Category : Textiles
Date : November 19, 2014

The thermometer’s mercury slid to a new seasonal low this morning, 16 degrees F.  Thankfully, outdoor chores—putting the garden to bed, storing onions and garlic, drying goldenrod and mugwort, raking leaves, and storing hoses, etc.—have been completed and my mind turns to the roster of indoor tasks: mending, sewing, weaving and knitting.

My friend Audra Wolowiec sent me a treasure in the post—a piece of fabric purchased at a yard sale with lovely mending. What causes one to repair, and once darned, to save, store and cherish? Earlier generations were trained to mend and darn; an exquisite 1711 darning sampler found in the Cooper Hewitt’s collection provides visual testament to both skill and beauty. The description reads like a poetry: “…fifteen mending crosses and two corner mends, with picot edgings, a center GD 1711, surmounted by a crown.”


Even though I received my Girl Scout badge for sewing and attempted many embroidery stitches as a teenager, my hands lack the skills to complete the delicate inter-lacings of thread. Proudly, I recently completed my Alabama Chanin D.I.Y. skirt, and although there are thousands of stitches on this skirt, their lack of consistency compels me to become more proficient in the needle arts. Where do I find a school that will teach me the stitches outlined in Catherine Beecher’s 1843 book, A Treatise on Domestic Economy:

“Every young girl should be taught to do the following kinds of stitch, with propriety. Overstitch, hemming, running, felling, stitching, back-stitch and run, button-stitch, chain-stitch, whipping, darning, gathering and cross-stitch.”

If I lived in United Kingdom, I would register for Tom van Deijnen’s darning class in just two day’s time in Dalston, London. Van Deijnen started The Visible Mending Programme, which:

“…seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind the garment and repair, the Programme reinforces the relationship between the wearer and garment, leading to people wearing existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn being worn as a badge of honor.”

Indeed, why not accent the mending on one’s beloved sweater, for example, with contrasting thread, thus reinforcing both metaphorically and literally, its importance? After all, does a garment really need to be discarded due to a hole or rip?

“Darning Sampler, 1711.”, Accessed on November 19, 2014.

Mirra Bank, Anonymous Was A Woman: A celebration in words and images of tradition American art—and the women who made it, (St. Martin’s Press, 1979), pg. 24.

“About Tom Holland.”, Tom van Deijnen, accessed on November 19, 2014.

Comment (1)


Not that I am one to speak, having failed sewing when I stitched the sampler onto my skirt… by the time the nun was through cutting it off, I had nothing to show for my hard labor. Maybe that is why I admire sewers so much. I also appreciate the signs that time and usage leave on us all. So I applaud your idea of “mending on one’s beloved sweater, for example, with contrasting thread, thus reinforcing both metaphorically and literally, its importance.” Great blog!

10 years ago

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