Mending has never been my favourite occupation, but I’m learning to appreciate the art more lately. Pled ing to buy no new clothes for several more months has sharpened my attention on making what I have last longer – giving clothes and accessories a new lease of life. Mending is getting a lot of attention too on social media. #tags like #makedoandmend, #visiblemending, #menditmay have been circulating on Twitter and Instagram, and it’s probably all rolled up with a backlash against fast fashion. Search for #slowfashion, #ethicalfashion.

I have a mending pile that is rising higher. Socks, winter tights, one fraying silk scarf, the worn cuffs and split seams of an old, but favourite, handmade blouse, and little holes in this and that. I’ve put down the new cardigan I was knitting and turned my mind to it. ‘It’ being the pile that I’ve been squirreling away in a spare room, out of sight, and more-or-less out of mind. The problem has been the starting, but once I’ve started I generally find it more therapeutic than I would have thought (once I have decided what to mend first and what to mend next).

Darned lace knit

Darned lace knit tights

Why the problem with starting? Possibly because it’s often more tempting to make or buy something new, or is it because the frayed articles with split seams are less than lovely to look at once they have reached that stage? Both are hard to ignore dis-incentives. Whilst I’m committed to the ‘buy nothing new’ for a while, followed by the ‘buy very little and buy selectively’ after that, and I’ve fully taken on the reasons why, I have a harder time with suspending the ‘make something new’. I like the creative process, the learning of skills and so many aspects of making stuff. So, on the plus side, I’m focussing on using my stash materials for new makes which certainly exercises the creative and resourceful brain cells. At the end of the day though, it’s pointless having perfectly good stuff sitting in a pile, not being used. The creative process and learning of skills that I associate with making new from scratch can also apply to mending. I just haven’t explored it enough yet.

Time to sort through it – get some rationale. First I need to help with the psychological effects of the less than lovely looking items. Take that old crumpled blouse, iron it, hang it up, snip the frayed cotton thread for now, imagine the worn cuffs and collar patched (visible or invisible mending?), the loose stitching replaced, and it becomes an item of potential. Sort out what to mend first, what might come second and the truly unlovable or unusable.

Blouse to mend

‘Liberty’ print blouse with frayed cuffs and split seam

On my list of what to mend first are:

  • Favourites
  • Easy to mend items
  • Handmade items in which much time has been invested
  • Most needed (would fill a gap in the wardrobe)

What to mend second: I guess these would be the ‘maybe favourites’, the slightly harder to mend and the ‘might be useful’. If you’re a minimalist, you will probably discount these anyway.

De-fuzzing comb

De-pilling comb

It’s the ‘hard to find the motivation’ category that I find interesting though.  Featuring high are the less-than-lovely bobbled and pilled fabrics and knits, which, generally, have synthetic fibres in their mix (because those are the fibres most prone to pilling). You can fix that hole but the pills are scattered over the whole garment. You can run a de-pilling comb over it, but you have to keep going in repeat mode.

Those acrylic/wool mixes just don’t look good for long. I much prefer natural fibres and aim to gradually transition to a more natural-fibred wardrobe. Meanwhile I’m looking at the ‘hard to find the motivation’ pile and annoyingly the phrase ‘there no such thing as away’ passes through my mind. Go away that phrase – how inconvenient! The first time it seared itself into my mind was when watching It’s Not Easy Being Green back in 2006. I have the book.  Since then news has got around that charity shops are overwhelmed with our donations, and much of it gets sent abroad, creating other problems.  Recycling or donating your unwanted clothes ‘is not a solution’ for the planet says Greenpeace. It’s a sobering thought. What to do with the unloved pile? Make mends into attractive embellishments and send them to a charity shop in the hope that they will find a second home? I have no answer at present, so the pile will sit there while I ponder. Any suggestions?

Then I come on to black ankle socks, complete with holes. I’ve been very boring with my sock repertoire so I have a few of these. They go very well with dark jeans because if you are on the short side (like I am), socks that merge in with your jeans trick the eye into seeing longer legs than are actually there. The trouble is they are another hard-to-love item, BUT as I’m trying not buy new (even socks) I will mend with a creative mend (earthy coloured darns maybe). Sock knitting in pure wool is on the horizon, where I will try to break my black sock habit with something more interesting. When they need darning, I think I will be more easily inspired.

So, are you motivated to mend? Need some help?

Try Make Do and Mend: Keeping Family and Home Afloat on War Rations, a reprint of a very useful book for invisible mending. Tom of Holland is all about mending, and runs workshops. Search the #tags at the beginning of this post. There’s no end of inspiration to be found. If you aren’t a sewer, you’ll find that a few basic stitches go a long way, and you might also find that it’s the road towards upcycling clothes then making new from scratch.

Coming full circle, once my wardrobe is smaller (after a spell of not buying new and then buying more selectively) and the quality of materials better, there will be a smaller mending pile of items that age better and mend more attractively.