The Beauty of Mending

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A simple sewing kit, provided to sailors by the Navy League of the U.S. Ca. 1905-1940, Everett Collection.



THE AESTHETIC OF WEAR & TEAR

DE S I G N E D, E DI T E D A N D C U R AT E D BY M I L A E M B U RY

@T H E BE AU T YOF M E N DI NG

W W W. T H E B E A U T Y O F M E N D I N G . C O . U K

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CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INTRODUCTION

THE LOST ART

A STITCH IN TIME

P R E S E R VA T I O N

P R E C I O U S F L AW

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WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO PA JO T T E N

Z E N Z I E T I N K E R C O N S E R VA T I O N LT D

GOLDEN JOINERY

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‘British Invisible Mending Service’, 2020.


THE BEAUTY OF MENDING SINCE EVERY AGE AND EVERY PEOPLE HAVE HAD THEIR OWN FORM OF BEAUTY, WE INEVITABLY HAVE OURS. - CHARLES BAUDELAIRE

The incentive to create ‘The Beauty of Mending’ came from a concern for Western culture’s celebration of the young, pristine and untouched facets of fashion. Brand new clothing featured on glossy pages has become overwhelmingly repetitive. It encourages us to dispose and consume more, embracing fast fashion and the rejection of the clothes we revered last season. Inspired by the Japanese concepts of ‘Wabi-sabi’, which is the discovery of beauty in imperfection and ‘Kintsugi’, the act of repairing with gold, The Beauty of Mending aims to introduce this philosophy to Western society, specifically within the context of the garment industry. At the heart of this book’s message is the art of mending. For repair is crucial to creating a lasting relationship with our clothes. Instead of discarding, repair renews a garment, leaving behind it a visible sign.

To communicate ‘The Beauty of Mending’ principles, this book features imagery and words from Rebecca Barton from Pajotten, Golden Joinery and Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd. These contributors all have their own perspectives on mending, yet all value the importance of conserving, so that we can prolong the lifespan of garments. Whether it be due to their historical and emotional significance, the impact on the environment or the pure practical sense of mending, each contributor holds the art of repair in a high regard. This book aims to inspire to not just wear clothes, but to live in them. To encourage people to cherish their wardrobe, to relentlessly wear their favourite pieces time and time again. To patch, stitch and darn because buying new is not an option, you know you’ll never find anything quite like the clothes you already own and treasure. 7


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THE LOST ART “If you love something, then you’re not just going to throw it away because it gets old, you’re going to try to keep it for as long as you can.” - Rebecca Barton speaks to ‘The Beauty of Mending’ on slow fashion and the appeal of mending.

‘Denim Repair’ Rebecca Barton, 2020. 11


The art of mending is becoming an archaism. We used to mend out of necessity, clothing was costly, therefore to darn and patch made practical and economical sense. However, increasingly fashion has had the capability to become inexpensive. With the introduction of mass production machinery that can drastically reduce costs combined with the means for companies to outsource work to factories with lower rates, buying new has never before been so low-cost Rebecca Barton, founder of slow fashion brand Pajotten, and immediate. Yet, behind is someone who has continued to mend, and hopes the crowd of big brands to implement it within her brand’s service. “it’s like a and hungry consumers, growing thing and it just seems to kind of fit with what there is a contradictory we do and it’s something that we do quite naturally for movement on the rise. ourselves anyway.” Alongside her plans to start Pajotten People are continuing to repair workshops, Rebecca Barton’s sustainable brand mend, even with the modern ethos is also taken into account in every other aspect convenience of buying new of the business. The garments are produced in small with little expense, repair is quantities, with most being made to order. Pajotten something we have held on fabrics are sourced from high quality deadbolt sales to. and British manufacturers, each material selected for its low impact on the environment. The brand has also made the decision to not deliver to customers outside of Europe, Barton reveals, “We get lots of people emailing us from Japan and America and then we have to say ‘No, we’re really sorry.’ It’s nice but then you think, if you’re so keen on sustainable fashion, why would you then order from a company that’s so far away?”

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‘Denim Repair’ Rebecca Barton, 2020.

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‘Pajotten Studio’ @pajotten

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‘Denim Repair’ Rebecca Barton, 2020.

