TOAST Magazine

Celia Pym Mend Project


TOAST has commissioned the textile artist Celia Pym to explore how a family of TOAST sweaters – and a pair of socks – has been worn over time. The garments belong to customers, who all responded to Pym’s call out on social media.

The exhibition was on show at TOAST Notting Hill from the 9th-14th May, as part of London Craft Week.

For the project, Pym spoke with each owner, discussing the cause of the damage and hearing about the particular stories attached to each piece. Through her interviews she caught a snapshot of everyday life and the small habits, routines and rituals that fill our time – from gardening and train commutes to hospital visits. Pym is interested in how these damaged garments become evidence of our movements and actions, holding an imprint of the wearer.

Pym has always been drawn to “the wonky and lopsided”, but it wasn’t until her father gave her an old sweater, belonging to her Great Uncle Roland, that she became fascinated by mending and repair. 

“Roly” was a painter and the sweater was worn out in exactly the place where he had rested his arms against the drawing board. The sweater had been mended many times by his sister Elizabeth, Pym’s Great Aunt. Elizabeth’s mending was, Pym says, “unselfconscious and practical”, the sweater needed to be repaired and she would use whatever colour yarn she had to hand. 

Pym was intrigued by the way in which the sweater had captured her Uncle’s repeated actions, but also by the care and generosity shown in the act of repair. With a new interest, she headed to the library and came across the Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont , published in 1886. From this, she learnt how to darn.

“I see darning as a small act of kindness.” 

Pym has been exploring mending since 2007 and has extensive experience of repairing small holes at heels, elbows and inside pockets, as well as working on more dramatic damage, whether it be from water, animals or moths. For Pym, the greater the damage, the better.

Pym studied sculpture at Harvard and has an MA in constructed textiles from the Royal College of Art. She was a finalist in the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize (2017) and Loewe Craft Prize (2017). Her work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco and the Textile Arts Centre, New York. Her next exhibition will take place at the Curator’s Cube in Tokyo.

Two Customer Interviews:

Emily Ashworth - Grey Wool Sweater

When did you get your sweater? 2015, roughly 3 years ago. I am a big fan of TOAST and have this sweater in 4 colours – the grey, orange, blue and green. I didn’t get the plum.

What do you wear it with? I live in these sweaters. Wear them almost everyday. Love being able to throw it on. I wear the grey one especially at the allotment. I have sensitive skin but am never irritated by these sweaters.

How/why is it damaged? I have sharp elbows. My Dad has sharp elbows too and goes through his sweaters in the same spot. The hole is on my left arm. I’m left handed.

Why do you want it mended? Of my sweaters I wear this one the most, that’s why it's got a hole in it. Grey goes with everything and now that it’s stretched, I don’t feel restricted in it. So comfy.

When was the last time you wore it? 2 days ago.

Anything else you want to tell me? I don’t think so. It’s an everyday piece of my life.

Mel Whewell - Chatreuse Green Lightweight Sweater

When did you get your sweater? It was a gift from my Mum. My Mum is a big TOAST fan. Through her, my younger sister and I were introduced to TOAST. She gives us sweaters for our birthdays and Christmas.

What do you wear it with? It’s a fine sweater. I quite often wear it with something underneath – like a petrol, blue long sleeved top.

How/why is it damaged? There are several small holes that just sort of emerged. It’s a fine fabric so maybe it’s where I’ve nicked or caught it. Or it could be a moth. I’ve already done some darning. My Mum’s Mum used to darn socks and jumpers over a tobacco tin. I’ve repaired it a little, made chunky stitches. I’m embarrassed by my darns.

Why do you want it mended? I’ve been staring at the holes in this sweater wondering what to do about them. When I am on the train coming home from work, I look at instagram to relax – I like looking at lovely things – and then I saw the TOAST mending call out. It was perfect.

When was the last time you wore it? Probably wore it at the end of last summer. Had become concerned that by wearing it, it was getting more holes…

Anything else you want to tell me? Intrigued about what colour you’ll chose to mend it. I’m ok with bright contrast.

Photography by James Bannister. The photographs were taken at our launch Q&A event. Sign up to our emails below to hear more about our events and workshops.

Take part in our Art of Repair workshops, run in all our shops across the UK.

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