For most of our grandparents’ generation, mending worn-down clothes was an unsurprising task. From a young age, our female ancestors were taught to sew, whether that be through classes at school or by other relatives. It was a skill deemed to be necessary for family life, repairing and repairing until there were no traces of the original garment in sight. From an financial perspective, why on earth would you replace clothing items that could easily be mended.
The rise of fast fashion, the next-day delivery, sweatshop-produced, clothes costing a penny and lasting a second, shifted attitudes towards mending. New clothing items are more accessible than they used to be. The seasonal trends dictate and circulate what is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of fashion, leading to consumers wanting more and more. The accepted behaviour was, and still is to some extent, to throw away the old and replace them with shiny new fashion items.
Now with the environment on our minds more than ever, many of us are learning about new ways to be sustainable. Mending clothes is more important than ever, although this time, this is an environmental rather than a financial decision. While donating clothes, selling on Depop or recycling garments is preferred to the bin, mending clothes actually requires the least amount of energy. In spite of this, does our generation have the mending skills like our grandparents did?
Mending clothes can feel like an impossible task for less dexterous or artistic people. You may find yourself feeling confused about where to even begin, or what kinds of tools and stitches are necessary to fix your garment. If you are completely lost, there are people out there who want to help you. In London, there are various mending workshops, run by companies including Loop London and Leftover Threads. Workshops are even available online, run by Ray Stitch, Crafts Council and more.
We had the honour of speaking with Skye Pennant, the founder of Slow Stitch Club, a warming community of menders. Skye hosts workshops on darning and mending, as she was shocked when her fashion course ignored the mending side of fashion. We asked her the following question about mending:
What advice would you give to people who would like to mend an item?
“I think to start with, I would say sit with it. If you have a jumper that has some holes in it, I would figure out what it is about the jumper that you love. Colour is also really important and it’s something that I want people to get right. I’ve done it tonnes before where I’ve mended something and I hadn’t really thought about how it was going to look. When I mended it, I actually then didn’t want to mend it. I think the first step is figuring out why you like that piece of clothing to begin with because then it can alter how you decide to mend it”.