Slow Care: Invisible, and Visible Mending: the art of patching

During this week dedicated to fabric and garment care, we are focusing on the very Slow practice of mending and repairing. I already wrote about specialist denim repairs services, and will be also looking at expert cobblers and shoes restoring. But today I want to talk about what is almost a magic art, that of Invisible Mending.

Rather than trying to describe it myself, I’m going to use a very clear and description that I found on the Parisian Gentleman blog: “Invisible mending is a sophisticated weaving method consisting in rebuilding the fabric of a garment after an accident: snag, burn, accidental blade or scissor cut, etc. Invisible mending is the reconstruction of both the warp and weft using a long needle. The mender picks all the necessary weft warn in the hem, and the warp yearn in the extra fabric on the inside of longitudinal seams. They will reconstruct the warp and weft to exactly match the original weave, after which the mended part will be undetectable on the outside of the fabric. However, on the reverse side, the restored area will be marked by the long hanging threads where the weaving was done. The hanging threads occur because invisible mending is done without tacking, as it could deform the fabric.” (the image is also courtesy of the Parisian Gentleman, describing the work of Isabelle Godfroy, one of France’s last invisible menders)

Invisible mending is a service that is still provided by high-end dry cleaners, and luckily there’s still a couple in London too: British Invisible Mending Service and Invisible Menders of Knightsbridge.

Even though you might not immediately acquire such levels of craftsmanship, darning is certainly something you can learn to do yourself (it’s something I do myself). Taking care of your clothes is something that creates a bond with what you wear: you surely won’t be likely to just want to discard it without a second thought if you know that you can fix it with very small effort.

You might for example want to take a darning class, run by  Tom of Holland, who’s created his Visible Mending Programme around the idea of forming a bond with our own clothes: “By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the Programme attempts to reinforce the relationship between the wearer and garment, leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour. By writing my blog, running darning workshops and taking repair work commissions I provide mending inspiration, skills and services to people and hopefully persuade them that shop-bought clothes deserve care and attention too, just like a precious hand-knit.”

You’ll have noticed that the focus here has shifted from Invisible to Visible mending. As Tom puts it: “I prefer my mending visible and decorative as well as functional”. Tom’s skills do extend to absolutely seamless invisible mending, but here’s a couple of examples of his signature work:

The deliberate showing of contrast stitching is also at the heart of the Japanese technique of Sashiko. Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear, or to repair worn places or tears with patches, this running stitch technique is often used for purely decorative purposes in quilting and embroidery. I really like how this traditional technique is applied to everyday clothes by Helen Sarah Vaughan. Look at how she transformed this damaged tunic:

So do these works inspire you to mend and darn your clothes? Have you got examples of repairs you’ve done or commissioned, that will inspire us all?

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