My elbows are sharp but my needle is sharper

I have sharp elbows but my needle is sharper, TOAST x Celia Pym
Westbourne Grove, London 12th-18th May 2019
18 sweaters and 1 pair of damaged socks, repaired spring 2019

Celia Pym x Toast: exploring customers relationships with their favourite Toast knitwear. The plan was simple to ask customers for stories about their damaged sweaters in exchange for getting them mended. The project was advertised through a call out on social media looking for damaged sweaters in need of repair, and we selected the first 20 responses for the project. After a meeting with with each owner, discussing the cause of the damage and hearing about the particular stories attached to each piece, I agreed with them colour and yarn for darning. Through the meetings and interviews a snapshot of everyday life and the small habits, routines and rituals that fill our time emerged – from gardening and train commutes to hospital visits. I am  interested in how these damaged garments become evidence of our regular movements and actions, holding an imprint of the wearer and the often overlooked labour of our day.

Title from the exhibition was inspired by one of the interviews  – a sweater owner said “I have sharp elbows. My Dad has sharp elbows too” Repair work has to contend with sharp elbows and bodies that break through soft clothing. A strong match for this damage is the sharp power of the needle to pierce cloth and be restorative.

Below are photographs of each mended garment with the owners answers to questions about their items:


Jane Barrett-Danes – Grey Mohair Cropped Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? It was a Christmas present from my husband, 2016. He doesn’t normally buy clothes for me.
  2. What do you wear it with? I used to wear it at work but it’s so well worn it got too shabby for work, so I’ve been wearing it a home – to get comfy in. Will often put it on at end of day with pyjama bottoms.
  3. How, why is it damaged? It’s got very thin in the elbows. Possibly from leaning my elbows on my desk at work.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Had thought about mending it myself. I want to keep wearing it, excited to see mark of repair.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Quite recently, at home.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I had knee surgery immediately after getting the sweater and I wore the sweater through my recovery.

 


Martha Burn – Powder Blue Chunky Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Easter 2016 – bought it in a Toast outlet on the journey between home and visiting my parents. It was an easy purchase. I like the wide funnel neck.
  2. What do you wear it with? Mainly with black flared jeans is best. Not with blue jeans – it’s too much blue. It’s my slouching around jumper. It’s my go-to jumper I can go out to dinner in it or clean my house in it. It’s really warm.
  3. How, why is it damaged? On the right elbow, it’s rabbit damage. My rabbit, Daphne, nibbled the sweater while she was in my lap.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I didn’t really care about it being mended, was happy with it the way it was, but saw your call out and was excited. Because I like your work.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? On Sunday at work.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? Suppose I have connected the sweater to something my Mum said. She is a TOAST addict. She said, ‘when I saw it in the catalogue I wasn’t into it but then when I see it on you I really like it.’ I guess there’s something about style and needing to see things on people to appreciate them.

 


Debbie Smyth and Zac Mead – Orange Socks

  1. When did you get your socks? Debbie: Zac’s Mum bought them for me at Christmas, 5 years ago.
  2. What do you wear it with? D: Actually Zac wears them. I don’t think I’ve worn them much. Zac: I wear them as house socks or with slippers. I wear them with shorts on Sundays.
  3. How, why is it damaged? D: It’s wear and tear and maybe moths. It’s just from wearing them around the house.
  4. Why do you want it mended? D: In 2017 we put everything we owned in storage and went to Taiwan. I just pulled the socks out of storage recently and saw the holes again. The damage is so big. Z: My toes come out completely, they’re more legwarmers than socks now. But they’re really nice socks.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? D: 2017 before Taiwan
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? Z: I reckon moonwalking was what caused the holes.

 


Rebecca Caldecott – Purple Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Approximately 4 years ago, not more than 5 years ago.
  2. What do you wear it with? It’s not for looking smart. It’s for going to the park, going for a walk in. I turn up the cuffs and usually wear it with jeans. I don’t wear it with jewellery
  3. How, why is it damaged? It got damaged distressingly soon after I got it. Have a lot of friendly guests – moths.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Project call out inspired me to get it done. I can sew name-tags but nothing else really. Have three children 5 and 3 years old and 10 months.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Quite recently – maybe 6 weeks ago, definitely in 2019.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I love the colour. I bought it in the sale, at the time I wondered if I should have brought something more special and unique, it feels like a sort of ordinary sweater – but actually I never do buy the ‘unique’ thing. I just love the colour.

