This orange jumper I own is not a very good piece of clothing. It’s somehow capable of failing to keep me warm and making me sweaty at the same time. The cotton structure is now so stretched that it loses its shape only one or two wears after it’s washed, the elbows distending and the body sagging. Worse still, the knit is slowly unravelling, and with each passing year more holes and more frayed ends appear.
However, I can’t help but love it regardless. These flaws are also what make me unreasonably attached to it. It brings to mind the Japanese concept of ‘wabi-sabi,’ finding beauty in the imperfections. So, for every hole and frayed end that appears, I make attempts to repair it, extend the lifespan a little longer.
The process I used, darning, is not overly complicated to learn or execute. It’s simple enough, in fact, that I did it a few times before knowing there was a name for it. While traditionally used to mend holes in knits, darning is a robust enough technique that it can be applied to any number of fabrics. The process of darning uses new yarn or thread to create intersecting up-and-down (Warp) threads and left-and-right (Weft) threads. From a distance, the end result can blend in well enough to go unnoticed, given an appropriate choice of thread colour and thickness. At the same time, it maintains a rather rustic, home-y look to it; a darned repair always looks like it was done by hand, mostly likely by the fireside in solitude.
The first few repairs I made were intended to be covert, as at the time my motivation for repairs was to ‘restore’ the jumper to its original state as much as possible. As time passed, however, I stumbled across Tom van Deijnen’s Visible Mending Programme and read a copy of Mend & Patch by Kerstin Neumüller, which both helped me develop an appreciation for the charm of a more pronounced mend. Experimenting with contrasting colour thread has helped me to embrace visible repairs, and the personality they help lend to a garment.
This is not an absolute, however. There are some clothes I own where they may become discreetly or prematurely damaged, and a loud repair would subtract, not add, to their appeal. What is an absolute is the connection that can be made between clothes and their owner by making repairs, as overt or covert as they may be. By taking the time to mend my jumper, it has become, definitively and undoubtedly, mine. I look forward to many more years of this ritual, hunched over with a needle in my hand, doting on a piece of clothing I really should have thrown out by now.