Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Visible Mending with Tom of Holland

This autumn we ran two 'Darning Masterclasses' with textiles practitioner Tom van Deijnen (AKA Tom of Holland). They sold out almost instantly. Here, Tom explains his techniques and celebrates 'visible mending', many examples of which can be found on objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum collections!

Detail of a gourd vessel, decoratively repaired
using beads; 1979.20.167 © Pitt Rivers Museum
"There is a temporary case exhibit at the Museum (until 3 January 2016) called 'Preserving What is Valued' and an accompanying museum trail. They demonstrate how people from all parts of the world repair their material culture. Conservators study objects in great detail and part of their role is to determine at what stage a repair has been made. If the repair was made by the originating community while it was still in use this provides an additional level of information and can give the object a deeper resonance. Identifying an original repair can raise questions that make us think about the object’s history differently.

"I was invited to run two darning classes as part of the events accompanying this display. My name is Tom and I’m a self-taught textile practitioner, and one of the things I do is run the Visible Mending Programme. Through this programme I seek to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the programme reinforces the relationship between the wearer and garment, leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour.

"A mother's work" Repair commission for a private client © Tom van Deijnen

Left: Swiss darning in action by one of the participants. Right: a completed practice swatch,
showing a stocking darn and rows of Swiss daring in bold colours. © Tom van Deijnen

"The darning classes were well attended and the participants were taught two classic knitwear repair techniques: firstly Swiss darning, also known as 'duplicate stitching', which is a good way to reinforce thinning fabrics such as elbows on sleeves, or to cover up stains.

"The second technique taught was the classic stocking darn, using a darning mushroom. It creates a woven patch that is integrated with the knit fabric, and is a good way to repair holes. Of course this is best known for sock repairs.

"Throughout the classes, I shared many hints and tips on repairing, such as what tools and materials to use for best results, examples of my work, and how to look after your woollens. Half-way through  we had a break, and everybody was encouraged to see the display cabinet and follow the museum trail to find original repairs.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is home to many repaired objects from all over the world, as well as closer to home. Shown here are details from a delicate muslin handkerchief with some rather crude darns, and and a tortoiseshell comb mended with a riveted metal strip, both from a collection made in Essex, UK; 1949.9.121 and 1949.9.373 © Pitt Rivers Museum

"I found the repairs very inspiring: an inventive use of locally available materials such as baste fibres, small decorative additions such as beads, or the neat way stitching cracks, the use of staples, or even items made in such a way that they could be easily repaired in the future. I won’t go into too much detail, as it’s fun so go and see it all for yourself!

Tom van Deijnen


The Preserving What is Valued case exhibit and museum trail at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, 29 June 2015 – 3 January 2016. More information."

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