A Meritorious Mound of Mending

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So you’ll never guess what I have been doing this past day or so. Or maybe you will. I have been mending! Yes, I have. Moi. The girl who hates sewing with a passion has discovered that I have a heretofore hidden passion for mending. It all started with the reading I did last week for my Fashion Revolution post. All about respecting clothes, taking care of them, making them last longer, and trying to become at least a small part of the Fashion Revolution.

I’ve always looked after my clothes, tried to make them last a long time. I dry-clean jackets at the end of the season, wash blouses and sweaters by hand when necessary, carefully dry sweaters flat and store them properly, change out of good clothes when cooking or just sitting around the house. Of course I sew buttons back on. I have treasured pieces repaired or altered. But I have never made much of an effort to mend holes, or seams on older clothes. And hemming pants is an anathema to me. I hate doing it myself. I cannot explain this.

Mending my old pyjama pants.
These old pyjama pants will live for a few more washes.

I mean, I know that I hate to sew. The kind of sewing that involves cutting big swaths of cloth, and using patterns and a sewing machine. Shudder. It’s like the machine has more control than I do, and it just will NOT do as I say. I know the basics of how to run a sewing machine. I’ve made a few things over the years. Not many. The fuming and swearing while I did it made for an upset household while the sewing was taking place. And the results were not worth all the palaver.

But when I was a kid, I loved to sew clothes for my Barbie dolls by hand. Using scraps of material that Mum had lying around, I’d drape the fabric onto the doll, then pin and cut off the excess, make arm holes and necklines to fit with my little scissors. Then I’d remove the result and sew the seams by hand, finally turning the little garment inside out. And voila. A Barbie dress that fit Barbie exactly as I wanted it to fit.

These early adventures in fashion design were inspired by Penny, our neighbour who was a beautiful seamstress. Mum paid her to make me some Barbie clothes as a gift one Christmas. And they were lovely. A tiny wedding dress with a veil attached to a pillbox hat, a strapless purple velvet evening gown with a fake fur stole, each garment was perfect. Much better than the store-bought outfits.

So I cannot explain why I went from loving to fashion clothes for my dolls to hating anything to do with sewing. As Philip Henslowe says frequently in Shakespeare in Love, it’s a mystery.

Anyway, yesterday I turned over a new leaf.

Hubby came out of the kitchen yesterday morning in his pyjama pants and tee shirt, holding his morning cup of tea, telling me what he was planning for the day. He turned and I saw the six-inch split down the seam on one leg of his PJ pants. He really does need a new pair of pyjama pants, I thought. Or does he?

Anyway, after he dressed and went out to the garden, I grabbed the pants and my needle and thread. And I had a lovely morning mending interlude. With a cup of tea by my elbow, plugged into my latest audio book on my phone, I stitched in the sunshine on the sofa in our sun room. It was quite relaxing, actually. No fuming and swearing at all. And I felt pleased with myself in the end. And with the mending job.

So this morning, I mended my own pyjama pants. They are an ancient pair of loose, light, pink cotton pants. I love them. They helped me survive shingles the summer I could not bear to wear real clothes. I have never been able to find a pair I like as much as these. And I have tried. But they are pretty sad looking now, or they were until this morning. The soft fabric that covers the elastic at the waist was ripping away, shredding almost. So I sat down and did the same thing as yesterday: tea, audiobook, thread, needle, sunshine, sun room. Sigh. “I could get to like this,” I thought.

After I mended my pyjama pants I set off for my walk, feeling as if I’d achieved my one productive thing for the day. And it wasn’t even eleven o’clock. Ha. Plus according to stats I found in my research last week, if my two mended garments last another nine months, “the carbon, water, and waste footprint made by the manufacture of each item has been cut by 20-30%.” That’s pretty satisfying. And for just a few minutes of work sitting in the sunshine.

Beautiful scene on my walk.
First the mending then the walking today.

So I haven’t really racked up a mound of finished mending. Yet. Next up is a treasured old sweatshirt bought when I still worked at Nepean High School pre-1999, and emblazoned with the school letters. I can’t get rid of it. So I wear it camping, but the holes in the elbows are making it too ventilated to be much use. Patches, I think. I don’t want to use iron-on patches; I want lovely, soft, stitched-on fabric patches.

As I walked I mulled over what I had that I might use for patches. And when I came home I dug out the lower legs of an old pair of skinny jeans. I cut them off for shorts last summer, and put the leftover pieces of denim in my knitting basket. The denim is old and soft and will work a treat. You know, this mending thing is becoming almost as fun as designing Barbie doll clothes.

I must tell you that when I started this post, Hubby and I tried to come up with a suitably alliterative collective noun for a bunch of mending. “A murder of mending, like with crows,” I suggested. “A mountain, a murmuration?”

“How about a miasma of mending?” Hubby asked. “Ha.” I retorted. “Only if I’m mending your socks. Now, that would be a distinctly odiferous mound of mending.”

There may have been eye-rolling at that.

Now… how about you, my friends? What productive thing did you achieve today? Doesn’t have to be mending. Could be anything.

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58 thoughts on “A Meritorious Mound of Mending”

  1. I love mending – although darning is a mystery – and have always enjoyed hemming by hand. As you say, something to listen to, nice cup of tea to hand, all very peaceful and with a fine end result. Thanks for the last post – I went along to the site you recommended and checked up on the bona fides of my usual outlets, rather relieved to see they were making strides. My clothes last for years and years although I do have a tendency to shrink jumpers. Yesterday, on the creative side, I returned to the silver workshop, happily abandoned the project that has been a waste of my time and started at the very bottom learning the art of silversmithing. Eg bashing metal into shape. I suspect this is going to be a new love.

    1. Podcasts work well too. Especially Slightly Foxed ones. So lovely and calming. Bashing metal sounds like something I could get into as well. 🙂

  2. You know how you you feel about gardening , well that’s how I feel about sewing & mending . I made a lot of my own clothes as a girl , out of desperation . Sewing is only done under duress now . I repaired a rip in a padded jacket recently & I’m not proud of it . It had to be done as quickly as possible so I could get on with something I prefer , like gardening . I don’t mean serious digging or heaving stuff about , Max is happy doing the heavy stuff . Recently I’ve been moving bits of plants around & popping them into little gaps here & there . It feels creative – like painting a picture . I find pruning plants very satisfying & even winkling out little weeds very relaxing . When I’m doing that it switches my mind away from the worries of the world . So I do understand where you are coming from . We’re just going about it in a different way .

  3. The sewing machine didn’t make the Portugal cut (we brought very little electronic with us, due to the switch to 220 – basically computers and a few things that will work with converters), and I’m already thinking about what sort of machine I will buy here. Not that I’ve done much sewing (other than mending and window treatments) over the last few years, but I used to sew a lot – I even made my wedding dress! But I think I’d like to get back to it, and there’s some mending that a machine does more quickly and stronger than by hand. And it just feels weird not having a sewing machine in the house.

    1. I agree! Even though I don’t use mine as often as I once did, I think it would feel weird not to have one in the house (well, condo😉)

    2. I have a sewing machine in the house that I keep for sentimental reasons. I would love to love sewing and be able to do it well enough to relax with it.

  4. I tend to try and mend my favorite things if I just can’t bear to part with them. I’ve mended the inside legs of old, old jeans when they wear through on the thighs, I’ve had a tailor put new elastic in the waistband of a favorite pair of cotton PJs, etc. Sadly, my all time favorite comfort PJs, a pair flannels with flying pigs on them, gave up the ghost a couple years ago when the ever thinning cotton fabric of the pants just gave out in multiple spots. After searching high and low, I have never found another pair – new or used. But I can’t bring myself to part with the shirt. It just has a really high comfort factor.

    Like you, I find mending very satisfying for some reason.

    1. Good pyjamas are hard to find. For men too. There are tons of many styles out there, but the combination of style and fabric I like seems to be scarce.

  5. I seem to be swimming upstream here. I can mend faster than I can sew .I sewed all my life from age 8 on. during the war,before Barbies! if i wanted a purple dress for my doll, I cut it out and then colored it purple with crayons.Now ]getting back to sewing seems to be really hard. I follow all these blogs hoping to get really inspired by someone, but sadly it happens so rarely that I can mend faster than I can sew. And even that is getting slower. It seems easier to take things to my local alterations lady,lovely woman who always has an answer. She seems able to get things done faster. wish she lived with us!Anyway, I will just worry about all that tomorrow. In the mean time……….

  6. The secret is the audiobook! Sometimes one of your recommendations.
    I use them for as a diversion for a list of mundane chores and it transforms them to relaxing interludes.

    1. Yes to audiobooks! My husband is supposed to wash dishes after dinner but he would wait till morning and he breaks too many dishes. I started listening to audiobooks during cooking and washing up and there are some nights I look for extra things to clean so that I can listen to my book.

    2. The audiobook is the secret to so many things I do. I have waxed lyrical about audiobooks for years especially when exercising or doing housework.

  7. Ugh sewing! I am the daughter of a woman who could size up a dress in Holt Renfrew and go home and reproduce it stitch for stitch..only her version was superior as her fabrics were carefully chosen and much of the garment was finished by hand. Our christening dress was a dead ringer for one she had spied in Eaton’s, she had the sales person bring it out of the case so she could study it while writing notes…in 1952 it was a whopping 300.00 and hand made in Italy. Mother bought the exact material, made the gown and under dress ( French seams done by hand as well as tiny pleats and embroidery ( yes, she was a sewing maniac)
    I am all thumbs but I did learn the basics. I had the good luck to buy a cashmere ruana on Poshmark the seller told me she seldom wore it but there were a couple small moth holes. She had purchased it at Holts a few years ago for 495.00 and she was asking 75.00 for it. For that price I could mend the holes. I think I did a great job, holes are invisible. Ma would be proud.
    My younger son graduated from Nepean seven years ago, it’s a great school. The oldest went to Glebe CI.

    1. My friend’s dad was a tailor and she has all the little pairs of shorts and trousers her dad made for her kids when they were little. Sounds like you got a good deal with that cashmere garment from Poshmark.

  8. After reading your last post on the fashion revolution, I am now reading the prequel to the book you recommended. Once I finish, I’ll order the one on your post with your link.
    Yes we do need to look after our clothes and that means mending. I do it, eventually, but I’m messy and my stitches never look as good as I wish. More practice? Maybe.
    A year ago I ordered a casual/travel dress that I want to shorten. I pinned it up and that’s as far as I got. All during the pandemic I haven’t once worn a dress and this poor thing is still hanging in my closet, unhemmed and full of pins. Here’s hoping!

  9. I dearly love to sew. Sewed all my daughters Halloween costumes and Shakespeare costumes for years. Though I must say, my eldest always said ” To you Mom a pattern is just a suggestion!” I dearly love to quilt. All this time to do both during coronavirus lockdowns and I haven’t had the mind set to do either….but I have mended. Lots of mending, little, tiny things that only needed a stitch or two. Made lots of masks, and lots of mending, socks, kitchen towels that could have been ragged, hems, anything…couldn’t find it in me to create new. Maybe mending was a way to hold the (my) world together when everything was falling apart. I own a book ‘Plain and Fancy, American Women and Their Needlework, 1650-1850’ by Susan Burrows Swan. I read it like a novel…gives me a kind of peace. I am glad your mending gave you a bit of peace too.

    1. Gosh you are a mending super-woman, Heather. Think how much of a difference that makes in the carbon footprint of all those items you mend.

  10. This SO resonates with me. I too made Barbie clothes–and I created a home for Barbie and Ken using cardboard boxes that I “upholstered.” I made my own clothes, I made draperies, and I made bedspreads. And now, I too hate to do so much as thread a needle. No idea why!

    1. I made a dust-ruffle for a double bed once. Once. At one point I was so buried in all that fabric, I thought I’d never find my way out!

  11. Although I can/do sew, I haven’t done it in a long time…other than the mask making frenzy early in the pandemic. However, I would rather make something from scratch than alter anything. Totally hate alterations. Or hemming family member’s trousers…especially jeans. No. Just no. Mending? Depends on the issue.

    As for productivity, yesterday I did plant several large deck containers with tomatoes, one with lavender, re-potted some very robust parsley and lemon thyme that somehow survived over the winter, added sweet basil and oregano plants to some pots, and am about to harvest some leaf lettuce and Swiss chard that I’ve grown from seed in other containers on my deck. Still virtual schooling with GS…we’re both madly counting down the days to the end of the school year.

    1. I hate hemming pants. So hard to get them even, and make them fall over the shoes properly. We have not had good luck in the past with our herb pots. Except parsley and basil.

  12. Washing silk trousers and a shawl by hand- could it be enough :)?
    Opening some fancy Eier Cognac (not a fan,but , it’s like a dessert-and without guests who could drink it-I have to be creative ) I’ve got from my son’s girlfriend-does it count,too?
    I love mending,sewing buttons back on- but,this is the best I can do
    Brava for you-! I have some old favourites ,like pyjama’s bottoms , and love to save them,even for a wash or two
    Dottoressa

  13. Results of my morning’s productivity currently cooling on the kitchen counter: it’s bread-baking say here. As for mending, I find it happens much more easily if required tools and materials are in one place, and I’ve almost got this sorted. A fair bit of sock-darning ‘round here—when you hand-knit socks you really want to prolong their life!

    1. My mother taught me to darn socks, almost 60 years ago, but I hadn’t done it for years, until I started hand knitting socks. They are too beautiful and precious not to be repaired. I rather lean towards your “obvious mending” approach, Frances, it adds something interesting.
      I was a serious quilter for many years, but somehow fell out of love with it, these days I knit and listen to audio books, very relaxing.

  14. My productive thing for the day was getting my mammogram. I was supposed to get it over a month ago, but because of getting my vaccinations I had to wait four weeks to avoid getting a false positive. Good job done, now waiting for results.

