Happy International Woman's Day! I'm excited to share the extraordinary textile work of Heidi Parkes with you. Heidi is an artist, quilter, mender and teacher. I'm a big fan of her improvisational style and expert mends, which are all done by hand. It was exciting to hear that Heidi was awarded Judge's Choice by Mondo Guerra (Project Runway) for her quilt work at QuiltCon 2019. Heidi teaches quilting and mending classes regularly, as well as takes mending commissions. I really wish I could go to one of her two sold out Makerie retreats but you can also catch her upcoming classes here.
Read on to learn about her practice, her love of epic mending projects (like perfecting legging mends!), and how tv can help you pace any project!
1. How did you get started with mending?
I've always been sensitive about my clothing. As a kid, I'd wear the same things repeatedly, and would opt to buy the exact same shoes in a larger size when I outgrew the old ones. When things would wear out or get ripped before I outgrew them, they were mended. I slowly got better at this over time. The earliest occasion that I vividly remember, is from babysitting in Jr High. Due to some mischief, my leggings got wet, and when we tried drying them with a hairdryer, I melted a hole in them. Hiding our crime, and preserving my favorite pants were both important, so out came the needle and thread for a mend!
2. Tell us a bit about your process. How do you plan out a project or mend? What kind of materials do you use?
First, I notice the nature of the garment, what is its drape, is it knit or woven, does it stretch, etc. Then I notice if the garment is thinning and weak around the point of wear- that would cause me to use a much larger patch. Then, I use similar materials, and a stitch that stretches too, as needed.
3. Hand work can take a fair amount of time and patience. How do you carve out time to mend?
I think about mending time in television increments. It might take a 30 or 60 minute episode, a movie, or could require a marathon series. Because it's so portable, mending is much easier than quilting for me to do on-the-go. I'll often view an airplane trip, or waiting room type experience as an ideal moment for mending.
4. Are there any projects that you're particularly proud of? Maybe you tested out a new technique, had some breakthrough in your process, or just felt elated with the finished outcome.
I love an epic mend, the kind that takes a full day, one that only a 'crazy person' would spend so much time on. The closer an item is to disintegration, the more I like to mend it. I've had some commissions for jackets and shirts like this. I usually charge around $200, which is often far greater than the initial purchase price of the garment, and it's satisfying to know that I can add value to clothing like that. I'm especially proud of my ability to maintain drape, stretch, and internal comfort in a mend. I see a lot of mends online that look very uncomfortable to me, and that completely defeats the point for me.
5. Besides mending what are some of your interests? What are some ways you incorporate the "mend and make do" ethos in other aspects of your daily life?
I'm into handmade living in general. My main job is hand quilting, and many of the techniques involved in mending are similar. I also love cooking, and making food for myself. Things like canning and fermenting give me that extra bit of satisfaction that connects to mending. I'm also really excited about aromatherapy, and healing myself with plants and handmade products. I'm a certified yoga therapist, and use many self care techniques to keep my body healthy and in good repair. Mending myself, and noticing areas of 'wear' early, and caring for them while the problem is still small creates a lot of happiness, and a better life experience for me.
6. Any upcoming events or projects you'd like to share?
I'm teaching a mending class in Cedarburg Wisconsin, as part of the Midwest Fiber Arts Trail on March 16th. I'm also constantly pursuing improving my technique at mending leggings. Every tiny step towards perfecting that craft is very satisfying to me since I wear leggings so much more often than jeans. Lastly, I've started a monthly email newsletter, and I'm excited to share some mending techniques in a more in-depth and personal way there.