Selvedge Magazine | Issue 102
Published September / October 2021
MEND Darn, Patch & Repair
WORDS BY Polly Leonard Founder & Editor of Selvedge Magazine
"Darning is having a moment. We are surrounded by books about darning, workshops even high street brands are getting in on the act. There is no denying darning is cool and to own a visibly darned sweater is a status symbol. I wonder why we value darning so highly? Go back 200 years and everybody darned, as Vanessa Jones’ explains in her article Makers and Menders. There was little choice and certainly no kudos to mending. Back then, clothes were valued: for the fabric itself; precious, expensive and replaced rarely. Wear was a source of embarrassment and even shame as Kate Sekules describes in Evil in your Wardrobe. So, the skill to create a discrete repair was prized and practised. Girls would produce brightly coloured darning samplers that mimicked the patterns of woven cloth. The object was to use a matching thread for the actual darn so the wear would disappear. To produce visible mend would have been seen as wearing a badge of impoverishment and idleness.
Curiously, it is the pivot in the value system that accounts for the current trend. Now the majority of the clothes we wear have little financial or emotional value, yet our conscience drives us to increase their longevity and reduce their environmental impact. The incentive today is to use darning as a political statement, you can't do this if the darning is invisible. We talk to contemporary darners about why they darn and look at other methods for extending the life of clothes. Catching the eye is also the speciality of Mexican fashion designer and Instagram sensation Melania Chavarría. Collecting, altering and designing garments, she crafts striking tableaux vivants where her outfits tune in to Mexico City’s street art, producing images that brim with a bold presence and bracing, vibrant energy."
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