This is my favourite piece of clothing, a Victorian blouse with Broderie Anglaise insertions, all made by hand. I bought it about 15 years ago in an antique market in Bath and have worn it so much that it is slowly disintegrating. I am trying to preserve it by patching, darning and mending all the holes, tears and frayed edges. When it first started to tear I inserted extra machine – lace panels, but later I decided to make all the mends by hand. I think that this makes it appear more valued; in our throw away society I feel strongly that mending is an indication of worth.
And I have always liked conspicuously mended ceramic and glass items, the metal bands that hold this hand cut and engraved water jug and the hand painted cup and saucer are testament that these pieces were valued so highly by their owners that difficult and expensive methods have been employed to extend their life. I really bought the water jug because of the rivets, initially I was reassured by this care and attention that it was worth the price I paid and also that I could still use it, which I have been doing for more than 20 years.
Sadly the only way I can afford some of the textiles I want is to buy them when they are practically worn out. I have rescued several Paisley shawls, some were already carefully, repaired but one beauty I am repairing myself…but instead of trying to copy the design, so that the mending is hidden I am darning the holes simply and obviously using very carefully matching coloured woolen yarns
Has anyone suffered from the dreaded wool moth lately? My clothes and textile collection was under siege last year. My favourite cashmere woollies (collected at T.K.Max) seemed to be the dish of the day. So I am working my way through these and stitching some very conspicuous darns, in fact I am considering making darning designs for the plainer ones – although the tiny heart, .5 cm. wide, the result of a glue accident when I was probable mending something else.
Below are some more of my rescued clothes, an old linen shirt which had pulled apart at the seam and the vintage silk blouse is badly stained, but still lovely.
But on reflection – when I was a fashion and textile student at Liverpool Art College in the 1960’s, I made a paper wedding dress, reasoning that it would only be worn once and then could be thrown away. Some 40+ years later I have changed my attitude to disposability and my current embroidery practice revolves around mending, patching, protecting, conserving. Even a casual look at old sewing manuals will show the change of attitude to mending and preserving clothes and household fabrics, in the books from the 19th and early 20th century there are many and various darning techniques for all sorts of materials. But it becomes apparent that excepting illustrations of Darning Samplers for collectors, this detailed information started to decrease during the 1960’s and by the end of the century mending of any description ceases to be shown in popular sewing manuals. I suspect that the corresponding and continuing rise in the national divorce rate is not a coincidence.