcas Societies established in girls’ schools taught mending as part of the wider sewing curriculum,” says Rose Sinclair, design education lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. “[The] culture of sewing and… making crafts intrinsically meant that you learnt how to care for cloth, textiles, and clothes.” Image: Edwin Long‘s “A Dorcas Meeting in the 6th Century,” painted 1873–1877, public domain. Source: https://craftsmanship.net/blog/mending-an-ancient-craft-for-modern-times/
In the 19th Century industrial revolution, it became comparatively easier to make things from scratch - machines could take a lot of the manual labour out of agriculture to make the fibre, processing, dying, spinning, weaving, cutting, sewing… followed by the 20th Century technological revolutions in electricity and electronics, including computer systems that automate design, production and international shipping between each point in the process.
All of which meant labour behind the production became less valued, and so too the items produced. If you’ve seen documentaries such as The True Cost, or seen reports from Green Peace, you’ll now that clothing is never cheap: someone somewhere is paying for it.
Thankfully, many of us have moved on from the mindset of disposable fashion (as a progress check, remember the 1960’s Paper Dress movement? Wearing your ‘wastebasket dress’ with pride - after all, washing it made it flammable so you dare not wear it twice!).
The 1960s was an era of exploration and pushing boundaries. It was the space age--people envisioned an exciting future where everything was conveniently automated. New materials and disposability were in. Paper apparel promised convenience--you could simply discard it after one wearing. Altering the hemline was a snap--all it took was a pair of scissors and a steady hand. A tear? You could do a quick repair with sticky tape. Source: https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/pulp-fashion-paper-dresses-of-the-1960s
Covid-19 has taught us a little about slowing down, using what we have, and appreciating that going out and buying something new is a luxury that we can, incredibly, survive without.
But we are the generation that did not learn to mend things at our parent’s knee. Knitting, crochet, embroidery and even machine sewing have almost vanished from our schools. Traditional ‘good housekeeping’ style guides to mending are… a tad intimidating to say the least. So the solution is to throw away the traditional rulebooks and make mending our own.
We are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, sometimes known as the Social [Media] Revolution, or the Information Age.
The socialization of content creation [in the Information Revolution], consumption and participation, is hastening the metamorphosis that transforms everyday people into participants of a powerful and valuable media literate society. Source: https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/articles/internet-changed-everyday-life/
The internet, especially social media, allows self-taught sewists and artists such as Tom van Deijnen to inspire new ideas about acknowledging and celebrating that we do have vested interests in our clothing, and can add value while honouring the labour of everyone who worked hard to bring an individual item into our lives (from the farmers who grew the seed to the underpaid shop assistant who smiled as they wrapped our purchase; ...perhaps even the ancient tree or dinosaur who produced the oil for it to be transported to where we could buy it…?).
International Repair Day is an annual event on the 3rd Saturday in October which celebrates our united efforts as a world-wide community to ‘visibly mend’ some of the damage created by industrialisation of production - not only in textiles, but in all manufactured goods.
At Stitch Kitchen we run monthly ‘Mend and Make Awesome’ workshops, on the 2nd Saturday of each month. This month falls on October 9th, the week before the international event, so we thought we’d go ahead and put on an extra, special mending workshop and give people double the opportunity to explore and enjoy mending their favourite clothes.
The Visible Mending workshop will focus on hand sewing, with patching and darning inspired by Boro, Kantha and other traditional examples of textile repair, but in a very beginner-friendly, creative, (and probably messy) new way.
Plus we're joining forces with the Our Seas, Our Future group from the University of Otago to engage to host an energetic and interactive discussion about the hidden problems of clothing and consumerism, and share more proactive solutions.
Remember that you don’t have to wait for our mending workshops, you are always welcome to pop in to us at Stitch Kitchen with your mending, be it for some company and a good cup of tea while you mend, need to borrow a darning mushroom, or need some help with a neat trick you saw on you-tube but cannot quite figure out how to do. Our hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 10:30-4pm, with late close on Fridays. Do send us a text/email or message us on social media to check out what’s happening at the studio and book a time.
Some great resources for further mending inspiration:
Also, check out some of the treasures in our own local Dunedin Public Library (which is still my favourite place to research - regardless of what revolution we’re in).
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen