CASE STUDY: Catherine Reinhart – The Collective Mending Sessions

This case study explores a participatory textile making project by Catherine Reinhart. To see more case studies or find out how to contribute one yourself, click here.


Title of case study project or workshop

The Collective Mending Sessions

Name(s) of practitioner(s) and institution/organisation, if any

Catherine Reinhart, studio artist – Ames, IA U.S.A.

Context for project

Independent socially engaged project in collaboration with community partners in my community and region; including academic institutions, private galleries, and local women-owned businesses. Workshop ran for three hours. Included instruction in hand mending and free stitching periods. All stitching was done on a quilt.

When did the project take place?

Ongoing since April 2018.

Background(s) of the practitioner(s)

textiles, craft, socially engaged arts practice

Aims of project

Aims of The Collective Mending Sessions are:

  • to educate participants about sustainable textile practices
  • to connect participants with the artist and other participants through the act of mending, promoting care for cloth and community


Description of project

The Collective Mending Sessions is a series of socially engaged workshops which centre on mending a quilt. Begun in 2018, I have conducted over 15 sessions with 100+ participants.

True connection is built over time and repeated contact. Through intentional partnerships with local organizations interested in community engagement through the arts, we built rich relationships between these organizations and their communities through this artist-led project. Organizations such as local galleries, university art programs and community arts organizations.

Support for The Collective Mending Sessions provided by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support from the Ames Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Participants learned basic mending and a vibrant community of stitchers was cultivated through the project. Another important outcome was the vital conversations centred around metaphorically mending our communities. The project also includes an resource library of texts on sustainable textiles, quilts, and textile theory.

Why did you choose to work in this way?

Working in this way is an outgrowth of the outward reaching arm of my artistic practice. It aligns with the trend in contemporary art toward the slow stitching movement and sustainable textile practices.

What did you learn from the project?

I learned a tremendous amount about the power of simple acts built up over time. Through the participants shared reflections on the question, “How do we mend our communities?”, I learned about the vibrant inner dialogue of fellow stitchers.


“The project, in concept and execution, is a beautiful, multi-layered metaphor for the work that needs to happen to mend the political, social, and economic divisions in our nation.” – Sharon Stewart, community partner, Reliable Street


Related projects

Common Threads (2016) – Interactive Community Sculpture made by visitors to the collaborative Common Threads Exhibition: Artists Catherine Reinhart & Allison Metzger, Iowa State University Design on Main Gallery, Ames, IA.

Currently, I have begun a project to honour the collective and invisible labour of home sewers making cloth masks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am collecting scrapes and threads from makers throughout the USA for use in a future sculpture.

Further information

Instagram: collectivemendingsessions

Article – Repairing the Social Fabric, Stitch by Stitch , Michael Morain, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Video – Artist Catherine Reinhart – Collective Mending Sessions – Iowa Culture

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