Sunday, January 24, 2021

Weekend Review: Mend by Kate Sekules


Mend! / Kate Sekules
NY: Penguin, c2020
227 p.

I'm delighted to be sharing this book this week -- it's a new book on the mending trend, one that I really enjoyed! It's so colourful and funky to look at, and is a solid read both on the history and meaning of mending, and on some how-tos as well. 

The author is one of those women I envy, who seem to have limitless energy and gumption, and end up doing tons of different things. Kate Sekules is/has been a journalist and writer, a professional boxer, online clothing shop owner, PhD candidate in material culture, mending educator and more. She is cool, thoughtful and thorough in this book. 

The first half of the book is a look at mending over the ages. As we all know, fast fashion is a recent invention. Before that, textiles and clothing were valuable and sometimes scarce. Mending was just what you did. She shares textile history from prehistory to current day in a pithy way, with some intriguing stories that I hadn't heard before, like Otzi the Iceman, who was discovered mummified in the Tyrolean Alps; he's over 5000 years old and was wearing tattered pants made from a patchwork of animal skins. She talks about the professional menders in existence from Ancient Greece right up to mid-20th century England, specialists who could repair items to keep them in service and looking new. 

There is a section in the middle about some of the current day menders and stitchers who are leading this field and encouraging people to embellish and repair their clothing, as well as use these techniques in a political way, to focus on sustainability and such. This is a great chapter, and while I have already heard of many of the people highlighted, there were also some new finds to research further! I loved seeing the varied approaches and focus areas of each person; they take a slightly different tack in each case, and show that there is room for everyone interested in this topic. 

And then most of the second half of the book gets down to practicalities. How do you mend -- whether it's patches, darning, visible mends, embroidery, upcycling or even needle felting, there are instructions, lots of photos to follow step by step and a lot of encouragement. She's clear that creativity and trying things out are the perfect approach, it's not a strict follow-these-rules kind of book. I love some of the down and dirty fixes, like sticking a pocket on top of a hole or stain if it's a pocket friendly location. So quick! And she talks about where to harvest mending materials from, ie: an old blouse that isn't repairable any more can be cut up into patches or reinforcements for underpatches. It's very frugal and resourceful, and I found it inspiring. Also, at the end of this section there is a massive chart of the kinds of items you might want to mend, the kind of damage, the appropriate materials and the appropriate techniques that might work best for that type of fabric or garment. Massive -- it's four pages long! Plus there's an adorable "periodical table" of mends too. 

I liked the approach of this one. It's not just another book on mending your jeans with sashiko inspired stitching. In fact she hardly mentions jeans. I loved the combination of history, social consciousness, and hands-on instruction. Plus she's a great writer and knows her topic inside out. Add in the plethora of bright, clear photos, and it's a real hit. Recommended. 

If you want to see some of the inside of this book, go to the publisher's page and click the "look inside" button. It brings up a window to scroll through that gives you a good idea of what the book is like. 

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