Tom of Holland – Tom van Deijnen
Confessions of a serial darner
I had the opportunity in September 2016 with the Essex Handicraft Association to hear Tom speak about his journey into textiles and his ‘Visible Mending Programme’.
He describes himself as a self-taught textiles practitioner who specialises in knitting and mending knitted woollen items. He enjoyed being creative as a child which included teaching himself to knit.
His mending journey started as a reaction to the ‘throw away’ society that we have become and how knitted woollen garments can be mended and continued to be worn and enjoyed. He aspires to share his love of mending not just in the traditional darning sense but also using mending as a decorative feature adding a new aspect to a preloved garment.
He also referred to the manufacture of cheap clothing today, and considering the narrative of the person who has made that item of clothing. He believes that even this type of clothing deserves to be mended and taken care of, and in doing so giving respect to the person who made it wherever they are in the world. By choosing to mend and continue to wear our clothing for longer we are using less materials and resources.
In his research into the history of darning he referred to the ‘Make-do and Mend’ campaign used by the British Government during the Second World War as rationing was brought in and fabric and clothing became scarce. Fabric and clothing production was used for the war effort and people were forced to mend or re-use fabric because it was in such short supply. Knitted woollen garments were unpicked and re-knitted to get maximum use out of the scarce yarns.
Another of Tom’s philosophies is;
‘A garment is finished when there is no more mending or wearing left’
This is not how many of us think about garments, most of us who make clothing think of a finished garment as one which the making process is complete and it is ready to be worn. He has pushed that idea to the end of a garments life when no further adaption can be made to enable it to be worn.
Tom has carried out a lot of research into different methods of darning particularly traditional methods and has examples of some of the books he has found and read on the subject some Dutch others English. He had a few samples of his work showing the different techniques he uses and how a traditional darn can be used in a decorative way making a feature out of a piece of mending. Not all mending can be completely invisible so why not use it to enhance a garment? His preferred textile is wool and wool from old rare breeds of sheep. He had some examples of different types of darning tools, mushrooms, European and English (there is a difference in the shape) and a little gadget called a Speedweve – Lancashires smallest loom which you can sometimes find on Ebay.
Tom teaches his darning techniques in Brighton and undertakes commissions.
I had to smile whilst this young Dutchman spoke about his textile speciality to the group of ladies who are all members of the Essex Handicraft Association. The average age of the audience was around 70 and most of these ladies have been darning and mending all their lives as have I, although I’m a little bit younger than they are! Whilst I was not around during the Second World War the Make-do and Mend mentality has been firmly instilled into my persona. I learnt to darn as a child, taught by my mother who always seemed to be mending, repairing or darning, particularly her hand knitted socks. Despite this they were all interested in a young man whose enthusiasm for an old traditional technique was being rejuvinated and reinvented for a new modern audience.
Taken from my own personal notes made during his talk and https://tomofholland.com