I’ve become quite smitten with the idea of Darning As Art. The origin of the idea did not spring forth from my head like Athena did from Zeus. I discovered it in the blog Tom of Holland. He calls it Visual Mending. All I can say is, I can see endless possibilities in which the skill of darning crosses over into and becomes art.
The basic idea is to conserve well lived-in clothing. A while back, I had written that I rarely knit myself sweaters because I’m afraid to wear them. I don’t want them to become worn. It would kill a little bit of my heart and soul if I had to chuck a hand-knit sweater. But in what Tom does, the mending becomes a visual part of the item, adding character, charm, interest, another story line, entwining another life with the original and thus giving it continued life. Visual Mending is a wonderful way of conserving and being able to continue to use clothing that can’t be mended invisibly. What I love about it is it doesn’t pretend to make the garment look like new. Instead, the mending itself becomes a form of art adding to the personality of the garment.
The picture above is an example of different mending styles. The mending was done in crewel wool. Below is the close up of the work.
This whole idea took me back to my teenage years in the 1960s. Every pair of jeans I wore were carefully repaired with needle and embroidery thread in worn out areas. They were a constant work of art in progress. The Home Economics teacher and the Art teacher always stopped me to see if I had embroidered any new designs. I was able to enjoy wearing my jeans and extend their usefulness in colorful and fun ways. I had forgotten about this until I saw Tom’s blog.
Don’t get me wrong, it takes a fine skill with needle and thread to do the work that Tom does. But I am eager to explore the various mending patterns out there and try my hand at it. I keep thinking, what if mending patterns were intentionally included in the original knitted piece? As both a form of decoration and in the places most likely to get worn out first? This idea keeps running around in my head and I am already designing a little boy sweater that will incorporate intentional mending.
I find it interesting, in an almost inexplicable way, that in the myriad of knitting books, and knit wear design books, little if anything is mentioned about the skill and art of mending. I have The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt and of the 790 plus pages only 1 page briefly mentions mending. How absurd that mending would not be given as much attention as the knitting itself. After all, I am not, for the most part, knitting garments out of stainless steel wool (though I have ruminated on the possibility). I am knitting garments meant to be worn and enjoyed and I can’t do that if I am fearful of ruining it.
In some ways, Tom’s Visual Mending, has given me the freedom to knit items for myself and opened a way for me to feel good wearing them. After all, isn’t having to be mended a sign that something has been both well-loved and well-worn?