Those Darn(ing) Artists

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“If you’ve done all your own mending, there’s a heap of socks to be
looked over. Then I’ll show you about darning the tablecloths. I do
hate to have a stitch of work left over till Monday,” said Mrs.
Grant, who never took naps, and prided herself on sitting down to
her needle at 3 P.M. every day.

from Jack And Jill by Louisa May Alcott

I should be sitting down to my needle at 3pm every day but sadly I’m still unwell so apart from a tiny bit of drawing, I’ve not had the energy to make any art. I certainly haven’t been able to start the new series of work I’m planning, which involves a lot of sewing. However, I have been researching mending and darning in preparation and I’ve come across a couple of artists who use darning as an intrinsic part of their work.


San Francisco artist, Michael Swaine trundles around with a handmade sewing cart mending people’s clothes and engaging them in conversation.

Michael Swaine: Sewing For The People

There’s an interesting video showcasing his projects here. He was recently in Britain undertaking a new project where he documented and darned people’s socks.

Michael Swaine: Darning Socks

That little box of thread and tools just makes me drool with longing – the neatness and particularity of it is very appealing to me.

His way of working instantly reminded me of my own Pin Ritual which uses pinning as a conduit for conversations about subjects like domesticity, repetitive labour and, almost invariably, people’s grandmothers.

pin ritual 01
Kirsty Hall: Pin Ritual

Celia Pym is a British artist who spent a year darning holes in clothes for her degree show at the Royal College of Art.

Celia Pym: Mend

Unfortunately Celia doesn’t seem to have a website, so I can’t tell you much more about her although you can see more of her work, including some very lovely little ink drawings, here.

Both these artists were found on Treehugger, an interesting site focused on green issues. Although they don’t have a specific art section, they do cover some contemporary art.

Other Darning Links

Prick Your Finger is an alternative haberdashery/knitting shop in London who have a fun blog that often mentions darning. They recently hosted Michael Swaine.

Jerry Barney from Fergus Falls in Minnesota recently wrote a charming post about finding a pair of socks that his mother had darned.

My Front Porch has been darning a sweater, while Kate from Needled repaired some jeans with the help of a vintage book.

I found the diagrams on this ‘how to’ page about Pueblo darning and mending quite delightful.


If anyone knows of any other artists who are working with mending or darning, do let me know because I’d love to hear about them.

I am an artist & purveyor of obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

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