knit | sew

(in)visible mending

October 29, 2019

I profess to loving the ideas behind visible mending much more than the actual look. Whilst I have been known to sew a colourful patch on a child’s worn out trouser knees, I certainly don’t want my own clothes to look patched, even creatively, even to draw attention to the political act of mending. Particularly for professional clothes or good quality clothes, I want mending that is subtle and unseen, making the clothes continue to function for the purpose they were intended.

I use sewing thread to invisibly stitch up holes in lightweight machine knits or leggings. I cut off frayed jersey cuffs and resew them on the sewing machine as three quarter length sleeves or short sleeves. Winter trousers with holes in the knees become summer shorts. I am not sure why it takes so long to get around to mending though. Like meditation, it doesn’t take that long, it is actually quite pleasurable when you are doing it and you feel good afterwards. But just like meditation, my brain will find a billion excuses for not doing the mending.

I also keep a jar of small yarn bits left over from every sweater I make. When cuffs fray and unravel or a hole forms, I can use my original yarn to reknit or darn. The sweater below was knitted in 2014 for my son who was around 8 years old at the time. Of course, he out grew it over time and now it is my daughter’s but years of wear on the sleeves cuffs meant total replacement.

The cuffs were really in a dreadful state.

I cut off the cuffs, picked up the live stitches and knitted new cuffs on with saved yarn.

Of course, I don’t mind a bit of visible mending on socks. No one sees the bottoms and if it means using a super tough yarn to make the repair, I am all for seeing it.

I believe that mending shows respect for the object, the maker and the resources of the earth that were used to make it in the first place. I think it is a spiritual act, an ethical act, an honouring of the life of a thing. But I do not believe it is going to save the world, nor is household recycling, eating less meat, or using the car less often or any of those things that we as individuals do to mitigate climate change. Only significant government policy and structural change will transform nations and corporations into globally responsible entities. Mending is what we do while our governments fails to act.

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  1. Your comments concerning our governments is so true. I must admit some of my latest depression is due to the sad state of social justice, criminal politicians and lack of moral compass by the nations of our world. We are sinking due to greed and power mongers.

    1. I feel for you. The state of the world and the frustration at not being able to change things really got me down for a very long time. I think now I am in a state of acceptance.. It will go down the drain and many many humans will suffer but keep passing on essential life skills like mending and perhaps the survivors will make better choices next time round. We must never stop trying or else what is the point.

  2. TOO RIGHT! “Mending is what we do while our governments fail to act. ” Does make one feel a little better though…… this is something that has always been done.

  3. Ah mending…I don’t mind it either, but it’s about finding the time and the headspace to do so. So satisfying however when it all comes together! I have garments that I just love and don’t want to have to stop wearing, I just recently ‘invisibly’ mended the elbows of one of my beloved mohair cardi’s, and now its back in circulation (and I’m lovin’ myself sick!)

  4. I also love re-purposing and keeping loved items for a long time. I currently have a mending pile I’ve been turning a blind eye to…I’ll use this prompt to take out some thread and complete it.

  5. How right you are! I’m getting better at mending, I used to say I’d rather make from scratch than mend, but the visible mending thing means I don’t have to search for matching threads which I don’t always have. But yes for a really expensive item you do want it to be invisible but eventually you end up with a choice between landfill or repurpose – this is when the Visible Mend comes in to its own. For the future.. Mending skills will be hugely valued after the consumerist driven clothing industry collapses..

  6. Very prophetic indeed and just sums up the terrible state of this precious world ‘mending is what we do while governments fail to act’. When you look at the ridiculous ‘leaders’ we elect into power, no wonder. We need a few more ‘Gretas’ to stand up, be counted and lead us to a better way of living, but I fear commerce and big business will continue to block progress with their greed.

  7. Amen to your final statement, but also to the comparison between mending and meditation! Like you, I am a fan of not so visible mending in many settings. No one needs to know I’ve mended my work outfits, and I do not wish to draw attention to some of the places I mend pants either! On the other hand, socks, gardening jeans, undergarments and such sometimes get lavish visible mends and sometimes just get functional inelegant mending from me. I hope to live to be mending while governments take research-informed, robust action on climate.

  8. Thank you for this thoughtful post. While I’m forced to wait for political change to be effected by the toadish politicians at large, I will mend, march, write, speak, love, marvel and cherish. Myself, I’m proud to let my mending show, imperfect as it often is. Many drops WILL fill a bucket. Every stitch matters.

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