Organizing a Mending Circle
Last week, as part of my project, Make Thrift Mend, I hosted a mending circle with my dear friend, Mati Rose McDonough, at her studio space in Teahouse Studio. We invited a handful of local artists and simply asked that each person bring something to mend, some basic sewing supplies, and a bit of food to share. Local artists, Courtney Cerruti, Rachel T. Robertson, Jen Lake, and out-of-town guest, Cal Patch, joined Mati and I for an evening of mending. It really was the simplest gathering I've hosted in years. No fuss. No food prep. No decorations. No hurry. No worry.
We gathered around a large table in Mati's studio and set to our mending. There were six of us and somehow we ended up with enough food for twelve, of course. But something about the low-fuss preparation really made it inviting and easy while staying focused on the reason we were together: to mend our threadbare garments. Wine, tea, chocolate, crackers, cheese, veggies, dips, and some sweets was plenty. We gathered at 7 o'clock on a Thursday night and by 9:30 we were cleaning up and walking out the front door. A true sign of our age, I suppose, as the late weeknights of yesteryear feel like just that in my toddler household--something of the past.
But two and a half hours was plenty. Some people brought a stack of easy mending fixes--holes in seams to be stitched up or pockets to be reattached. And some brought a more complicated project that took the entire time--holes to be patched in the knee of beloved denim or elbow patches to be applied to favorite cardigans.
We stitched. We bitched. We covered all the usual ground--husbands, partners, kiddos, books, movies, jobs, and even a lengthy conversation about the challenges in sourcing ethical, affordable, and machine-washable undergarments. I have one silk slip I've been wearing for nearly 15 years because it's that hard to replace. It seems that being unsatisfied with the options in undergarments was a common theme. (Maybe one that sustainable fashion designers will make obsolete soon enough?)
But the best part was simply making time to gather. Setting aside time in our busy lives to create community around crafting. And knowing that I would have good company while I darned the hole in my jeans was amazing motivation to pull them out of the to-do pile and make them wearable again. (For the record, I am wearing them as I type.) I only wish there was such community building in all my dreaded household chores--maybe a dusting circle would have the same appeal? Hmm, probably not.
I've started collecting images for pretty mending techniques over on Pinterest. Mending, darning, or patching the garments is only half the trick. Making them look good is another story. So I'm collecting images of inspirational techniques and it's opening my mind up to the design possibilities. Many of the folks from the mending circle posted photos over on Instagram and I was surprised by the feedback. So many people thought it was a great idea and expressed interest in hosting their own mending circle.
To this I say...yes! Host a mending circle! Invite a handful of friends, grab some wine, find some chocolate, and gather around a kitchen table to whittle down your mending pile. (And trust me, if you can learn to tie your shoelaces you can learn to mend. And I know that tying shoelaces is not something we know from birth because my two-year-old son requires Velcro. You can mend a simple straight stitch by hand, I pinkie swear.) Practical and a good excuse to gather with friends. Double win. I can't wait to host another one soon.