Modern Mending

21 May 2020
Modern Mending

I can't sew. Okay I'll take that back. I can do basic hand sewing with backstitch being one of of the only stitches I remember as an adult and can somehow do in a straight-ish line. I used to be under the impression having little to no sewing skills means you couldn't repair clothes properly and if you tried, well then the world couldn't see your attempt. Turns out you don't need professional sewing skills to mend clothing (hurrah). All you need is the book Modern Mending by Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald and a basic mending kit to get you started. I liked Erin's book so much I put my endorsement on the front cover. True story. 

If you have been a long time reader of my blog you might recall a post about a small electrical repair enterprise called Bright Sparks. After the (sad) end of Bright Sparks owner Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald  began offering clothing repairs. The style was not the mending I was used to. It was called 'modern mending' and everyone could see it! Stitches or whatever application placed over the hole in your clothing was thereto be seen, a rebellious gesture to the hyper consumer world showing you cared about your clothing and all the resources that went into making it.

I commissioned Erin to mend holes on my much loved green speakers shirt. She not only fixed the the holes but also added personality to my top. From there I was hooked. So hooked I asked Erin to contribute to my first book sharing her mending tips. Over the years Erin has unsurprisingly become a highly sought after teacher and spokesperson in the mending and repair space with her workshops continuously booking out, face popping up in publications, media and voice on the radio.

I had wanted to participate in one of her mending workshops but always missed out. Erin was adamant no one has to be a great sewer to mend, they simply needed to try. She really believes anyone can make do and mend. So when she told me a book was in the works I was delighted. Finally I could have Erin's knowledge and guidance at home with me.

Years of teaching visible mending helped Erin create a book that is for everyone. When I first sat down to read it and try my hand at mending my three year olds pants it felt like like Erin was holding my hand as I worked through the new to me techniques. And I really enjoyed the humour sprinkled throughout.

Around the time I received Erin's book for an advanced reading Woolykins reached out to me asking if i'd like to try their mending kit. It felt serendipitous so I said yes.

My own sewing kit is basic (created by Mum, master sewer extraordinaire!) and has served me well for my basic level of sewing and repairs. Erin does explain in her book how to create a mending kit on your own with second-hand thread, patches and other items handy for mending. But if you are like me, a ready made mending kit was really REALLY helpful to get started and try a variety of techniques. My local secondhand store don't have robust sewing supplies like stores in other areas. And I don't really have anyone to ask for donations. Except Mum. But like most sewers I doubt she would relinquish too much from her own sewing kit just yet, holding onto all her much loved tools, thread and scraps. Luckily the Woolykins Mending Kit is available on Erin's online mending store along with a growing variety of items specific for modern mending.

Modern Mending

Before I talk about Erin's book, let's look at the kit...

The Woolykins kit arrived by post in a cardboard box with a small amount of paper packaging materials. Both have been put into my child's craft pile and can be composted at home or recycled via kerb side recycling. Everything for the kit is packaged inside a cute blue bento style bag. Here is a list of what is inside the kit:

Darning mushroom made from reclaimed hardwood
Darning needles
Thread scissors
Dry felting needle
Biodegradable earth foam block
Needle threader
Thread card with assorted wool and alpaca yarns
Thread card with assorted line and cotton threads
Wool fabric patches
Linen fabric patches
Wool roving (the fluffy stuff)
Loose leaf tea

Thread cards, wool patches, and roving were inside home compostable zip lock bags by the company Better Packaging. These bags are a good option if you have a home compost but I'm not convinced the bags were needed for shipping. I understand moths would have a feast on the wool but perhaps advice on how to store to avoid this happening could work better. The bags clearly ask for re-use before composting and we will do that. The kit is plastic free a commitment I like.

Modern Mending
My red jumper pre-mend


When I saw the red wool thread in the mending kit I immediately jumped for joy. A much loved red woollen jumper has been sitting in my mending pile for about a year and the red thread matched the jumper perfectly. After completing some basic mends on my sons pants I decided it was time to attempt my fave jumper with the help of Erin's book.

This red woollen jumper was purchased second-hand in Hobart sometime in 2014. You'll easily see me wearing this every other day from autumn through to early spring. With its frequent wearing holes developed under both arms, one on the hem, a hole near the breast, the beginnings of another under that one, and lastly small dark blemishes on the bottom left.

There are five technique themes in the book ranging from beginner to more experienced. I of course kept to the beginner steps. Here are some photos of the book to give you an idea of info and layout:


First up the holes were darned using the classic darning method. I did have to start the first one several times since the weave of the wool was fine. But once I began to understand the fabric (something Erin helps with in Fabric 101 at the start) and the right darning needle, it became easier to do. In hindsight I should have practiced on the holes under the arms.

