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Skills: Visible Mending with Olivia

Going forward we will feature interviews with women with inspiring skills. We ask them about their interests, how sustainability influences their craft, and any tips they can share with us. Today on the blog we interview Olivia, who does beautiful visible mending. Enjoy!

My name is Olivia. I have a disability, which has caused me to be bed-bound in the past and puts a limit on what I am able to do. Luckily, I have always had the blessing of escaping into making. I feel that my physical pain pushes me further into exploring what my hands can do next. For a while, I neglected my passion for textiles because I was focused on drawing. But I now feel very happy to be joined with a needle and thread. Mending is fast becoming a true and honest love.

What sparked your interest in visible mending?

It was relatively recently that I became interested in visible mending; it was when my cardigan, that once belonged to my granny, became riddled with holes that I looked into darning. I had a sudden fear that this precious scruffy item of clothing was going to disintegrate into tatters, and it would be my fault because I hadn’t looked after it. As I taught myself this simple way of mending I felt closer to my granny, as if it was her teaching me, and the cardigan took on a new meaning for me.

Have you noticed a change in how people care for their clothes? Do you think there is a difference in how we perceive value in the garments we own?

Yes! Patching and darning are being appreciated for their sustainability as well as the art in it. Whilst I was working in the Cloth House Soho store, I noticed customers coming in to buy fabric to repair a beloved item, like replacing the lining for a jacket instead of buying a new one. I think people are moving away from mass produced fashion and embracing a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly attitude to clothing.

What has been your favourite mending project or challenge?

It’s difficult to pick a favourite, but perhaps when I was commissioned by Cloth House to make cushions out of incredible vintage Banjara textiles pieces. It opened up this idea that visible mending had the potential of becoming a way I could earn my rent. I made twenty cushions and each one required something different. I added patches as well as darning and embroidery repair work. I loved choosing the colours I would work with and seeing the final result.

You have a very illustrative, unique mending style. How do you get creative with your mending?

I see each one as a story. Darning requires you to become close to the item; not only in the way you handle it, but also imagining where it’s been and the hands that have plucked at the holes and what repetitive everyday acts created the damage to the cuffs.

Do you have any tips for people who would like to make mending part of their wardrobe routine?

I learnt from a simple tutorial I found on YouTube, but there are also classes you could go to. It’s just about making a start and continuing. Surrender to the fact that mending takes time, and enjoy what you make.


Thank you, Olivia!
You can follow her mending adventures here


Team Selkie

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