Making Repair Beautiful

When Plough announced an issue themed around repair, I knew I wanted to interview Grace Russo about her practice of visible mending.

When Russo began repairing her clothes, it changed what kinds of new clothes she wanted to buy. When she looked at something on the rack or at a thrift store, she didn’t just consider how the outfit looked then, but how it would change as it aged and weakened. What kind of mending would it need and what kind of repairs could it support?

She looked for thicker cotton fabrics that could stand up to strong stitches. She avoided clothes made of stretchier synthetic fabrics – she didn’t like the idea of wearing petroleum products, but more than that, they didn’t take repairs gracefully. She even wound up checking online reviews of clothes to see what kind of seam was hidden inside a dress before ordering it. A straight stitch in a stretchy maternity outfit was much more likely to rip than a zigzag.

As she looked at each seam, imagining how she might one day pass it back through a machine, she had a stronger sense of the hands that had already guided it, inch by inch, into its present form. Until she took up sewing herself, Russo imagined that a lot of clothes manufacturing was automated in the ways spinning thread had been. But there are almost no sewing machines that work alone. The needle is pumped up and down by a motor, but human hands guide the cloth around its turns. There is nothing woven that we put on our bodies that hasn’t passed through someone’s hands, usually half a world away.

Read the rest at Plough