Three years ago, Allison took a darning class at French General in Los Angeles, the always-on-trend store with new and vintage fabric, notions, trims and French ephemera run by designer Kaari Meng. It’s the sort of store that hits all the right notes, and its workshops, field trips and European excursions are our idea of heaven. Check out its alluring website to see what we mean. (Here’s a sample illustration from a page on its site.)
But back to darning. The class was taught by London-based Luke Deverell, who runs a textile repair business that at the time was called Darn & Dusted. He still repairs clothing, but has expanded into a company he runs with his wife Maggie, Deverells Co., that specializes in American folk art and objects. Deverell looks at worn clothing in a new light, making repairs that strengthen the damaged fabric but are not intended to be invisible. They are honest, upfront fixes, and customers on both sides of the Atlantic have sought him out for repairs on beloved pieces of denim and cotton. Here’s Deverell explaining things to the class at French General, and a darning sample that my friend Angela Lampe did during the session.
Interest in mending is of a piece with new interest in all manner of vintage handwork, from tatting to leather craft. It ties into thrifting, as less-than-pristine finds can turn into winners with a little repair handwork or embellishment.
Case in point is this men’s Dalmine Uomo wool sweater with suede accents we found at an Angel View thrift shop in Palm Desert, CA, for $3.99. Some happy moths had made a buffet out of the sweater, and a professional reweaving shop quoted as $150 to repair the many holes, which are marked with blue tape in the photo below. We went to a fabric store with a wide selection of threads and found colors that matched the areas with holes. (Gutermann brand thread comes in a wide array of colors, and often is sold in quilt shops as well as fabric stores.) Armed with matching colors, we gave the holes the old college try ourselves. The result wasn’t as flawless as the professionals, but good enough for the guy who was delighted to wear it. (People have gotten less fussy about clothing imperfection, we’ve noticed, perhaps thanks to fashion’s infatuation with ripped jeans and deconstructed garments.) The repaired sweater is shown below.
Last week, perusing the Facebook posts from one of our favorite quilt shops, Hickory Stick Quilt Shop in Hannibal, Missouri, we learned that Moda Fabrics, a leading purveyor of cotton quilt fabric, came out with a line recently inspired by boro, “a Japanese technique of creating beautiful textiles through repeated mending,” as Moda explains in a useful blog post on the background of the practice.
Boro, which means “tattered” or “broken,” began in a Japanese island where it was too cold to grow cotton, making the fabric precious. Garments, like the kimono below from the Amu, were endlessly patched. Boro has caught the attention of fashion designers, as in the shirt below by Junya Watanabe. So, don’t pass on that less-than-stellar item you find in a thrift shop. Consider it a candidate for mending, darning or patching.