A glimpse at what needed mending


After the two holes near the breast were mended I decided to sew a heart around each one mimicking the large heart already on the jumper. Both were a little wonky but I liked them. I did use templates I cut out on scrap paper to help sew a heart shape.

Once the holes were mended I was a little stumped on how to cover the small stains.  As I flicked through Erins mending guide I kept coming back to needle felting using wool from the jumper. I could needle felt a heart shape over the stain and the two darning mends higher up the jumper.

Needle felting is essentially taking a clump of wool and pushing it into the fabric where it somehow magically stays. I didn't have an exact colour match for my jumper so I took Erin's advice to use wool from the same jumper, pulled out my wool comb/sweater comb. Well it worked and I'm pleased with how the hearts turned out. I was so impressed I considered offering commissions myself. Kidding. I have enough worn knees on my childs pants to keep me busy. 

Modern Mending
Needle felting in progress

I looked forward to working on my jumper after my toddler went to bed each night, enjoying the meditative task to unwind from a busy day. My mum tried really hard to teach me to sew when I was a child but I didn't enjoy how slow and fiddly sewing was. Admittedly I was around eight years old and even more stubborn then. Getting into modern mending has helped boost my confidence to try learning sewing again and once classes open up after this peculiar time I look forward to joining. 

Erin's book has a lot of photos and illustrations making it very easy to follow along. I appreciated the close up photos and detailed step by steps provided. It was simple for me to figure out if I was doing something right or not. Her writing is down to earth and chatty but straightforward where it needs to be. You can tell from the text Erin is passionate about mending and reducing fashion waste. Modern Mending isn't only about mending; creativity, problem solving, and activism is also at the heart of this book.

Modern Mending
I'm not sure why the photo has blurred but you get the idea :)
Modern Mending
Finished!

Modern Mending
Another photo because I'm proud as punch :)

I couldn't wait to put on my “new” jumper. When I left the house for our afternoon walk I wanted to tell everyone we met I fixed my own jumper. I darned holes. I needle felted. I learnt a new skill. On reflection I think what I really wanted to tell people was I can look after my clothes and stop them from going to landfill, so can you. Visibly mending clothing is a growing trend and it's no wonder Erin's book is a popular resource leading the way.

Modern Mending is available at all good book stores and online.

The Woolykins mending kit can be found on their website and at Modern Mending Shop, Erin's mending supply store.

SCRAP, Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize

8 May 2020

Last year I took a road trip to visit my grandparents on the South Coast of New South Wales. The journey required a detour to the very tiny village of Swanpool, 20 minutes off the highway, in country Victoria. My sister and her family had left behind car roof racks when they finished their housesit in the village. Since they were now in Sydney it was easier for me to collect the roof racks on the way through.

I jumped out of the car quickly to collect my sisters things hoping kiddo would stay asleep in the backseat. But as I started chatting with the owner of the house my son woke up. I had hoped he would stay sleeping so we could stop further along the highway. Seeing anxiety on my face as cries grew louder the kind person suggested I visit the local hall for the Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize and have something to eat.

I only heard the words “art prize” and “eat.” Eating was a good idea for both of us but art prize, maybe not. I drove up the road to the Swanpool Memorial Hall hoping there was a small park at least because a cranky toddler wandering around an art show is the perfect disaster recipe.

Surprisingly the carpark was busy and as I started to undo my seat belt the dark clouds I had been driving under let fourth the rain I had been hoping to avoid. The art prize it was.

Related blog post: The Ersatz Fantasia Project

As we settled down to enjoy a scrumptious home cooked lunch and piece of cake I looked over the literature given to me on our arrival. The exhibition was dedicated to recycled art.

A war on waste art show.

Was it fate a zero-waste advocate stumbled upon an art show made of rubbish?

I eyed my son. Judging by his calm behaviour I knew the energy from his lunch had not kicked in yet. So I had at least 30 minutes before he needed to burn that energy off. The art would be safe.

The Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize is the largest exhibition of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Entries must be created from at least 75% recycled material, including salvaged or repurposed materials. The work can be wearable, functional and artistic pieces, outdoor art, two and three dimensional works and more.

I was very impressed with the entries and decided to snap a couple of photos to share on the blog.

This would be a great exhibition to visit with kids. My then 2.5 yr old loved everything but I think older kids would get a lot out of seeing how waste can be repurposed and how art can be used to make comment on environmental and social issues.

At the moment the 2020 Swanpool Creative Recycled Art Prize is planned to run from Saturday 1 August to Sunday 16 August.

Entry forms are available online: www.swanpoolanddistrict.com.au/scrap-2020-update.html





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