Stitching threads together. Binding what was once a frayed end. A hole transforms into a neatly woven shape.
This is the practice of mending. As I have reflected on my own practice in textiles and more specifically, mending, and have reached the conclusion that there’s much more to mending than, well, mending, I’ve realized the true beauty it holds. I’m writing here to share that.
As mending gains popularity once again, I feel this urgency to point out the things it is – sustainability and mindfulness aside.
I’m talking about the way it weaves the past, present, and future together. I’m talking about that thread that reaches through time and space.
Take a sock for instance. We can say that this sock is from the past, its hole also from the past though the more recent past, but it is here with us in the present. This present is the future if we are looking from the past and it is the past if we are looking from the future. That is why we must ground ourselves in what we perceive as the most controlled, the most tangible: the present.
Onward to the mend as a familial practice…
In regards to my own mending practice, it’s ultimately much more than simply my practice, as most things are.
I’ve been looking at it differently.
Mending: It’s a familial practice. These techniques I’m employing have only recently gone out of popular use due to industrial manufacturing. Most of our mothers (if you are around my age of mid-twenties or older) and grandmothers know these techniques. Perhaps they’ve passed them down to you.
Through my exploration, I’ve spoken to my Mother and Grandmother for advice; I’ve learnt so much from them. I feel I’m reconnecting to my child-self in the mediums I’m using.
My Grandma taught me to crochet at a young age. My Grandma and Mother taught me to hand-stitch and to sew on a machine. I used to sew often by machine: I’d make clothing mostly. As I aged I followed a different path for a while, using different mediums in my artistic practice.
Now that I am bathing in these textile waters once again, my Grandma has passed down her sewing supplies to me, including her Grandmother’s darning thread and wooden sewing box.
I chat with my Grandma frequently about the woes and highs of these slow-going, mindful, handmade practices. Our most recent conversation shed light on her family history surrounding hand stitching practices. My Grandma’s Grandmother was one of twelve siblings. The sisters among them, along with their children, would sew together. They’d gather round a large quilting frame and would each stitch different parts of the quilt, completing it collaboratively.
I’ve pondered on this communal experience. Is sewing still practiced in an intimate gathering? Or has it turned towards a more individualized approach?
Coincidentally, my Grandma’s Grandmother taught her to sew. She mentioned this to me as she was expressing her joy in our shared connection to sewing and in the skills she has taught me. I think of this each time I use the sewing items she’s passed down to me. I think of this connection even while I am not using her items.
Each person who acquires my pieces or receives my mending is also receiving a history: my family ties. So much is woven into these threads.
As I touch the loose string of your shirt, I am transferring the energy of this history. I am weaving this history into the threads of your shirt via the threads of my Great-Great-Grandmother.
This history then lives in your shirt, and in turn lives with you. In time, when that mend itself needs mending, that history is reinforced. Threads carry a memory.
I am reminded of Grandmothers and Mothers mending articles of clothing for their families, for their children. Mending is a love language. Let me mend this hole in your sweater so that you may be warm again. Let me mend this snag in your jacket so it will not fall apart. Let me design a special mend just for you, just for the pattern of these pants. Mending is working with what you have – a faulty, or maybe even broken, item and bringing functional beauty to the mix. In its culmination, you create something completely unique. Through the process, there are also opportunities to create your own method, your own stitch, your own pattern. This heightens the uniqueness and the care involved. You’re extending the life of this thing. You’re adding your own touch to the touch of someone else, the someone else who first made this thing.
And so in this way, while I’ve been moving forward and making for the future, growing further from these deceased family members, I’ve actually been stitching the past to the present, to the future. I’ve been facing backwards in this forward-moving vehicle. And I didn’t notice it until this moment.
Let me weave time, love, and history into your clothing, into your home. This is a gift that only grows with future time.
by Maria Cline