9.22.2014

Visible Mending, Sashiko, and Wabi Sabi


By now I think my love affair with visible mending and Sashiko is public knowledge. I have confessed my love several times and will do it here once again: I love this stitch for visible mending. I can't get enough of it truly. The more I research Sashiko, Boro, and visible mending the more I fall deeply and madly and also head over heels. In love.

I can't ignore the influence of Natalie Chanin's careful stitch work, her beginnings using secondhand t-shirts, and the amazing advocacy work she continues for the slow fashion movement. I also see the quilting movement and more particularly the Quilts of Gees Bend exhibition all influencing my interest in visible mending and using patches, stitches, and an imperfect aesthetic to promote the life of our beloved blue jeans. Also, I must add the Japanese concept of wabi sabi to this mix. (That's a link to a lovely, succinct article about wabi sabi if you're new to the term.)



I think that's my visible mending lineage: Sashiko, Boro, Natalie Chanin, the Quilts of Gees Bend, and wabi sabi. Add this to my background in environmental studies, poetry, book arts, and textiles and you somehow arrive to where I'm at today with visible mending and slow fashion. Oh, the journey of our creations and interests and how they twist and morph until they arrive exactly where we are at this exact moment in time. The journey.


I just finished this visible mending project on my husband's work pants. There was a small tear in the right knee and I wanted to fix the hole before it became a gash. In abstaining from new clothing for one year for the Make Thrift Mend project, one of the things we noticed quickly was that our favorite pants grew holes in the knees almost predictably. And much too quickly for our liking. So my mending pile is not at any risk of being depleted: the tears in our knees are keeping me busy. It's another reason to consider raw denim, I suppose.



So as his third pair of pants was added to my mending pile I decided to tackle this tiny hole first. I darned it with matching thread and then used the Sashiko stitch to reinforce a denim patch from behind. (I'll talk more about the details and options for visible mending techniques in my upcoming class Slow Fashion Style.)

He went to work wearing these mended pants this morning so I think that's a good sign. I am definitely learning that it makes more sense to invest in higher quality clothing upfront so that the garment will wear longer, we'll care for it more attentively, and when it comes time for mending it is definitely worth the investment of time and handwork. I'm also learning when it might be best to use a visible patch and when it might be better to use subtle stitches. It's all part of the journey.


Mostly, I love the idea of tending to our clothing as it ages, protecting it against damage, and following its natural aging process as an opportunity for expression and preservation. Let the stitches be the wrinkles, the patches be the age marks, and the darned holes be the persistent smile lines we all deserve. If our characters are defined as we age, perhaps our wardrobes can be too.

xoxo
k.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you and thank you. xo

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    1. You are very welcome. xo

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  2. Soooo looking forward to learning how to do this!!

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    1. Hooray! Looking forward to sharing it with the class.

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  3. I never reach the end of my mending pile, most especially my husband's jeans. And can probably count on my son to keep the tradition going. ;)

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    1. So true! I have not yet reached the bottom of my mending pile either. But this stitch actually motivates me to TRY. That seems like half the battle. Cheers to sons and husbands keeping our piles alive :)

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  4. Because I love denim, I have years worth of my husband's old jeans, all with massive holes in the knees, saved. I am going to dig them out and see if I can rescue at least some of them. I find it rather depressing how fast those holes appear.... Looking forward to your Slow Fashion workshop!

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    1. Me too. I find it frustrating how fast the holes and tears appear in denim. Especially in the knees. Yes, I do think visible mending has the chance to preserve some of our beloved denim. I have to believe.

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  5. Your work is lovely, but your words seem even more valuable, your wisdom... I'm looking forward to begin the course!

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    1. That's very kind. Thank you. I think I'm happiest when my various passions in art, writing, and craft can all coalesce. Hoping that will be the case in this workshop too. My fingers are crossed.

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  6. Hi. I came to your site via a post on FB. I'm a long time former professional seamstress. Mending made my living for years. I grew up in poverty where mending was a survival strategy. I never had "new" clothes growing up and rarely brought them as an adult, still preferring thrift stores and yard sales. Mending, fixing, altering - these are the skills I excelled at. And I particular, making the changes either look deliberate or unnoticeable. A friend has been trying to bring me around to the idea of visible mending. Your article has got me thinking more about it. And, to my surprise, this weekend I saw it in action and on stage -- several members of the bands touring with Nightwish have visible jeans repaired in ways that I see on this site. Thought you might find that fun to know.

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    1. Hello Dany,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I highly admire the skills and expertise of seasoned seamstresses. Yes, I do think there's a shift in mentality in visible mending--an opportunity to reclaim our garments in a personalized and "perfectly imperfect" nature. And yet I also understand the desire to hide the imperfections--this feels like life work to me as I age and learn to embrace my own imperfections too. Thanks so much for your comments. xo

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Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.