2020 taught me many things, and most of them can be described as “icky.” I’ll spare you the details -- you lived through all of them, too. Some of the things I learned were good, though, and it was of course a stack of library books that facilitated the best thing I learned this year:
These are, yes, books about that arcane and esoteric practice known as mending. See also: fixing things when they break. Unbeknownst to those who don’t watch the new non-fiction shelves like a hawk or idle away time in the mending corners of Instagram and Twitch - yes, I think this is a thing - mending has become totally trendy. And notwithstanding the diverse crew of folks who never forgot how to darn a sock or rewire a lamp, the last time patching your clothes was this mainstream might have been during the last great economic downturn…
Anyway! Onto the books.
Make + Mend helped me learn how to patch an elbow
And Mending Matters helped me (kinda) salvage a pillow
Wear, Repair, Repurpose taught me about rag rugs
And Mending Life one taught me about felting away holes
Did I mention how cute these books are? How beginner-friendly?
Meanwhile, another great genre of literature has emerged in 2020: the Repair Cafe book. I guess the genre is technically made up of just two books so far, but combined with the influx of mending books, let’s believe they’re all harbingers of something more. You might be wondering -- what is “repair cafe” supposed to mean? Maybe shorthand for a broken coffee shop getting a new owner? Or longhand for a hot, rejuvenating French-pressed cuppa joe? It probably won’t surprise you to learn -- it’s none of these!
Repair cafes, or fix-it clinics, or “repair studios,” as we call our own version here at the library, are gatherings (remember those?) of people with fix-it know-how and other people with broken items. When you bring a broken item to a repair cafe, you’re matched up with someone who has at least marginally more knowledge about fixing things than you do (sometimes called a Repair Mentor!) and together, your goal is to figure out how to fix your item. Sometimes it works! And sometimes it doesn’t! The pleasure is in gaining an understanding of how things work: how the vacuum belt moves, how the threads in a shirt hold it together, how an electric current powers an appliance. Plus, repair cafes counter an economic order that prioritizes cheap items, easily thrown away and repurchased, which is of course a problem, as we all know in 2020, because the Earth can’t churn out infinite lamps (etc.).
So, in 2020 I sat in my home, when I wasn’t at the library, and crouched over the holes in my clothes and tried to make them go away. Not much is easily fixed, but luckily, thankfully, fortunately! it’s not too hard to salvage the life left in a worn pair of socks.
If you’re interested in participating in the library’s Repair Studio -- just like a repair cafe -- when we can once again gather in in-person events, shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t have to know everything to be a Mentor! A passion for tinkering is more than enough. Also, your broken items almost certainly deserve to live some more. Just don’t bring any broken Furbies.
If you just want to read more and project less, here's a list of related books.
-Hazlett Henderson is an Info Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.