Meet the Mender: The Far Woods
Over the past few months, mending has become a key focus for The Endery. While we had practiced mending in our personal lives for years, we had not found a way to incorporate it into our business. However, after developing the Deadstock Darning Mending Kit and having the limited run quickly sell out, we knew we were onto something. And so we’ve spent the past few months working on a second release of the kits (coming soon! Sign up here to receive an email when they are back in stock) as well as introducing ourselves to the many menders of the knitting, darning and embroidering communities. Along the way, we discovered The Far Woods – a sister-run creative studio dedicated to art, conservation and mending. Read our Q&A below to learn more about Nina and Sonya, their studio and how they became interested in mending.
The Endery: Tell us about yourselves.
The Far Woods: We are Nina and Sonya Montenegro. We are sisters… but also illustrators, printmakers, menders, quilters, gardeners and aspiring beekeepers. In 2013 we founded The Far Woods, a creative collaboration making artwork that seeks to contribute to a culture shift in which there is a land ethic, reverence for nature, rejection of the dominant throw-away mentality, and direct connection to where our food and the things we use come from. Many of our artworks serve as educational tools, and our practice crosses disciplines to work toward an ecologically-viable and socially-just future. Our studio is located on a small farm just outside of Portland, Oregon.
TE: Share something interesting about yourselves that most people don’t know.
TFW: Neither of us went to art school!
TE: We love how your artwork speaks to community, craft and wellbeing. What inspires you?
TFW: It’s hard to know what’s most important to make next, or where to put our energy, because the challenges of the times feel incredibly urgent and immense. Often, what we choose to make is simply a reflection of where our hearts are at. It’s literally what we are inspired to make in the moment based on something we’re learning about, or a problem we feel compelled to respond to, in hopes that we can contribute – if even just the smallest bit – to its resolution.
For example, our newest zine, “Worry Medicine” was born out of Nina’s own struggles with anxiety, which has been especially heightened during the Covid-19 pandemic, and her desire to reframe her attitude towards anxiety as something potentially useful rather than problematic.
TE: How did mending become such a focus in your lives?
TFW: Mending was around us here and there as we grew up — our grandma was often mending and our dad, a puppeteer and woodworker, was always fixing things in our house in ingenious ways (for instance, he once carved a new wooden handle to replace the broken plastic handle on our refrigerator). Later, after college, we both became deeply interested in learning skills for resiliency such as gardening, soil building, food preservation, foraging, sewing, carpentry, and of course, mending. Being able to repair clothes, tools, furniture, and more is crucial for becoming creators in our lives, instead of just consumers.
TE: Why do you think mending is having a resurgence in today’s society?
TFW: There are lots of reasons, to be sure, but here are a few we’d like to offer:
The veil has been lifted on the fast fashion industry and folks are finally learning about the devastating toll making these clothes has on our brothers and sisters abroad, as well as the impact on our ecosystem (seeing the movie “True Cost” is a gut-wrenching eye-opener). Many consumers are deciding they’d rather not support the industry and instead are actively transforming that system by learning to repair clothes, allowing folks to buy less and less often, taking care of the things we already have.
Folks are tired of this disposable culture we are steeped in – it is discouraging to own stuff that is made to be used only once, or is made so poorly it doesn’t last long, or includes proprietary parts or knowledge so we can’t fix it ourselves if it breaks.
Mending feels good! It is meditative – a time for reflection, idea bursts or just zoning out. And there is such a feeling of accomplishment to saving something from the awful fate of garbage, especially before it’s time!
- We are facing ecological collapse, socio-political turmoil, consumerism and it’s not so hard to slip into nihilism – a feeling that the world would be better off without humans at all. Mending is a reminder of our human capacity for healing.
TE: Why do you think visible (as opposed to invisible) mending is such a strong statement?
TFW: Visible mending is honest – you’re not trying to hide flaws or imperfections. Instead, the story of the garment’s wear and tear, along with the mender’s ingenuity and care, is laid bare.
TE: We’d love to hear more about how you came to write your book.
TFW: First we made a zine called the Mender’s Companion. We then realized that folks were wildly excited about learning to mend and are hungry for this once-common skill. A bit later, Sasquatch Books approached us to write the book and we were excited about being able to include more content, more art, more color, and more thoughts on how mending is a radical act of love. We were determined to make it more than just a craft book.
Check out their newly published book, Mending Life: A Handbook for Repairing Clothes and Hearts.
TE: And finally, what can you recommend to anyone who is new to darning and mending
TFW: Our book is for beginners! It goes over basic sewing techniques so hopefully it feels accessible to all. Mending is easy to begin because there are no special tools or materials necessary (although there are a lot of fun specialty tools you can nerd out on if you get into it!). You really only need some scrap fabric, a needle, thread, scissors and a few straight pins. Also, we recommend checking out the hashtag #visiblemending on Instagram – we’ve found many incredible menders and projects there that inspire us everyday!