 


Amanda Banham – Brown Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? It’s about 10-12 years old. I got the sweater in all the three colours it came in – grey, dark blue and brown. The brown is the least ‘like me’ colour but it is the jumper I wear the most. I don’t buy clothes very often but I buy Toast because I know the clothes last. I bought nightwear and slippers about 20 years ago that I still use. I look at the collections a lot and if I see someone wearing Toast in the street I can spot the collection it’s from.
  2. What do you wear it with? I wear it all the time in the studio – it smells like smoke from the raku firing I do. I wear it in winter and summer. Its short sleeves and wide neck makes it comfy. The short sleeves are good for working in the studio.
  3. How, why is it damaged? It’s already repaired a lot. It’s got a hole under the arm.
  4. Why do you want it mended? For practical reasons – it’s going to get worse and needs mending. Because the holes don’t represent the love I have for it. My Dad’s Mum, my Nanny, used to knit for my Dad, and my Dad used to mend the sweaters Nan had made for him. He would mend with radically different colours. He would unpick socks and use their wool to do his darning. My Dad worked in aviation reinsurance but he had wanted, as young man, to be an artist. He was a good artist. My Mum doesn’t sew. When she needed socks mended she’d send them to my Nan with a bar of fruit and nut chocolate. Then my Nan would send the mended socks back with the empty chocolate wrapper.
  5. Anything else you want to tell me? My daughter wears it sometimes – I always have the jumper with me, packed in a bag if we go to the beach, ready to cover a child. After a day at the beach she’ll wear it over her swimsuit, like a dress. She says it smells like Mum, smells like bonfires. That’s my signature scent.

 


Sue Green – Grey Lambswool Sweater 

  1. When did you get your sweater? It’s approximately 7-8 years old. So maybe 2012. Feels like I’ve had it a long time
  2. What do you wear it with? With anything. If it’s cold I might just put it on, might put it on ontop of another jumper. It’s a nice warm layer.
  3. How, why is it damaged? There’s a hole on the left side, in a position above my heart. It’s not massive. Got caught on a blackberry bush and pulled a big hole. Still wear it – and still a favourite. But the hole is in a prominent position.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I want it mended by you. I’d like it to be with other Toast sweaters in exhibition.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Hasn’t been cold enough this winter to wear it. Last time I wore it was March 2018 when we had the snow.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? It’s a roomy sweater – when she was younger my daughter could get inside it with me. It’s big enough to get two heads poking out the neck. We’d do this maybe at the beach and have a good snuggle.

 


Jess Smith – Navy Blue Chunky Men’s Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Boyfriend used to work for Toast in Bath store. He bought it in 2015-16.
  2. What do you wear it with? Normally wear it around the house. Ben used to give it to me when I came home in a bad mood. Well not a bad mood – stressed – when I was a student I was sometimes stressed. He’d give it to me for comfort. I keep it on the back of a chair, to me it’s like a comfort, we both wear it.
  3. How, why is it damaged? There are 3 holes on the right arm. One on the cuff, then one a bit higher up on the forearm and then one at the back of the forearm. They’re moth holes
  4. Why do you want it mended? We just moved and Ben saw the holes when we were unpacking the boxes. And he said ‘oh let’s throw it away’. But I said ‘no!’ I’ve been watching documentaries about fast fashion and it didn’t feel right to throw it away. Plus I love it. My Granny used to darn my tights. I wish I’d learned to darn.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? We moved house about 1 month ago. Wore it Christmas/January 2019. Having discovered the holes haven’t worn it.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I don’t know. I love it. Hope I have it for years and years to come.

 


Dee Miller – White Cable Cotton Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? In 2015, I was in grips of being a new mum. A friend came over and she was wearing this sweater and I saw it on her and I loved it. So I went and bought it and got the last one.
  2. What do you wear it with? I’m a portrait photographer and I wear it when I’m working taking photographs of children, which often involves being low down leaning on my elbows. I wear it with everything. It’s good for autumn because it’s cotton. I love getting it out in September and starting to wear it again. And when it gets cold I can wear it with a second sweater. I often wear it instead of a coat.
  3. How, why is it damaged? It’s not really damaged, well it doesn’t have any holes but the elbows are getting thin and I love it so much I’d love to get them reinforced.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I want to make sure it lasts forever. And also want to learn how to darn.
  5. When was the last time you wore it?
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I don’t really want to be separated from my sweater.

