Book Review: Mending Matters

The book Mendinig Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh sorrounded by various sewing implements

It’s no secret that I’m on a bit of an anti-consumption kick after reading Fashionopolis last month.  And I don’t think I’m the only one.  The recent episode of the Patriot Act on the horrors of fast fashion was all over my twitter feed last week.  It’s hard to watch something like that without wanting to do something to change the system.  So, on Black Friday this year I didn’t go shopping.  I stayed home and spent an hour or so repairing a hole in a favorite old pair of well worn jeans.

I’ve been interested in mending for a while now.  Working with historic clothing up close means that I’ve often gotten to see the little patches and darns the past owners used to extend the life of their clothing. In fact, I included several mended pieces in my exhibit Inside Her Clothes.  So when I saw by Katrina Rodabaugh’s new book Mending Matters (Amazon/BookShop,Org) I added myself to my libraries long wait list.  Several months later, I finally got my hands on a copy.

Mending Matters gives equal space to detailed how-to instructions and making an argument for mending clothing.  Rodabaugh originally framed her efforts to reduce her fashion footprint as an act of “art as action.”  It was a logical extension of her work as a fiber artist.  Throughout the book she also includes the voices of others who are on similar journeys in a sprinkling of short essays.  I really enjoyed reading these.  Something about the multiple voices made idea of mending feel less like following a leader and more like joining a movement.

I found the instructional section of the book to be a bit less interesting.  Part of this was just the nature of instructions, they don’t really lend themselves to inspirational writing.  My main issue, however, was that the focus was nearly entirely on repairing denim.  There were a few nods the repair of other types of clothing, but the scope was pretty limited.  I was hoping for something a bit more comprehensive and in-depth, but there was little that I hadn’t/couldn’t figure out on my own with a little experimentation.

However, the instructions were clear and easy to follow.  There are plenty of photographs and illustrations too.  If you’re someone who’s never picked up a needle, this book is a great place to start.  Rodabaugh’s relaxed attitude and embracement of imperfections make a great introduction to garment sewing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.  It’s not an essential reference volume I’ll be keeping on my shelf forever (in fact, it’s already be reclaimed by the library), but it did help me mentally normalize the idea of mending my own clothes.  I’d recommend picking up a copy, learning what you need from it, and then passing it on to inspire someone else. Buy yours at Amazon, BookShop,Org, or your local bookstore.