Make Do & Mend - A response from Denise Zygadlo


As part of the 'Langholm Made' project, artist Emma Dove curated a film programme - 'infinite hands' -  a selection of short films celebrating women, weaving and textiles.  

A response to the film 'Make Do and Mend' by D&G based artist Denise Zygadlo.

View all of this project's blog posts 

'Make Do and Mend (BFI)
'Make Do and Mend (BFI)

Local Dumfriesshire artist, Denise Zygadlo, responds to the â€˜infinite hands’ short film programme with the following short text and video, in which she talks us through some of the valued clothes in her wardrobe that she has adapted and mended over the years. 

Make Do and Mend

The artist Louise Bourgeois kept her clothes as long as they were still good – “it is my past” she said. As our second skin, clothes are the closest to us throughout our lives and can evoke memories, stories and past experiences that have a particular significance for us as individuals.

As a child I experienced illustrations in my first picture books not just visually, but also through the sense of touch. I realised this when I thought about them later in life and could remember the way they felt; the blue satin quilt of the kitten’s bed, the smooth red hose of Old King Cole. I am always drawn to touch cloth and immediately want to feel the weight and texture of a garment on a rail, or the nappe of a cushion, or the quality of a selvedge.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents had the skills of dressmaking, pattern cutting, lace-making and mending! The film Make Do and Mend is so relevant today, when few of us make our own clothes or know how to fix them when they break or begin to wear out. In fact not many of us wear out our clothes - as the film Unravel reveals - we are more likely to buy anew to keep up with fashion. And so we have the shocking and ironic situation where “over 100,000 tonnes” of perfectly wearable clothes from western countries, arrive in India to be slashed and made into blankets to be exported once again. How crazy is that!

Our throw away culture has given permission for fashion to change at increasing speed with the emphasis on current new trends. Those of us who grew up in the post war years, when our clothes were lengthened, altered and passed on, learnt how to use a pattern in domestic science classes – how to pin darts, set in a zip and ease a gathered shoulder. Making clothes gave us an understanding of cloth – the way it hangs and moves, the weave and the nappe, the best fabric for a particular use. Clothes lasted for as long as they would fit, or went into holes (and then there was always darning)! But mending is now becoming a respected art – hooray! (check out the work of artist Celia Pym)

Over the last year I have made a pledge not to buy another new piece of clothing (unless my underwear becomes unwearable!). Now in my late 60’s I have clothes for every occasion, gathered over the years and mostly from charity shops or passed on from friends.  I have plenty to last me. So now I pay more attention to keeping my favourite clothes mended or re-designed and it gives me great pleasure to wear garments that are unique to me.

Reading Loved Clothes Last by Orsola de Castro recently, has made me more aware of the waste, abuse of workers and destructive effect on climate that the fashion industry has created. It is truly horrific.

Make Do and Mend is the way forward – it has to be. And if children can be taught the skills again and an awareness of what, how and who is involved in the making of the clothes they put on each day, we may have a light at the end of the tunnel.


Further links

Dumfries-based Designer and Tutor Leah Halliday runs stitching workshops, with plans to start online classes! This group that meets weekly and exhibits annually at Gracefield Avoiding buying new - shop local and vintage instead!  Dumfries spinners, weavers and dyers group

Join Slow Fashion’s #FashionDetox:


Denise Zygadlo 

Denise Zygadlo lives and works in Scotland. Her work includes drawing, printing, performance and installation. Trained in printed textiles, Denise worked with several design studios, before moving from London to Dumfries in 1980. She shows her work in Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh and the Scottish Society of Artists as a professional member. She has had three solo exhibitions. The relationship between the body and cloth is the main focus of her work and Denise explores this through drawing and collage, incorporating transfer images of photocopies of her own wrapped body.