In a culture of hyper-consumption, we believe that taking time to mend and repair rather than discard and replace, is a radical act, a relaxing and meditative activity, and a powerful vehicle for self expression.
“Once a regular chore, mending clothes has become a lost practice as replacements are cheaper, free time scarce and domestic skills forgotten in favor of digital technologies. As a result, mended scars are rarely found in garments anymore.”
Visible mending has recently gained more attention through trendy social media accounts and fashion hype, but it’s not a new concept. The ethos of 'make do and mend' stretches back over thousands of years. Repairing one’s garments using purposefully visible techniques is a far-reaching, all-encompassing philosophy and antidote to consumption that extends beyond just patching holes in your clothes. In the spirit of radical stitchery we’ve pulled together a selection of visible mending practitioners and academics that are inspiring us. We’ve also added a few resources to enrich your own visible mending journey. So let's explore this wonderful world!
Celia Pym is a prolific artist whose work from 2007 onwards has explored themes of damage and repair. Celia’s medium of choice is a sharp needle, yarn and a pair of scissors which she uses to investigate evidence of damage, exploring the ways which repairs draw attention to points of weakness, and areas where cloth is thin or worn down. Rather than camouflaging these sites of damage, Celia often uses contrasting or bright colours for mending, to highlight them further. Celia believes darning is “small acts of care and paying attention” and that in fact, mending is a collaborative dynamic with damage, where “the damage, in a way, does the work for me.”
Jane Milburn has been a slow clothing advocate for a decade, responding to fast fashion’s destructive excess by developing the Slow Clothing Manifesto. Jane is a trained agricultural scientist, sustainability consultant and founded the Textile Beat in 2013, a purpose-driven business promoting a slow clothing philosophy and a holistic approach to dressing that is sustainable, ethical and creative. It's rooted in the belief that the art of dressing well is reflected in the values we choose to wear, which extend beyond appearance. “We believe in ethical, sustainable choices that don’t harm people or the planet. We want to know the story about where clothing comes from and we believe in care and repair, refashion and restyle of existing clothing using simple sewing skills.”
The completion of a Permaculture Design Course in 2020 and a Permaculture Teaching Course in 2021 led Jane to appreciate the way Slow Clothing aligns with permaculture’s ethics of “people care, earth care and fair share”, as well as how the 12 permaculture design principles can be translated to our own wardrobes.
Dr. Kate Sekules
“We can't mend the world with a needle but, honestly,a bit of stitchery helps.”- Dr. Kate Sekules on Mending as Metaphor.
Dr. Kate Sekules is the author of Mend! A refashioning Manual and Manifesto and an academic with a PhD in material culture and design history. Dr. Sekules works to create a global taxonomy of mending and a Directory of Menders, which you can now apply to be included in. This directory is primarily for hand sewn visible mends, however those who do alterations, utility mends, mending by machine, or invisible mending are also welcome. Kate says the idea is to “inspire you to mend with verve and nerve and glaringly obvious thread (or have someone do it for you)” and to “value and preserve what you already have. Because mending is a radical act.” Kate states that “despite learning how to sew properly” she “always preferred making it up as I go” and that in essence is what visible mending is all about... “there is no wrong way. If it works, it's correct.” Kate states that visible mending is accessible for anyone who wants to try their hand at it, whether or not they have sewing experience.
Dr. Kate Sekules’s Top 10 Reasons to Visible Mend
Before and after And Our Faces…visible mend.
Closeup details of Punk Dress visible mend.
Kate is also the founder of Refashioner, a highly personal platform for rehoming special vintage pieces where “nothing is "pre-owned". It's all owned.” Encouraging people to “tend and value what's in our closets”, each listing is accompanied by the name of the previous owner, following the ethos that “old clothes aren't worn out, they’re opportunities!” She has inspired us to reframe our mending approach to a process of co-design. “Co-design with the damage makers: the moth, the mouse, the nail and splinter, the splatter and ripper and plain old time.”
Dr. Bridget Harvey
“Repair is (re)becoming a first thought, rather than an afterthought. As the understanding of sustainability and our impact on the planet grows, philosophical conversations of hopeand change are happening.”
Dr. Bridget Harvey is an academic, writer, activist designer and practising multimedia artist, whose work often utilises found objects, materials from ceramics, to wood and textiles. From 2013 both her visual art work and independent practice has focused on multidisciplinary repair. Dr. Harvey’s work uses making to critically interrogate what we make, how we make and why that matters, particularly “Why repair?” raising the question of “why not? and why and when did we stop?” She investigates methodologies and concepts through craft to generate “new understandings and adding meaning.” While an Artist in Residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum from October 2018 to July 2019, Dr. Harvey began to “unpick the relationship between repair and the museum” documenting the residency through the Repair-Making the Museum booklet.
The Golden Joinery are a non-commercial, collaboratively developed clothing initiative and brand, started by the Dutch Painted Series fashion collective. They're inspired and named after the Japanese art of visible ceramic mending using gold, Kintsugi, which translates to golden joinery. The Golden Joinery facilitates workshops and has created an interactive game in which a kit of materials is sent to you to host your own visible mending session. They hope this approach can assist people in “celebrating the story of your garments with golden scars” where “a second layer is added, putting into question the monopoly of fashion labels.”
Artisan online workshops
Have you been inspired by these incredible examples of visible mending practices and have a cherished garment or item with a tear, hole or a stain that needs mending or revitalising? Well, Seljak Brand has partnered with Artisan, Queensland's peak body of craft and design, to establish a series of online workshops about repair and circularity, to assist you in adding value and life to your beloved garments. Whether it be a blanket, a pair of jeans or a beloved jacket, you can create unique patches that not only grant your stuff a second life, but make your clothes unique and personal in the process, adding both material and immaterial value.
Check out the workshops here, to learn how to patch with free-style embroidery and how to utilise a traditional blanket stitch, while also learning fundamentals of circular design.
Want more resources?
Check out these links below to dive even deeper into the practice of visible mending…
GOMA Visible mending workshop
The Galley of Modern Art (GOMA) is hosting a visible mending workshop for teens aged 13-18 on the 28th of September. Inspired by the Chiharu Shiota exhibition, whose work explores the ways commonplace objects can “hold emotion” and “emit human evidence”, where clothing is one of the most intimate examples. This workshop asks “what do we do when those objects break?” in turn offering the chance to reconnect and bring pre-loved garments back to life with visible mending techniques instructed by Dr. Sal Edwards, designer and maker.
Meanjin/Brisbane based Practice Studio is a combined workroom and retail space, working to reconnect people with the value of thoughtfully-made garments by sharing insight into the design process. They offer repair and alteration services in-store for both new and well-loved clothing.
Learn more about their mending and alteration services here.
The School of Sewing and Upcycling (SOSU)
First established in 2015, the School of Sewing and Upcycling (SOSU) is a welcoming creative hub in Naarm/Melbourne’s inner west offering full and half day sewing workshops, as well as long-term courses. SOSU encourages students of all ages, genders and skill levels to attend, offering classes on how to mend and alter existing garments, believing that “sewing offers many ways to develop a creative and sustainable lifestyle.”
Hopefully these resources have inspired you to begin your visible mending journey or to continue growing your visible mending practice, because there’s no feeling like fixing a special item of clothing you hold dear. We really encourage you to give your clothes a second life, save some money, divert so-called “waste” from landfill and express yourself!