Q&A – maker of the week: Tom of Holland

Master Mender: Tom of Holland

Tom visited us in August 2018 to deliver a number of workshops in Visible Mending and Darning for both knitting and fabric. It was our inaugural program and we were delighted that Tom received a fabulous reception. We loved hosting him and look forward to another set of his workshops here one day.

Tom highlights in this short Q&A his favourite tools, working style and his aim to become more proficient in hand-stitching! (If you have seen Tom’s stitching, you will know that it is already precise and tiny.)

Read on…

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

maker and mender

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?                  

My workspace is the living room of our flat. I have yarns, thread and fabrics dotted all around the place, trying to hide them discretely, with varying success.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?                     

Practically, my needles and thimble as I use them frequently and I enjoy stitching by hand. Aesthetically, I like my collection of vintage darning mushrooms, they have such a gorgeous patina from years of use.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

I am inspired by old sewing and stitching books, as I love learning about particular techniques for specific jobs. I also love antique darning and plain sewing samplers. The darning samplers are so colourful and for both darning samplers and sewing samplers I admire the neat and tidy stitch work, usually done by hand.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

I can’t pinpoint a particular spark; I’ve always loved clothes and textiles, and have been interested in natural fibres from a very young age.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

I do a lot of thinking about a project, aided with my trusty notebook in which I often sketch or write down ideas. I like to try out new techniques on scraps of fabric, but sometimes I want to just jump in and see where the project takes me and solve problems along the way.

As I combine my textile practice with an office job, I try to do a lot of work on my “craft” day, which is Friday, but I also stitch on my commute or during my lunch break when I’m in the office. Sometimes I do some light stitching in the evenings or over the weekend.

What are you working towards right now?

I’m collaborating with a friend, known as NOKI, who subverts branded clothing, mostly streetwear. At the moment it is more of an exploration of how we can combine our practices, and because he has such a different aesthetic from me, I am challenged in interesting and creative ways; a great journey to be on!

On a separate strand, I want to become more proficient in hand-stitching, and I’m working towards stitching my own clothes completely by hand. I would love to have a whole outfit that I made myself, all stitched without a sewing machine in sight.

Update April 2020:

I’ve developed an interest in hand-stitching clothes, and I’ve now made two shirts that I completely stitched by hand. It’s very satisfying! Stitching by hand might take longer, but at the same time I don’t have to wait for the stars to align and find the right weekend to take over the living room to work on a shirt from start to finish, so I’m actually more productive!

Next step would be to make a pair of trousers, but I don’t have a full-length mirror at the moment, so it’s more difficult to check fit etc.

Separately, I’ve started my first patchwork quilt, together with my husband. I came up with a design that allows him to machine stitch his contributions, and I can hand stitch my contributions.

Right now, mending has taken a bit of a step back as these other interests have taken over and allow me to explore different create avenues

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

There are so many things I’d like to do! Repairing non-garment textiles (e.g. a rug or upholstered furniture). I’d love to present a collection of mended clothes where I don’t have to worry about the cost; put up an exhibition juxtaposing antique samplers with contemporary ones (inviting other darners as well to respond to the antique ones.) The list could go on!

[Collected 9 September 2019. With update added in April 2020.]

Listen to Tom interviewed on ABC Radio National ‘The Hub on Arts’ by Ed Ayres.

Read more about Tom of Holland

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’.