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‘Ben’s Denim Jacket’, Rebecca Barton. 16


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‘Pajotten Studio’ @pajotten 18


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‘Ben’s Denim Jacket’, Rebecca Barton. 20


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Barton admittedly wasn’t always keen on mending, reflecting on her childhood; “I think I’ve got hangups that my mum patched my clothes.” Instead, Barton favours mending her partner’s denim jacket and overalls, “Ben can’t use a machine, so I do his patching and I really like doing it. Every now and again he goes ‘I think maybe these overalls have seen the end’ and I say ‘No, they’ll keep on going.’” Her partner’s treasured denim jacket is his second, as the When clothing is worn to the point where it is required original was stolen. “Ben had to be mended, it is evidence that the item has been a really good denim jacket, well loved. Each sign of visible wear and tear reveals a it was only like a Gap denim story. Barton concurs with this suggestion, “Ben uses his jacket, from about 30 years clothes quite physically, he does a lot of outside work, ago and it was patched to so all of the holes have been kind of earned. (…) You’re an inch of it’s life. (...) we never going to get a garment that you just wear once bought another denim jacket or twice getting holes in it, it’s always because you’ve after the previous was taken, just worn it relentlessly for years and years.” Barton’s so now the ‘newer’ one is 25 repairs of her partner’s pieces aren’t trying to hide the years old and it’s got load and tears and imperfections in the denim. Her stitching isn’t loads of patches on it.” trying to emulate what the item originally looked like. Instead it embraces the loose threads and rough edges that prove the denim has been lived in. Barton’s beautiful repairs make the item wearable again and allow them to continue to be well-worn and cherished, “I just really like that once you’ve mended something, because you’ve interacted with it, it becomes more of a thing that you want to hold onto forever.”

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‘Pajotten Studio’ @pajotten

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‘Ben’s Denim Jacket’, Rebecca Barton. 24


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A STITCH IN TIME Glimpse behind the scenes at the Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd, a place where history is repaired. Discover the treasured artefacts that have become tattered and decrepit over time and have been entrusted to the skilled hands of the conservators to restore what once was.

Conservator at Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd reattaching original linen lining to an 18th Century bed cloth from Leeds Castle. 29


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Conservator at Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd reattaching original linen lining to an 18th Century bed cloth from Leeds Castle.

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Conservator at Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd reattaching original linen lining to an 18th Century bed cloth from Leeds Castle.


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Details from a late 17th Century English Soho tapestry owned by the National Trust, currently undergoing conservation at Zenzie Tinker Conservation. 35


At Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd, the staff specialise in restoring and mending aged artefacts which are beginning to deteriorate. Their craft of reviving pieces to their original state is a delicate process which they undertake for various clients, including the National Trust and Brighton Museum. The studio is a trove of historical garments, each piece with it’s own specific flaw in need of fixing. For some pieces that means motheaten fabrics and threadbare surfaces, for others it may mean missing components in need of replacement. Those working under Zenzie Tinker have the challenge of replicating how the garment originally looked when first created. This involves skill and technique to source the correct colours and materials to seamlessly restore each individual item. The artefacts that are worked on within the studio change, week upon week and can range from a 17th century Soho Chinoise-style tapestry to a Botswanian hide costume, complete with beaded trim. It’s a studio of curiosities, marvel upon marvel, different parts of history and culture, amalgamating in one room. The Zenzie Tinker team are ensuring that pieces of history are conserved so their story can continue to be re-told to future generations.

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Details from a late 17th Century English Soho tapestry owned by the National Trust, currently undergoing conservation at Zenzie Tinker Conservation.


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Details from a late 17th Century English Soho tapestry owned by the National Trust, currently undergoing conservation at Zenzie Tinker Conservation.


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When The Beauty of Mending visited the studio, one conservator was working on reattaching original linen lining to an 18th Century bed cloth from Leeds Castle. This cream silk bed head-cloth featured painted silk ribbon and painted appliquÊ flower decorations. Another conservator was working on an English Soho tapestry from the late 17th Century owned by the National Trust. The dark brown weft of the tapestry was badly degraded due to the metal component in the dye mordant. Apparently, this is why outlines in tapestries disappear and are often rewoven and why chinoiserie tapestries with brown backgrounds often have large areas of reweaving. The conservator had to carefully integrate the conservation stitching into original and previously restored areas of the tapestry. Another artefact which was housed within the studio was a Polish World War II officer’s uniform, from a private collection. The army green jacket had visible damage from moths and the edges of the sleeve had been worn away, exposing the internal fibres.

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Polish World War II officer’s uniform, from a private collection undergoing treatment at Zenzie Tinker Conservation.

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Polish World War II officer’s uniform, from a private collection undergoing treatment at Zenzie Tinker Conservation. 42


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The Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd also works upon artefacts other than textiles. A specialist paper conservator working under Zenzie Tinker had the challenge of conserving an early 18th Century Dye recipe sample book from the Southwark Archive in London. Each of the 300 pages within the book required specific and careful attention. The paper had suffered deterioration from damp, mould and possibly an oil based spillage, causing the pages to become incredibly delicate and torn. The conservator used a technique called Melinex transfer, which involves creating uncoloured Japanese Tissue patches to reinforce and mend the fragile and missing areas of the paper. This mending process resulted in pale translucent patches that lined the edges of the yellowed paper, a stunning visible repair. The beauty in what conservators do can be found by acknowledging the lives behind the items they repair. Each piece they work upon has history’s touch upon its seams. Whether a jacket worn by a polish soldier, or a historic hide cloak worn by Botswanians’, Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd proves that history and mending will forever be intertwined.

