Friday, 30 November 2012

Refashion Friday: Invisible Mending, Darning and Tom of Holland


You don't have to have a dictionary close to hand to figure out that 'refashioning' and 'mending' are not the same thing. However, I feel they come from a similar enough angle to justify going on a slight mending tangent this week. They are, after all, both about extending the longevity of existing garments.

I am a sewer who doesn't get particularly excited about mending. I could be spending that time working on a brand new exciting project. When I do get round to mending, it is with reluctance. However, I have been lucky enough to meet someone who feels very differently about mending, someone who relishes the challenge of a holey jumper or ripped jacket, and has gone to great length to study and master many of the long forgotten mending techniques our grandmothers and great grandmothers were probably dab hands at. I am talking about Tom of Holland


(Tom mending some shoes)

As well as a mending and darning sensei Tom is also a total master at knitting, and he teaches all these things here at Super+Super HQ in Brighton, although he can also been found sharing his knowledge at other locations. He has developed a concept that I find super interesting: the Visible Mending Programme, which Tom explains thus:

''The Visible Mending Programme seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. 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 this 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.''


(Tom's impressive collection of darning tools)

Tom has also started sewing clothing, and with his tenacity and eye for detail no doubt he will soon be a total legend at that too. But right now, whilst I still have some knowledge I can offer him, we brokered a deal: I would help him with some of his sewing and fitting dilemmas and in return, he would teach me to darn properly! A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that I needed to learn how to darn my socks, but after a fairly poor attempt, I admit I gave up. But since conquering how to make so many of my own clothes and largely no longer relying on buying mass-produced items, I want to push that even further, and being able to properly darn my existing socks is something I am now re-inspired to do. 


Tom has a vast collection of books on knitting, darning and mending techniques. My own tiny collection of related books is pictured above! I've long been obsessed with the public information pamphlets that were released during the second world war to show the population how to make the best of their restricted rations and resources. Both these books are basically compilations of those original govverment issued pamphlets. Their illustrations are awesome, and as pieces of social history I think they are priceless. I was thrilled when I discovered the darning technique Tom was to show me was basically the same as the one in the 1940's picture below.


I brought along two poorly socks, Tom took the one with the biggest hole. This is the sock I started with  (pictured below). This pair of socks are actually men's golfing socks that I was given over ten years ago, and although this may sound weird, I have some significant memories attached to these socks! But the sheer fact that they have lasted well over a decade prove that they deserve some investment on my part to extend their life still further!


Obviously this mend was intended to be a visible one, so I chose a burgundy darning floss and set to work following Tom's instructions. I was heartened to find out that, once Tom started showing me the best technique for mu holey sock, that I had been on the right lines with my previous attempts to darn, just that I had been using the wrong type of mending yarn (which I knew) and that my stitches had been too far apart. 


I should mention that all this darning went on whilst the sock was turned through to the wrong side. It's looks like a whole crazy mass of yarn from the inside (I'll get neater with practice, I'm sure) but you can kind of see the grid I created. 


Turned through the right way and it looks really cool! The contrast colour is peeking through. After washing the darning floss goes more woolly and a bit matted which helps to plug the hole further.  


I've properly caught the darning bug now. I've even asked for a darning mushroom and floss for Christmas! I feel guilty about all those otherwise perfectly good socks I've binned in the past that could have lived on much longer if I'd figured all this out earlier. What about you? Do you darn? Do you prefer a visible or invisible approach?

27 comments:

Donna said...

It is a beautiful darn, speaking entirely as a non-expert. ;)

stef said...

Years ago everyone at work got something from the joke shop for Comic Relief (don't ask!). I swapped my fake nose and glasses for my colleague's rubber egg, because I could use it to darn eggs!
My mum has had the same wooden darning eggs throughout the 41 years of her marriage, and is a master at mending socks.
Her Mum mended a pair of tights for me as a child and you could barely see the patch.(incidentally, I live in the UK but we are Italian. People here laugh at the mention of mending, but they also laugh at the thought of home-cooked meals)
I am not as good as them but I can do the basics and I mend sock and knitwear on a regular basis. No, it's not sewing, but it's a skill I have found very useful.

stef said...

