Emma Mends Knits

Emma Mends Knits

Posted by Hanna Kohn on

Our resident repair expert Emma Mends Knits will be popping up at Green Life Trading Co. (1334 Williamson Street, Madison, WI) on June 29th from 11am to 3pm. She will be available to do quick on-site knit repairs, answer questions about her services, and give tips and tricks about completing your own DIY mends. We caught up with her ahead of Saturday to learn more about Emma’s sustainably based compassion for maintaining and repairing.


If you can’t make it out to this event, you can still drop off your knits in need of repair at our shop 7 days a week.

How did you first get into repairing knit items? 


I learned how to mend from my mom. It was just an expected thing to do to extend the life of your clothes. I’ve been a knitter for over four decades, and repairing hand knits is something I learned about naturally as my knitting skills expanded. Eventually it occurred to me that I could apply those skills to my machine knits as well. I worked at Fiddlesticks Knits from November 2021 until the store closed in December 2023. People just started bringing in knitwear in need of mending, asking if we could do that. Once I had mended a few of these, mending became part of my job, and we began officially offering mending as a service. After Fiddlesticks closed, I wanted to find another store to serve as a drop-off and pick-up point for mending so that I could continue to do it. Green Life Trading Co. seemed to me to be a good fit, and fortunately Sasha agreed!


Why is sustainability important to you? 


I have a teenage daughter and I am painfully aware that the world her generation is inheriting is in considerably worse shape than the one I grew up in. While enduring solutions to climate change will require the cooperation of governments and large corporations, I do believe that it is essential for individuals to take whatever steps they can towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Mending clothing and household textiles seems like an easy and obvious step to take. Being able to keep items functional and out of landfills is important, and I believe this makes it easier for people to invest in higher quality pieces (even better if those investment pieces come from a thrift store!). I love learning the stories of the items that I mend, and being able to add a little to its story. I believe that mending can add meaning and history to any item, no matter where it came from or how much it cost; I am certainly happy to mend an item that you love, even if it was originally considered fast fashion!


What is visible mending?


Visible mending is an opportunity to turn a repair into a design element. When someone brings in an item for me to repair, they specify whether they would like a “less noticeable” or a “visible/decorative” mend. Most people choose the former, and I have had a lot of experience in choosing materials and techniques to make a mend blend as seamlessly as possible with the original material; this is its own wonderful challenge. Visible mending is rather different; while there is a significant overlap in mending techniques, visible mending offers more opportunities for creativity, playing with color and texture. When someone does request a visible mend, I work closely with them to come up with a plan for a design they will love.


How do you go about sourcing materials and tools for your mending?


I love finding and using vintage materials. I have a beloved darning mushroom that belonged to my mother. In her sewing stash, I also found several cards of vintage mending wool, an adorable little box containing 12 spools of “Midget Darning Silk,” and a little kit embossed with the phrase “A Stitch in Time Saves a Ladder,” meant for repairing hosiery. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to mend any hosiery with that kit (!), but the vintage mending wool and silk is really lovely to use. I have also found some vintage embroidery wool at the St. Vinny’s yarn event. For new materials, there are a couple of companies in France that make lovely multi-ply darning wool in a wide variety of colors. Being a longtime knitter, I have a very extensive yarn stash, and can turn to it when I am looking for something specific, particularly for a yarn that is heavier than the fine-gauge mending wools. Finally, Erica, the owner of Fiddlesticks Knits, generously let me keep the stash of yarn that I had been using for mending in the store.


What is something that you wish more people knew about mending in general?


There is no wrong way to do it! If you have prevented a damaged area from getting worse and have returned an item to functionality, it is mended! Because visible mending is meant to show, I think it takes away any pressure for a mend to be “perfect,” and makes it a lot more fun. And because visible mending is very popular at the moment, there are many excellent and easily accessible resources for techniques and inspiration.


What is your proudest mending moment to date?


I don’t think I can pick only one, but I was recently very happy to do a one-day-turnaround mend on a child’s stuffed animal that had become a well-loved bedtime/naptime friend. I was very happy to be able to complete this mend quickly so that the child did not have to go without this special item for too long! This mend was also an example of a time that I was surprised and extremely pleased to find that I already had on hand an excellent match for the original yarn, in this case a dark teal cotton.



Where do you look for mending inspiration?

 

I recently acquired an excellent book, Visible Creative Mending for Knitwear by Flora Collingwood-Norris (@visible_creative_mending). She provides very clear instructions, and shows several techniques that I had not seen before, including patterned weaving. I hope I get the chance to try some of these out on a mend soon! I also have a large collection of saved Instagram posts and reels that I can turn to for ideas and techniques for both visible and less noticeable mending.


Do you like listening to anything while you work on mending projects?


Yes, I love to listen to audiobooks while I work. Most recent listen was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I really enjoyed it.


What project(s) are you working on right now?


I am doing a second repair on a lovely colorwork hat with earflaps and braided ties that I first repaired at Fiddlesticks in May 2022 (This mend is in a different part of the hat than the first, my original repair is still holding up strong!).  It was very fun to peek into the bag and see the hat, I recognized it immediately. I know that this hat is well-loved and well-worn, and I am so happy to be able to help keep it in use!

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