We are really excited to explore visible mending and the world of textile art with Yorkshire-based textile artist Hayley Mills-Styles.
It was great to find out more about Hayley and her brilliant work, which has been displayed in museums and heritage sites throughout the north including Whitby Museum, Sunny Bank Mills and the Thackray Museum of Medicine.
Meet Hayley Mills-Styles Textile Artist
What is visible mending?
Visible mending is a way to repair something by turning it into a feature. The repair work is made visible, for example a piece of contrasting embroidery thread can be used to darn a hole in a piece of clothing.
Is there a particular kind of visible mending that you prefer?
As an embroiderer, I really enjoy adding fabric patches that I can embellish with hand embroidery. The first sample I made for my workshops was a piece of vintage Superman duvet cover. I used the fabric as a patch on the back of some cropped jeans. I extended the stitching out from the fabric to integrate the patch into the denim around the mend.
I was commissioned to repair some jeans recently and I used a denim patch and stitched lots of little crosses over the worn areas in a contrasting thread. I love the slow stitching process of repairing an item of clothing.
My grandma taught me how to darn socks using a wooden darning mushroom, it’s a skill that isn’t used much now but it’s a very relaxing process. I’ve only had one workshop participant bring a sock to mend, I was so excited! I’m a huge fan of the work of Celia Pym, an artist who uses darning to repair clothing. She recently posted a picture of a darned paper bag too.
Have you got any tips for visibly mending holes in those slightly more difficult places? I have a pair of jeans that developed a hole in the seat/crotch area and just opted for a patch but would be great to know for next time!
I think you were right to use a patch but I would give the area some stability by doing some machine stitching over the surface. You can use a zig zag stitch or a decorative stitch on your machine to stitch lines in a contrasting colour. This allows the seam to move around with less chance of ripping again.
As a teenager, I would repair lots of jeans when my skater friends would get rips and scuffs. I’ve used everything from tartan to fun fur to repair holes around pockets and knees.
When you visibly mend do you concentrate more on the problem solving (i.e. fix a flaw or hole) or on creating something that is interesting to look at?
Because I teach visible mending, I get to enjoy both aspects of the process. In my classes people will bring along a range of clothing and accessories that need to be repaired. I get to help them find the best way to mend an item from a worn cuff on a jacket to a trainer with a hole in the toe. Everyone wants something different that matches their personal style.
For my personal mending projects, I like to choose fabrics that match the style of the clothing like a check fabric on a denim shirt. My friends describe me a terminally minimal so everything is very simple when I design a mend.
When did you first fall in love with vintage clothes and threads?
I was brought up by my paternal grandparents who were both creative and resourceful, they didn’t throw anything away. We always recycled and upcycled things, my grandma had so many materials for art and craft like food packaging and even old wrapping paper.
I started sewing when I was four and part of that was repairing clothes, sewing on buttons and teaching myself to embroider from the vintage Anchor 100 Stitches book.
As a teenager I would wear their vintage clothes from the 50s, 60s and 70s and style them in my own way. I also started repairing clothes for friends and taking up trousers or turning them into shorts.
My grandma had a sewing box full of Sylko wooden reels of threads and cardboard bobbins and cardboard bobbins of darning wool. I loved organising the threads and playing around with different stitches and fabrics.
I’m lucky to get lots of donations of fabric and thread from people, I get bags of materials donated and I still love to sort through them. Storing what I will use in my own work and donating the rest to friends and other creatives. I love seeing what people create with these vintage materials.
I make lots of my textile art from vintage fabric and thread, using existing features like seams and stains as part of the finished work. My favourite piece from recent years is a wreath inside a vintage collar box. It’s inspired by my grandad’s dress shirt collar. I used vintage fabric to create the wreath and even recreated some loose collars to wrap around it.
And how does it tie in with your visible mending?
I have a huge bag of fabric off cuts from my own work and friends’ dressmaking projects. I try to use as many second hand and recycled materials as possible to reduce waste. The jeans I repair use denim from old jeans and denim scraps from my friend who makes her own skinny jeans. I love seeing people use pieces of fabric from a friend’s wedding dress being used in a fabric landscape picture in one of my classes.
I remember where all my fabrics came from so I can tell people who donated them how they’ve been used. I have fabric scraps from the 1950s that have been passed down through my husband’s family and people are using them to repair a denim jacket or create a fabric collage.
Thanks so much, Hayley!
Want to learn a little more about the whole world of visible mending? Read on.
The Origins of Visible Mending
Sashiko vs Boro vs Visible Mending
Sashiko and boro are both forms of visible mending.
Sashiko literally means "little stabs" and is a form of Japanese embroidery that dates back to the 17th century. You'll commonly see it in the form of white thread on blue fabric. The whole point of sashiko was to visibly mend and strengthen garments.
Boro or boroboro roughly means something that is a bit scruffy or has been mended. If sashiko is your thread, boro is the scraps or squares of material that are patched together to create something. Boro was thought to be used by peasant women in order to make use of old fabric.
What is Kantha
Kantha is just like sashiko and boro in that the whole aim is to make use of old textiles. It comes from Bangladesh and Bengal and is a form of quilting and it refers to both the stiching and the pieces of cloth that are used.
Originally, the materials used to do Kantha were old saris and dhotis. This is why kantha is called such, as it means rags in Sanskrit. Kantha can be used for quilts, gifts and even for more artistic projects.