A Tale of Jeans: Denim Art

When I was in high school I had a pair of jeans that I simple loved. I literally lived in them, wearing them day in and day out. It didn’t take long before they started to fringe.

Before I go on, I need to stop for a moment and tell you a couple of things. The first is that my grandmother taught me how to darn socks when I was very little. She must have learned doing it as a young girl herself, at a time when socks were expensive and possibly knitted by hand. By the time I was born, all socks were already store-bought and rather cheap. Very few people ever considered fixing them. Hence, for many years I wasn’t exactly sure why my grandma chose to pass on that specific piece of knowledge at a time when it was already passé. Recently I realized she might have done so since I was very crafty, and darning socks was pretty much the only crafty thing she knew how to teach me… No matter the reason, I fondly remember her showing me how to pull a torn sock over a cup, and how to weave over the hole ever so gently.

The second thing you need to know is that I went to a high school for the arts, where all of us students considered ourselves to be artists–and dressed to match…

Well, as I said, I had a pair of jeans I loved, and they didn’t last long. So I made use of the skill my grandmother taught me, and started darning them using colorful embroidery floss. I fixed the first tear (at the knee) and it looked great … for a while. A few weeks later the jeans tore above the fix. So I fixed that, too. And on and on it went. Soon they tore at the crotch, and from behind, and even at the bottom. And so, over the course of my four years in high school, my beloved pair of denim became a continuous, living work of denim art:

Some teenagers rebel by smoking or drinking. I tested boundaries by means of embroidery. To my mother’s great horror I insisted on wearing my jeans to our high school’s graduation ceremony! (She walked on the other side of the street all the way from the bus…).

Needless to say, I kept them. Although I never wore them again once high school was over, they are still folded nicely in a closet at my parents’ house.

As for darning, you might wonder if I ever found use for that skill again. Well, I will surprise you by telling you that I did!

When my girls were little, I loved dressing them in cute dresses and pretty tights. I went out of my way to search near and far for the most beautiful, colorful and elaborately-patterned tights I could get. The problem was that the tights didn’t last long. A mere day or two of energetic playing predictably resulted in punctured holes at the toes… The busy mom that I was, I just couldn’t stand the thought of perfectly new, beautiful tights with only a little hole being thrown away… So I spent hours darning tights that tore yet again after another day or two. It took a few years until I finally gave up.

But while I no longer darn socks (or tights, for that matter!), I recently started darning for art’s sake. Inspired by the memory of my high-school jeans, I began saving my kids’ torn pants (of which there are PLENTY!). I cut the ripped pieces out, stretch them over embroidery hoops and darn:

Now, I simply enjoy the process. Darning is relaxing and therapeutic, almost meditative. I also savor the memories it brings, memories of my high school days and of my grandmother, now long deceased. And I just love the aesthetic outcome!

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