Fast fashion and slow stitching: Embracing fashion through mending and knitting

Apr 25, 2023
Source: Getty

I’ve been sitting here mending a favourite summer tunic. It is made of white broderie anglaise cotton and is a very flattering flowy shape that works wonders in summer to provide cover over the bits I like to keep under wraps, whilst also looking floaty and pretty.

I’m hoping to prolong its life for the next summer season if I possibly can.

Sadly, nature did not provide me with wonderful sewing skills which somehow skipped two generations in my family.

rediscovering the lost art of sewing and darning, and the importance of valuing quality over quantity in the world of fashion.

My own mother was (although very creative in other ways) hopelessly lacking in needle skills just like myself…

My youngest daughter, on the other hand, asked for a sewing machine for her thirteenth birthday and has been happily creating wonderful items ever since.

From practical curtains, and furniture covers to fantastical costumes for her business in the performing arts. And, helping me out with alterations to my clothes whenever needed. This is quite the result!

Trying my hand at knitting

During the dreaded pandemic, I took up knitting. Not the precise follow a complicated pattern sort of disciplined knitting, but choose a simple pattern and chunky wool and big needles “have a go” sort of knitting.

It turned out pretty well and the same aforementioned daughter received several chunky jumpers in different nature-inspired colours that apparently she and many of her friends loved.

I was asked to re-create them and even offered enticing sums of money to do so. But having ploughed my way through about ten of these garments, I was ready to put down the knitting needles and get onto something else.

Back to the sewing and mending

In this case, it was to preserve an item that I have found difficult to replace but the older I get, the more I prefer to try to hold onto well-made items rather than the more recent fashion to buy cheaply and throw away.

Another of my off-spring wardrobe was a testament to years of wandering around shopping centres buying huge amounts of cheap clothes that didn’t wash well and were soon being thrown out.  

I understood her excitement about buying new clothes that she could afford for a night out on the town, a birthday party or pretty much any celebration she could think of.

When I was a teenager shopping for a new outfit was always a fun activity, combined with coffee shops and hanging out with friends at the local mall.

Thankfully now she has adopted the trend of “slow fashion” which aims to promote clothing that is made with care, using high-quality materials and craftsmanship.

She is keen to respect the environment too, much of this cheap clothing ends up in landfill and we’ve all read the articles about how workers can be exploited badly by some of the big clothing manufacturers.  

So, now there are fewer clothes, less often and better quality. And that is something I endorse, but it does cost more money.

When I was. a young mum, I must admit, I would have loved to be able to throw away some of the muddy, torn and stained clothing for a cheap replacement. 

And to put my cards on the table would have done so had they been around, rather than hours soaking, scrubbing and washing grubby items.

Becoming a sewing domestic goddess

Finally, to complete my transformation into a sewing domestic goddess (and for those of you who have been wonderful seamstresses etc. for many years, hold back the laughter) I pointed out this morning to my husband that he had a small hole in his woollen jumper.

As he had a meeting he had dressed up for, complete with a white business shirt that was shining through said hole, I eagerly offered to “darn it”’ for him.

After Googling “darning” (apologies to the darners out there for whom this is second nature) I discovered that to darn you do the following….

  1. Thread a darning needle with yarn or thread that matches the fabric you are repairing.
  2. Place the item on a flat surface and stretch the area to be repaired over a darning egg, a light bulb, or any other object with a rounded surface that fits the size of the hole.
  3. Begin by creating a foundation for the repair by weaving the needle and thread over and under the intact fibres around the hole.
  4. Then, start to weave the needle and thread back and forth across the hole, creating a series of horizontal rows.
  5. After completing each row, turn the work and weave back across the hole in the opposite direction, creating a series of vertical rows that intersect with the horizontal rows.
  6. Continue weaving in this way until the hole is completely covered.
  7. Finish by weaving the needle and thread over and under the fibres surrounding the repair to secure it in place

This was a revelation to me, as in the past darning meant sewing across the hole, ending up with a puckered and certainly not “invisible” repair.

What even was “invisible repairing”?

But with a darning needle in hand, I carefully and with some satisfaction fixed the little hole so that it was barely visible to the naked eye (possibly a lot more visible to an eye attached to glasses or contact lenses though!).

Happy husband and proud darner saving one of his favourite jumpers to live a little longer.

Similarly, the Broderie cotton tunic survives for another summer.

So, I am happy to say that mending, and knitting in my own particular fashion, have now been added to the things that I enjoy and may even contribute to my clothes now long outliving me!

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