 


Shelagh Wilson – Ash Grey Brown Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Probably about 5 years ago. Bought it for myself. It’s a sweater they [Toast] do most seasons.
  2. What do you wear it with? When I got it I wore it with cord trousers – it’s a sort of taupe colour and it went with creamy pink trousers and ankle boots. I wouldn’t wear it everyday, just for special occasions and definitely not in the studio. It’s cashmere.
  3. How, why is it damaged? There’s a little hole on the elbow. I must have caught it on something. I think I was out for lunch and someone said you’ve got a little hole. I’m quite a neat person. I mend things or alter clothing to fit me. I often add a pin tuck or extend the length of a garment. I’m not sure how this hole happened. It’s not a moth.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Well I had put a little stitch in it to hold it but I’d rather it was turned into something beautiful. I like wabi-sabi. I like imperfections with beauty. Mended it would be distinctive and a one-off.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? I wore it last autumn. I’ve put a stitch in to hold the ladder so it’s wearable.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I can’t think of anything. Actually I think I bought this on Islington High Street. It was my first time on the high street. I can’t remember why I was there but I came across the Toast shop and bought this sweater. I think everyone has colour inside them. My palette is Celtic.

 


Polly Higginson – White and Blue Square Chunky Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? 2013, 8 years ago, bought it for myself.
  2. What do you wear it with? I wear it with jeans or leggings. One of those sweaters you can wear everyday in the winter
  3. How, why is it damaged? From moths, it’s got big holes because they’ve unraveled from where the moth ate.
  4. Why do you want it mended? It was my neighbour’s suggestion. Just before I saw the callout from Toast – a neighbour had seen me wearing it and politely suggested I mend it. It’s a beautiful jumper and could last a lifetime. I’m trying to buy fewer and better things. And I had already started mending it…but then saw you were offering to mend it.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Quite recently – probably about a month ago but I hadn’t worn it for a year because of the holes. But this winter I felt bad I hadn’t been wearing it and so dug it out. And then wanted to fix it – I’m a juggler – juggling things that need doing so this has been started…but not yet finished.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? No, not really.

 


Sue Green – Grey Lambswool Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? It’s approximately 7-8 years old. So maybe 2012. Feels like I’ve had it a long time
  2. What do you wear it with? With anything. If it’s cold I might just put it on, might put it on ontop of another jumper. It’s a nice warm layer.
  3. How, why is it damaged? There’s a hole on the left side, in a position above my heart. It’s not massive. Got caught on a blackberry bush and pulled a big hole. Still wear it – and still a favourite. But the hole is in a prominent position.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I want it mended by you. I’d like it to be with other Toast sweaters in exhibition.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Hasn’t been cold enough this winter to wear it. Last time I wore it was March 2018 when we had the snow.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? It’s a roomy sweater – when she was younger my daughter could get inside it with me. It’s big enough to get two heads poking out the neck. We’d do this maybe at the beach and have a good snuggle.

 


Clare Long – Charcol Grey Boxy Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Couple of years ago. Feels to me like I’ve had it for ages. I haunt Toast on ebay.
  2. What do you wear it with? Lots of things. It’s really warm. Grey is so neutral and boring, actually it makes it really versatile. It goes well with wide trousers or a big skirt.
  3. How, why is it damaged? Barbed wire caused the hole. It’s on the left side at the bottom. Here’s the story. I do have moths but I’d protected this sweater and then I went and ripped it on barbed wire. I like Nordic walking – where you walk with poles – and I’d gone with friends. A woman I don’t particularly like was on the walk and had stopped for a pee. So I was waiting for her when there was suddenly a cry from the area she was in. I ran to the rescue – in response to the scream and, as I threw myself through the undergrowth, my sweater got caught and ripped on some barbed wire. She was ok – it wasn’t a perilous situation she’s just a screamer and had slipped. I was imagining my heroism but actually it wasn’t so dramatic, it was more, funny than anything else. But it was a shame I ripped my sweater.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Because I really like this sweater. And I like your mending.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? I actually did wear it recently because I forgot it had holes. Then realised I shouldn’t wear it. But actually no one noticed.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me?

