Patching together stories

The slip is soft, beige and worn by time. The straps are broken and a hole has formed near the neck. But there are also signs of care and attention.

The slip is soft, beige and worn by time.

The straps are broken and a hole has formed near the neck.

But there are also signs of care and attention. Spots have been carefully patched and older tears have been stitched closed.

“I think somebody really loved it. I don’t know if it was a wedding gift or something, I don’t know the actual story behind it, but it’s been really well-loved, and really mended, and really taken care of,” says Yukon textile artist Jessica Vellenga as she lays it out on the table.

“I thought it was really interesting to see the great pride that somebody had in this piece. They really loved it. It meant something to them to keep it alive and keep fixing it so often.”

Vellenga found the slip in a Montreal vintage shop. It became the inspiration for her latest project: Mend and Make Well.

Armed with a sewing machine, and a variety of needles and threads, Vellenga is offering free mending to people with items that need TLC.

Vellenga believes if someone has kept something, even with a hole or a tear, that’s a sign the item has a special significance.

“I think when you have something mended, you keep it around because you like it, there’s a story to it. Even if it’s your favourite camp shirt or a christening pillow, any of those kind of things,” she said.

“There’s often a lot of stories in the clothing that we wear and I want to hear those stories.”

Her project might mean darning a boot lining that has kept feet warm for multiple Yukon winters or mending some heirloom lace tablecloths that belong to a friend’s mother so that they can be used again.

She’s spent the last week at Arts in the Park offering sewing advice and fixing small jobs that came her way.

“I’ve been here all week so far, and people have brought in shirts that need mending, bootliners that need darning, socks that needed repairs, buttons (to be) sewn on, that kind of thing.”

Vellenga said she’s not sure where the project is going. She takes pictures of everything she mends and is thinking of putting together an exhibition complete with the stories behind the items. But the project is still in the early stages, she said.

Next stop for Vellenga and her sewing kit is this year’s Arts Up Front.

The Yukon Art Society’s summer festival is a chance for artists to put their skills on display along Whitehorse’s waterfront wharf.

From July 15 to 19 the tents along the wharf will fill with artists ranging from potters to painters to bookmakers.

Some will put on demonstrations, while others will offer workshops to help teach anyone interested. About 31 artists are taking part over the five days.

Among the workshops on the schedule are silk painting, needle felting, polymer clay, lino-cut printing and “create your own comics.” The workshops come at a cost for materials ranging from $30 to $65.

The idea is to showcase artists “so that people have a chance to see what’s going on in our arts scene here,” said Tara Paczkowski, programs director at Arts Underground.

A pop-up gallery will give people a chance to browse through completed work. A kids’ tent will also be up and running.

Two nights will also feature live outdoor music. Rory McLeod, “a travelling minstrel and storyteller,” will perform his songs and stories on July 15 at 7 p.m.

The bagpiping group, On Home Ground, will perform on July 18, also at 7 p.m.

Vellenga also took part in the inaugural festival last year where she demonstrated embroidery techniques.

She said she enjoys working outside and interacting with the public.

“I like it. I like people’s questions. I like when people come up and tell their stories about mending or fibre arts.”

If people want to learn, they’re welcome to pull up a chair, she said.

More information about the festival and a complete schedule is online at

Contact Ashley Joannou at