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Interview: creative mending with Flora Collingwood-Norris
Flora Collingwood-Norris is a knitwear designer and maker based in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. She designs colourful knitted accessories and also offers a visible mending service. Her aim is both to create pieces of knitwear that last, and extend the life of others. Her knitwear is made either by herself on a vintage knitting machine in her studio or made in small batches at a local mill. She uses high quality natural fibres, mostly lambswool, that can last for decades if cared for well, and will biodegrade at the end of their life.
“My love of making started when I was very young. My mum started teaching me to knit, sew and embroider when I was six. I have lovely memories of sitting in the window of my granny’s workroom sewing with her. Every year my grandpa organised a large book fair, and he would pass any knitting and embroidery books on to me, and I would teach myself new techniques in my free time. During my time at university, I combined knit, crochet and embroidery in a lot of my work. I think the visible mending I’m doing now is a really practical and creative way of bringing some of that back into my work.”
The mending started after Flora got a puppy, an apricot cockapoo called Leni, with a taste for jumpers!
“She loved chewing on my sleeves, and suddenly I had a few quite holey pieces. I was aware that I would almost never be able to find an exact colour match for my mends, so decided I might as well make a feature of them. Over the last four years or so I’ve spent more and more time mending, exploring the creative side of it, and now offer a visible mending and creative knitwear repair service, as well as workshops, digital mending guides and darning wool. I always wanted to have repairs as part of my business, as the aim has always been to create pieces that are made to last, to encourage people to wear them for years and care for them- it just took me a few years to find a way of doing it that feels right to me!”
The first lockdown provided Flora with the opportunity to spend more time working through her mending pile, and tackling some of the more challenging pieces she had.
“I have quite a few old second-hand cashmere jumpers that I’ve been wearing for years, so lots of them needed a bit of care and attention. Visibly mending them has meant that they now feel like new pieces in my wardrobe, and I’m excited to start wearing them again.”
Flora has put together a tutorial showing exactly how to make mending a decorative statement, which you can find here. She also has a creative mending Instagram account with lots of examples for inspiration.