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Polish World War II officer’s uniform, from a private collection undergoing treatment at Zenzie Tinker Conservation. 45


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Details of damaged fabric at Zenzie Tinker Conservation.

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Details during conservation of early 18th Century Dye recipe sample book from Southwark Archive, London. 48


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P R E S E RVAT I O N In the depths of our wardrobe, there festers something grotesque yet extraordinary. Betwixt the shadowy folds of our clothes, lies an underbelly of creatures which possess a beauty that most would not expect to find… until peering a little closer.

‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth. 53


The destructive nature of the clothes moth is no revelation to the well-versed mender. Their reputation for devouring valuable woollen knitwear and silken garments make them a creature whom many dread the sight of. We may discover a breach of our wardrobes when we pull on our beloved jumper to discover a collection of frayed holes in the sleeve. Or when we lift up the edge of a woven carpet to reveal clusters of threadbare patches beneath. The clothes moth is an elusive creature, preferring to dwell amongst the dark and undisturbed corners of our homes. Therefore, most have not laid eyes upon the surreal cocoons that the moth larvae weave from the consumption of our clothing. Possessing an appetite for natural fabrics, the larvae consume keratinous fibres whether it’s coloured a vivid blue or a shocking pink. This then becomes their casing, a fibrous shell which they camouflage themselves within. The cocoons become woven with intricate patterns, a labyrinth of coloured threads and fibres, intertwined to form something which could be considered a work of art. The following images unveil the bizarrely beautiful world of the Tinea pellionella larvae, a creature which wears what it eats.

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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.

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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.


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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.

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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.


‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.

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The mender and the moth is presumed to be at odds with each other, considering the clothes moth is an impediment to the preservation and beauty of our clothes. Yet by exposing the freakish artistry of the moth cocoons through this series of images, this villainous view of the moth is challenged. Instead, we are compelled to regard the moth as a designer. Alike the way humans design, we have to destroy to create. We extract fibres from silk moths by boiling them, we shear wool from sheep, we strip cotton from a plant. Equivalently, the moth larvae feed on our clothes to construct garments of their own, just as we consume resources from the natural world to form our own attire. Furthermore, both the moth and the mender intend to preserve. The mender aims to preserve the pristine quality of a garment whilst the moth larvae forms a cocoon to preserve itself. Preservation is at the heart of both the mender and the moth’s intent. And although the moth causes destruction to the garment, they create something beautiful as a result. Therefore the clothes moth embodies the notion that there is beauty to be found within imperfection. However, it is challenging for us to recognise the beauty within a behaviour which we perceive as destruction. It is also challenging to acknowledge that beauty can arise from a place of ugliness. But it’s there, if only we care to look a little closer.

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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.

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“BEAUTY IS NOW UNDERFOOT WHEREVER W E TA K E T H E T R O U B L E T O L O O K .” - JOHN CAGE

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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.

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‘Tinea pellionella’, The Case Bearing Clothes Moth.


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P R E C I O U S F L AW Golden Joinery values more than just the physical act of mending clothes. The therapeutic experience of mending within a group is at the heart of the brand’s philosophy. As to repair with gold, celebrates the flaws we often hide. When torn seams are pulled together by golden thread, people are brought together too.

‘Chair Covering’, Golden Joinery. 71


The Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold, known as ‘Kintsugi’, is a practice which creates beauty from the broken. Fragmented shards of pottery become whole again, as attention is purposefully drawn to the gilded cracks. Margreet Sweerts and Saskia van Drimmelen of the dutch collective ‘Painted Series’, had the idea to apply this concept of repairing with gold, to clothes. This idea was born after Margreet began to consider that the underprivileged mend their So in 2013, ’Golden Joinery’ was formed, a collaborative clothes out of necessity, fashion brand, of which anyone could be a part of, where however the act of repair repair was not something that should carry shame, but is often accompanied by was an empowering act. As founder Margreet spoke to negative perceptions and is The Beauty of Mending; “Mending is also something looked down upon. Inspired that is empowering you, to be able to repair things by the desire to change this and to make things with your hands.(…) It’s about notion, Margreet came to empowerment and about reclaiming the field of fashion, the conclusion that “by using it’s not from the big industries and brands, they don’t Kintsugi, it would make this have a monopoly on fashion.” This is the perspective repair honourable.” powering the Golden Joinery brand, one that rejects fast fashion. Rebelling against the modern social norms of encouraging consumers to dispose worn out clothes in favour of new items, instead Golden Joinery frames the act of mending in a desirable and enticing light. The brand wants us to have better relationships with our clothes, to treasure them. Margreet acknowledges that modern society is particularly to blame for disposable fashion, “Now, In these ages of technology (…) we don’t repair our clothes because we can buy new ones.”