 


Caro McAdam – Blue Donegal Fleck Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Around 4 years ago, 2015. I saw it in a shop, then bought it online.
  2. What do you wear it with? I wear it when I go to stay with my sister who lives in Edinburgh. It’s very warm and light sweater and packs well for the cold weather in Edinburgh. I go up often to visit my Mum who lives in a home there. I’ve got tonnes of sweaters but only wear a small selection often.
  3. How, why is it damaged? My Mum used to darn everything and sometimes I darn myself. Anyway, I’d taken the sweater to Edinburgh and then didn’t unpack it from the suitcase when I got back to London – for about 2 months it was packed in the case and then when I finally opened it I discovered the sweater was all moth-eaten. I was really cross with myself for leaving it in the case
  4. Why do you want it mended? I associate this sweater with feeling happy and comfortable. I can’t wear it with holes in. I am incredibly fond of it.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Autumn 2018.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I have a lot of darned things. My Mum might have taught me to darn. I remember repairing a pair of riding gloves, but then I left them in the back of a taxi. I loved the gloves and was sad to lose them. And this is my favourite jersey.

 


Nicolette Bolgar – Grey Lightweight Cardigan

  1. When did you get your sweater? This was my sixth summer wearing it. Bought it for myself in the sale.
  2. What do you wear it with? Everything – it’s good for all occasions. Take it when I go out looking smart. Dilapidated smart.
  3. How, why is it damaged? Moth holes. Everything in life is moth eaten. Anything I love and wear gets moth eaten. But it’s also coming away at the neck.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I would keep wearing it forever but it’s getting less smart. I’ve mended the moth holes already. Love it and want to keep wearing it. Learnt darning from my mother. I got good at it when I did it a lot. My Hungarian Grandma used to say it was my –‘anti-talent’.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Last time I wore it was as a scarf in Autumn 2018. But it felt a bit fragile then, so I washed it and put it away
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? My half-sister lives in Australia. She came to visit and one day went shopping and came back with this cardigan. I really liked it, so I went out and bought it but didn’t tell her. I’ve tried not to wear it at the same time as her. And her cardigan is in a more pristine condition than mine – not so well worn. It’s annoying to see it on her in such good condition.

 


Gabrielle Eber – Brown Roll Neck

  1. When did you get your sweater? Don’t know. I’ve had it for a long time. I love their [Toast’s] knitwear. It’s proper old. I’ve had it since before I had my son – who is 8 years old. So I’ve had it at least 10 years
  2. What do you wear it with? I don’t wear it everyday because it’s one of my favourite sweaters. I like the way the neck is loose. And I love the colour it’s a conker brown. I like the long ribbing on waistband and cuffs. Wish it looked less raggedy. I wear it with a long sleeved T and sometimes with a brown cord skirt or brown trousers. The default option is with jeans. I fold the neck and cuffs.
  3. How, why is it damaged? There are 2 holes in the armpits – think it’s wear and tear but could be moths. I’ve been a bit inattentive.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Because it’s been on my ‘to do’ list for ages.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Not this winter. It’s been on the back of my bedroom door singled out for repair for some time. I probably wore it last winter 2017-18.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? It’s hard to find the right shade of brown. I find this colour very comforting.

 


Mel Whewell – Chatreuse Green Lightweight Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? It was a gift from my Mum. My Mum is a big Toast fan. Through her, me and my younger sister were introduced to Toast. She gives us sweaters for our birthdays and Christmas. My sister is a working mum and so really appreciates getting lovely pieces, as she’s always spending money on kid’s clothes. I reckon this sweater’s about 4-5 years old. My Mum will be 80 this year and she’s still very stylish. Very keen on fashion and not dressing the way older woman are perceived to be dressing. People comment very positively on how she looks.
  2. What do you wear it with? It’s a fine sweater. I quite often wear it with something underneath – like a petrol, blue long sleeved top and like to wear it with a short bottle green velvety skirt. That’s a good outfit. The spring green of the sweater, blue top and the lovely texture of the velvety skirt.
  3. How, why is it damaged? There are several small holes that just sort of emerged. It’s a fine fabric so maybe it’s where I’ve nicked or caught it. Or it could be a moth. I’ve already done some darning. My Mum’s Mum used to darn socks and jumpers over a tobacco tin. I’ve repaired it a little, made chunky stitches. I’m embarrassed by my darns.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I’ve been staring at the holes in this sweater wondering what to do about them. When I am on the train coming home from work, I look at instagram to relax on the train ride – like looking at lovely things and then I saw the Toast mending call out. It was perfect. Also I love the spring colour, this sweater is special – it’s a contrast to the black and grey I normally wear.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Probably wore it at the end of last summer. Had become concerned that by wearing it, it was getting more holes
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? Intrigued about what colour you’ll chose to mend it. I’m ok with bright contrast.

