Repair Rewear: Behind the Seams
Just a hop and a skip away from Swindon town centre lies our Jigsaw warehouse. Inside, much like the discovery of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, beyond the endless rails of beautiful clothing… an oasis of technicoloured threads and other miscellaneous sewing bits, overlooking the rest of the warehouse. Sat at their machines are Karen and Tara: Mother and daughter duo from Swindon who are responsible for all the clothing repairs and restorations at Jigsaw.
I watch as Karen (the mum) pulls out a tape measure from her tool kit and starts to calculate the length of the fabric in front of her. A fitting moment to begin. Since I too was wanting to ease into the conversation by extrapolating some measurements of my own.
Length of time they have both lived in Swindon: Their whole lives – excluding Karen’s brief interlude in Leicester.
Length of time they have been doing Jigsaw repairs: 8 years – Independently started by Karen, who started the repairs to stop the clothing going to waste. Not long after, Tara was called in for support.
Length of Karen’s fabric: 58cm.
Scan over to Tara - seam ripper at hand - determinedly picking away at the stitches on a pair of trousers. As the thread unravels, along with it: the story of how they learnt this craft. Refraining to make any ivory-towered claims about sewing having existed in their family for generations, Tara did admit she picked up the skill young just from watching mum Karen - who learnt during obligatory needlework lessons at school. Tara went on to study interior design at college, which upon her completion, started a business making curtains, duvet covers and other decorations for the home. Whilst temporarily on hold as she works full-time in the warehouse, it still remains a fervent hobby: ‘I’m constantly re-decorating my home!’
Scrolling through Karen’s camera roll was like watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. A binge of sequins, shoulder pads & metallic fringe. With such skill and craftmanship, Karen can bring people’s drag outfit designs to life – no matter how outrageous.
Trace back to Karen - no longer working with a piece of fabric - but replacing a silver sequin back onto one of Jigsaw’s best- selling ruched midi dresses. Triggered by the sequin or just by genuine pride in her work, Karen is quick to show me some photos of her past creations. And rightly so. They do not disappoint. Scrolling through Karen’s camera roll was like watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. A binge of sequins, shoulder pads & metallic fringe. With such skill and craftmanship, Karen can bring people’s drag outfit designs to life – no matter how outrageous.
Both ladies now working on their machines, which I am told have come on a lot technically over the years. Karen received her first sewing machine when she was seven year’s old, a small battery powered one, given to her as a present from her dad. Meanwhile, Tara fondly remembers her more modern pink and cream machine. Karen dials up the thread tension… ‘Now, I’ve got the newer machine though.’ To which Tara retaliates: ‘I’ve got the bigger workspace’. I can only imagine this friendly rivalry is an accurate snapshot into their everyday mother and daughter relationship.
At Jigsaw, heritage is at the heart of their DNA. But heritage means so much more than just creating timeless designs. It’s about providing a space for people to discover and share their unique sense of identity. Be it one of their boutiques, a place where mothers and daughters can spend quality time shopping together. Or their warehouse, where Karen and Tara are fastened together by their joint artistry.
Jigsaw don’t just want to identify themselves as a fashion brand, but a community too – made up of its suppliers, employees, consumers and everyone else in between. To summarize, I was going to use the metaphor of a pattern – a complete garment template broken down into different components. But considering Karen and Tara no longer have to use patterns; they are experienced enough to visualize the different parts from memory. A jigsaw is perhaps a more appropriate comparison. Every person is a piece, seamlessly fitting together, to make up who they are today.
by Amber Wild
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