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‘Chair Covering’, Golden Joinery.

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‘Chair Covering’, Golden Joinery.

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‘Chair Covering’, Golden Joinery.

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‘Chair Covering’, Golden Joinery. 76


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Another facet of the Golden Joinery philosophy is the significance that is placed on the emotional bond we have with our clothing and those around us. For Golden Joinery, the principle of Kintsugi is not exclusive to the practical necessity of repair but it’s also a metaphor for dealing with relationships. The brand places importance on the practice of Golden Joinery to be performed in groups of people, rather than by oneself. “I also believe that the act of repairing Margreet recalled an encounter she had within one of is a therapeutic act of self Golden Joinery’s workshops; “Lately we did a workshop -care, especially when and there was a woman who lost her husband a couple you do it together.” Within of months ago. She brought his jeans and she wanted to their workshops Margreet keep it with her, she was very emotional about it.” This and Saskia encourage demonstrates the emotional resonance clothing can participants to answer have, whether it be our own or that of our loved ones. We questions and share stories want to preserve these memories that we associate with about the clothing that a specific piece of clothing and by using gold, we can each attendee has brought, create a work of art and treasure it even more. Margreet creating an immediate sense expresses, “Every story has its own value even if it’s not of trust between strangers. an emotional story, you know, it’s always touching.” It is no surprise that clothing can carry such emotional weight for many, they become our second skin, the fabric stretches and moulds to the shape of our bodies over time, they become echoes of us. And just like skin, Golden Joinery calls their signature stitching, ‘golden scars’, Margreet explains “You really should celebrate life in its imperfection, and its scars, and its stories (…) Do not ignore that it cannot be the same again. Your skin has healed but it leaves a sign and it’s not bad. It’s just a sign of life.”

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‘Camisole’, Golden Joinery.

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‘Camisole’, Golden Joinery.


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‘Golden Clothes Hanger’

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‘Purple Cardigan’, Golden Joinery.


‘Purple Cardigan’, Golden Joinery.

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Within modern society there is a strive for perfection. Especially in the Western world, we often aim to project a pristine appearance, one that has no flaws. Returning to the beginning of Margreet Sweerts and Saskia van Drimmelen’s idea for their brand, Golden Joinery, we are reminded that Margreet was inspired by the desire to use Kintsugi to bring honour and value to the imperfections of our clothes. This hope came to fruition when Margreet had a chance encounter with This story encapsulates the beauty in what Golden a single mother, who had Joinery does. As not only does Golden Joinery create been struggling financially. physical beauty through the golden scars of mending, but This mother told Margreet, the concept of the brand has the power to heal and give “A friend of mine was at your a sense of worth to those who cannot afford to replace, workshop and he told me whether due to an emotional tie or an empty pocket. about it. Since then I have This validation is beautiful in itself. Saskia and Margreet bought golden thread and have created an opportunity for people to not only be I repaired the clothes of my proud of imperfections but to see the beauty within it. eight-year-old daughter. I At the core of the brand’s ethos, Margreet urges that “It feel so good about it and my is not about honouring the individualistic society, but it daughter is so happy with it is trying to create new practices of togetherness”. Golden now.” Joinery acts as the thread that draws people together, uniting people from all walks of life through mending and reflection.

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‘Golden Scar by Saskia van Drimmelen’, Golden Joinery, photographed by Fan Liao.

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‘Golden Scar by Margreet Sweerts’, Golden Joinery, photographed by Fan Liao.


‘Golden Scar by Tina Fischer’, Golden Joinery, photographed by Fan Liao.

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‘Golden Scar by Xander Vervoort’, Golden Joinery, photographed by Fan Liao. 90


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BEAUTY…IN THINGS… EXISTS MERELY IN THE MIND WHICH CONTEMPLATES THEM. - DAVID HUME.

Details from Botswanian hide costume, from Brighton Museums and Art Gallery at Zenzie Tinker Conservation. 95


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THE BEAUTY OF MENDING PRINTED AND BOUND BY BRISTOL BOUND COPYRIGHT © 2020 BY MILA EMBURY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED OR USED IN ANY MANNER WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE COPYRIGHT OWNER EXCEPT FOR THE USE OF QUOTATIONS IN A BOOK REVIEW.

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A simple sewing kit, provided to sailors by the Navy League of the U.S. Ca. 1905-1940, Everett Collection. 98


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