Door to Door Darning: Michael Swaine

michael swaine mender photo

Michael Swaine has been travelling through London knocking on doors and offering to darn people's socks. He is asking them to fill out a "Door to Door Darning Survey" and at the same time he is using it as an entré to try to talk to them about clothes mending and if and how they do it. En route to The Knitting and Stitching Show, he has stopped off at Origin: The London Craft Fair and set up "shop". "Shop" is a small old suitcase that has shelves built into it and rows of colourful threads, scissors and needles. And he is starting gentle, quiet conversations with curious patrons about darning.

He calls it artistic mending, but says that mostly people are teaching him about old mending techniques that they have learned from their mothers and grandmothers. With an old wool sock in hand, a Finnish woman comes over to show him a circular method of mending and another from Scandinavia has her own, different way of doing it. Mainly he listens to people's stories about age and old things and the memories that the simple act of mending evokes.

free lending library photo

Swaine is a performance artist from San Francisco. He started the "Free Mending Library" with a reconfigured old ice cream cart, complete with sewing machine and umbrella, and a neon sign that flashes the word SEW. He used to wheel it around to different neighbourhoods and fix clothes for people. He finally ended up going to the Tenderloin, a tough area of San Francisco, every month for the last six years. There he fixes clothes for his group of regulars and they stop and talk and tell their stories. So it is not only about the clothes -- it is about community, people, social interaction and our throw away society. :: Origin: The London Craft Fair
More on Mending Old Clothes

:: Darning Clothes as an Art Form
:: New Clothes are so Old Hat
:: Love to Knit

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