 


Nicky Guymer – Cream Wool Cardigan Coat

  1. When did you get your sweater? January 2014. It was a gift from my husband after the birth of our son. I needed a warm sweater that allowed access to my boobs. Toast is a treat. Unasked, my husband went online and bought a selection of items. This was the only one I kept.
  2. What do you wear it with? Initially with my baby in a sling. Otto [son] was like a baby radiator when I was carrying him, the cardigan was perfect because I could keep it open or wrap it around him. It goes with everything. My favourite way to wear it was with boyfriend jeans, Breton top and big hoops.
  3. How, why is it damaged? Damaged by moths, winter 2015. It hangs on back of door, I threw away a lot of items that had been damaged by moths but am attached to this one so kept it.
  4. Why do you want it mended? I love it.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? Winter 2015.

 


Emily Ashworth – Grey Wool Sweater 

  1. When did you get your sweater? 2015, roughly 3 years ago. I am a big fan of Toast and have this sweater in 4 colours – the grey, orange, blue and green. I didn’t get the plum.
  2. What do you wear it with? I live in these sweaters. Wear them almost everyday. Love being able to throw it on. I wear the grey one especially at the allotment. I have sensitive skin but am never irritated by these sweaters.
  3. How, why is it damaged? I have sharp elbows. My Dad has sharp elbows too and goes through his sweaters in the same spot. The hole is on my left arm. I’m left handed.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Of my sweaters I wear this one the most, that’s why its got a hole in it. Grey goes with everything and now that it’s stretched, I don’t feel restricted in it. So comfy.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? 2 days ago.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I don’t think so. It’s an everyday piece of my life. Oh – they do bobble a lot and I’m not good at de-bobbling

 


Kate Wafer – Pink Super Kid Mohair Sweater

  1. When did you get your sweater? Probably a few years ago – but then when I think about it – maybe longer, maybe 7 years old. I keep clothes for a long time. This is the oldest sweater in my drawer. But I do have older ones that I love that are too disreputable to wear packed away.
  2. What do you wear it with? It’s a thin sweater and dusky pink colour, I wear it over stripey tops. Like what you’re wearing [CP was wearing thin pink sweater over stripey top]. I don’t normally wear pink, this is the only pink item I own. It’s not too girly. I like it so much. I wear it with anything and everything. I bought it online.
  3. How, why is it damaged? It’s got a small hole on the collar. Not big, which is amazing because it’s quite delicate. I probably got piece of jewellery caught on it. Maybe an earring. Something definitely got caught. To wash it I throw it in the machine. It’s quite tolerant of hard washing.
  4. Why do you want it mended? Because I have loved it and I would like to carry on wearing things I love forever. If I could and I would like to do that with this sweater. If it can be mended in an interesting way then it has more character – so love you to do it. Plus I’m not very good at darning. At one point in my life I darned – when I was a kid, but not anymore.
  5. When was the last time you wore it? I probably wore it when it was a bit colder – maybe Christmas or January. Not long ago. When I first got it I loved it so much I wore it all the time.
  6. Anything else you want to tell me? I remember I wore it once when it was really cold to a meeting. It was a really strange meeting. I met a man I didn’t know very well at café just off a motorway. It was a midway point between us. Not a glamorous location. The meeting, which was supposed to be about work – turned into talking about him – he’d just been made redundant. He spoke very openly about his shock and how upset he was at being made redundant – even though I really didn’t know him hardly at all – I felt he spoke to me so openly because I was wearing this fluffy pink sweater.