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5th September 2022


This week: mending, and specifically darning, the image of which has itself been repaired in recent years, and is now regarded as a positive act of re-use as well as vehicle for creative expression. Darning has moved on from associations with drudgery, ongoing battles with moth, and never-decreasing piles of socks with holes, as seen here in A Month's Darning (1876) by Enoch Wood Perry (1831-1915) which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But even in the twentieth century when mending was mostly seen as chore, darning could be layered with meaning. In Family Roundabout the formidable matriarch, Mrs Willoughby, dispenses covert charity to her prouder 'poor relations' via the mending basket. "Aunt Flo...came every Friday and took home a bag full of Willoughby socks to darn...and every week she found ten shillings in one of the toes". Meanwhile, Cousin Effie comes three times a week to do the household mending and even when there is little or no mending to do, is still given a  "good mid-day meal and a fire to sit by." In this way, Mrs Willoughby ensures that the "odds and ends" of her family remain firmly attached.

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