Just a quick one to add, because I hate sweeping generalisations, that not *everyone* in the UK laughs at the thought of homecooked, but it's happened to me, and generally speaking people place a lot less emphasis on them. Apologies for writing that.

Also, I don't "darn eggs", I darn socks! :)

Crab said...

Thank you for this post! I've felt like I should be darning socks but didn't know how.

Kestrel said...

I'm totally guilty of throwing out (or rather sending to textile recycling) socks that could be darned. It's a lazy habit, I should just learn.

Scooter said...

so, um, what's darning floss? I'm in the us so I may just not know the translation, but I've been using all kinds of weird leftovers--thin and/or deplied yarn, needlepoint wool, embroidery floss, etc. It sure would be nice to get something that works well.

Uta said...

Great job on the socks! I've been rediscovering mending myself, too. Read how that came about in my own mending post on my blog!

gingermakes said...

How interesting! I love the idea of celebrating mending instead of trying to hide it! After all, why should we be ashamed of extending the life of garments? Brilliant!

Stephanie said...

Thanks for introducing us to this great blog! Love to learn how to mend better and am experimenting a lot with it at the moment

ZoSews said...

Really interesting. I take after my 86ish y/o grandmother and hate throwing stuff out. I should learn how to do this... and other mending. Mending is just so boring though compared to a shiny new project ;p

Tasha @ Stale Bread into French Toast said...

Thanks for sharing this Zoe! It's great to find that more people are mending as well as making. It may not be very glamorous but it's a huge step towards consuming less.
My cousin recently "mended" a holey sweater by crocheting around the holes but leaving them open, almost like lace. I love the idea of mending creatively and in ways that show. Way to go Tom!

cucicucicoo said...

fascinating! i actually just asked my in-laws to show me how to mend socks (though they still haven't shown me), mainly because i cannot for the life of me find all cotton socks where i live and i can't stand poly on my feet! and my poor cotton socks are in horrid condition. but my issue is not so much holes, but a gradual wearing out, and i worry that there isn't much to do about it because the areas are so wide.

cucicucicoo said...

oh, and i agree that celebrating mending is a wonderful concept! i've been trying to hide my mending, but this is making me think that i should try less to hide it and instead be proud of it! :)

Louise said...

I have fond memories of my mother who kept a little box by her chair, and most evenings sewed on buttons, darned socks etc.
I have a couple of vintage sewing books about 1940s, in one of them they would actually undo whole outfits, most likely wool suiting and turn them inside out for more wear. Now that's another level of make do and mend!
Louise

Catherine said...

Oh I darn all the time :) I too find mending boring but essential....

rosyragpatch said...

I love your visibly darned socks - I think a bright darn makes all socks look better.
I think mending and refashioning are closely related. I will try to repair most textiles and sometimes it leads to a refashion like my "new" coat. I enjoy mending.

thedoublelifeofmrsm said...

Zoe, this is the third piece on darning I have read this week. I am delighted people are rediscovering it - or just admitting to doing it! I have been darning knitwear and socks for years, to squeeze maximum wear out of clothes. There is something comforting about wearing a familiar woolly that has moulded to the shape of the body and the darned patches are just part of its character! My darned cardies are like my husband's old tweed jacket...

Yvonne said...

As I was a kid my great-grandmother taught me how to darn socks. I think after she died no one in my family ever mended socks again. I just love her baby blue darning mushroom,because it reminds me of her, but I totally forgot how to use it.
Now, I think it is time to start again, even if I love creating new things much more than just repairing old things. I always feel a bit guilty when I'm buying new things. I want to reduce the urge to consume even more and rely on what we already have.
Sometimes I just need a kick in the ass to do so. And it seems to be nice to honor the work of our grandmothers. I never liked the phrase "not your grannies craft" anyway.

Men Leather Jacket said...

LOVE THIS! Seems like your style is very similar to mine!

Madalynne said...

You did a great job darning!

Jen said...

While I'm also a sewer, I do like to just sit and mend on occaision. Especially if it's something I've been meaning to do for a while, because I've almost instantly added another item to my wardrobe, so I find it can be very satisfying. I can't say I've ever darned socks though...

milenasews said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, thanks for this post! I have so many pretty sweaters with holes and I never know how to fix them. I don't think I'd do the darning with a contrasting yarn, though...

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