Mending is a tedious, but inevitable, part of life when you own clothes almost as old as you are but to the Japanese mending isn't mundane. It's an art form.
If, like me, you're an avid viewer of antique shows you'll no doubt be familiar with the method of Kintsugi where precious metals - liquid gold, liquid silver or lacquer dusted with powdered gold - are used to bring together the pieces of a broken pottery item whilst, at the same time, enhancing the breaks. By repairing these shattered ceramics the Japanese believe that it is possible to give a new lease of life to pottery so that it can become even more refined thanks to its scars. Just because an item is broken doesn't necessarily mean it is no longer useful and that repairs can often make something more valuable.
Japanese Boro mending is the textile equivalent of Kintsugi. Here, as opposed to invisible mending, garment repairs are made a feature of. By taking the time to create something unique, one is connecting with a garment and any mistakes or wonky stitching add even more charm to the finished piece.
The Japanese believe that both Boro and Kintsugi are the essence of resilience, that all of us should look for a way to cope with traumatic events in a positive way, learn from negative experiences, take the best from them and convince ourselves that exactly these experiences make each person, garment or object unique & precious.
With that philosophy in mind and inspired by the ethos of the Up-cycled Cloth Collective to use visible mending as a way to green one's wardrobe, I set about repairing an incredibly beautiful, but damaged, authentic vintage Afghan nomad dress I'd found last week.
Where the hemline trim had parted company with the skirt I used a similar shade of yellow thread to the one the original owner had used. There was something intrinsically thrilling about sewing over the very stitching an Afghan woman had toiled over thousands of miles away, several decades ago.
As these dresses are coloured with natural vegetable dyes there was no way I was going to risk soaking the marks out in Poundland stain remover. Most sponged off with lukewarm water but one wouldn't budge so I decided to patch it using a piece of similar homespun vegetable-dyed cotton cut from a threadbare Banjara blouse and some vintage cobalt thread in the exact shade of the blue embroidery as the hemline trim.
My wonky hand-stitching adds some of my personality to a dress that already has a history. Sitting in the sunshine, happily boro stitching with a pair of basking cats at my feet is a memory that I'll recall every time I wear my dress and catch sight of my boro patch.
If you fancy giving Boro stitching a bash then there's loads of helpful tutorials out there but I'm hopeless at following instructions, so I just made it up as I went along.
See you soon.