    I enjoy mending, but right now I have a mega mound of mending…😉! We have been adding to the pile for too long. Patches on Larry’s favorite comfy jeans are needed. Whenever I go to visit my daughter she has a pile waiting for me (and now it is over 18 months since we have seen each other…😔 , but hoping soon). My biggest job for her was mending a heavy-duty dog bed for her German Shepherd. Now, that was a mega mending job!

  15. Mary Lou Hartman

    Mending relaxes me especially with a good audiobook. I listen to audiobooks when I work in the kitchen and also when I exercise- really helps me when I don’t want to do an activity.

  16. Colleen Gander

    I grew up sewing by hand and machine until the sewing patterns for average people no longer fit me. Then I turned to quilting where accuracy trumped fit. Lately though, I have gone back to garment sewing. I do enjoy mending but less so for my son and his family. They also follow this philosophy of avoiding needless purchasing but save up the mending for my visits. There is a trend, seems contradictory to the shredded jeans trend, called visible mending. Just in case this pleasure in mending becomes a hobby.

    1. I have heard about visible mending. My friend Frances at Materfamilias Writes has used that technique on some of her sweaters. I may have to find out how to do that.

  17. As a teenager I sewed most of my clothes, or I would never have had anything new! This was something all my friends and many classmates did. I always did it in a frenzy–whatever pattern and fabric I chose had to be put together over a weekend (not always well) for a big debut on Monday, as if anyone but me was paying attention. I kept this up through my late twenties. After a move to a bigger city, my creations didn’t seem professional-looking enough, and my paycheck was bigger, so I stopped.
    Recently I was removing shoulder pads from blazers I bought in the 90’s that are still in great shape. I got a little overzealous with a leather jacket and ended up taking out half the shoulder seam. Now I may have to be bailed out by a tailor. Maybe not the cost effective move I’d planned! Ah, but those good intentions….

    1. The only things I have ever made outside of Home Ec class were always made in a frenzy. For the same reason as you… must be finished to wear out on Saturday night.

  18. It’s funny how one person’s horror is another’s delight. Your view is you hate “The kind of sewing that involves cutting big swaths of cloth, and using patterns and a sewing machine, and that is exactly the delightful occupation I rediscovered during the great lockdown in quilt making. It keeps my hands busy and my mind quiet.
    For today’s productivity – I did some pajama re-work too – cutting some bottoms into rags! Reuse, recycle, repurpose…
    I also went shopping for bathing suits for an upcoming trip to Palm Springs. I was dreading facing the havoc that the last year’s inactivity has done to my body, but managed to find two that won’t entirely demoralize me.
    So it was a good day!

  19. I seem to have done a lot of baking since the initial lockdowns and of course it would be a sin to waste it hence an expanding waistline. We also have a new very tiny granddaughter so I have been knitting in bulk usually while watching programmes recorded on the tv. It has been very satisfying watching the little piles of cardigans, beanies and bootees build up and she does look very cute in them. Have also set up the sewing machine and overlocker and trundled out lots of masks and a few clothes for the grandchildren. Nothing fancy but sturdy. I used to make all my children’s clothes and a lot of mine but the cost of fabric and cheap clothing imports stopped that. Besides when they were a bit older nobody wanted to wear homemade clothes! Now I seem to be in charge of the family mending – even when our overseas family arrive. There always seems to be space in their suitcases for clothes, teddies and blankies to be brought to me for some TLC.
    Normally my happy place is wrestling weeds in the garden and generally puttering about pruning this and planting that. Unfortunately back surgery last year has severely limited work in the garden and I miss it. Nothing better than taking frustration out on a stubborn weed or two.
    Hope your pjs last a bit longer for you or perhaps you could dig out the machine and make some new ones?

    1. I gave up knitting for new babies back when my niece was born years ago. Actually, I wish I still had that half-finished little sweater, maybe I’d finish it for her baby due this summer. Ha.

  20. Strange how things change. I used to sew a lot and loved it. Now I don’t have the patience or the desire and you can buy new cheaper than you can make it. I mend or alter and am glad to be able to do that but I don’t enjoy it. And it’s silly stuff, like changing the thread so it matches what I am mending or altering that annoy me. And, some things I cannot do at all: swimsuits or active wear even though I have a good machine and the proper needle.

  21. Mmm you’ve got me thinking Sue 😊 When I was younger I sewed, but in hindsight I’m not sure I ever really enjoyed it, except for making outfits for my baby nieces and for dolls. I made dresses, skirts, blouses and lined jackets for myself and although other people complemented me, I often felt uncomfortable wearing the things I’d made. On reflection such a shame … lack of confidence I guess. I bought some gorgeous fabrics, from a shop, near or on the Shambles, in York. ( Wendy may remember it ) By the time I was married I’d stopped making clothes and made blinds, curtains … covered headboards etc.
    I now hand sew repairs and still have a sewing machine but happily rely on a seamstress for alterations, even shortening trousers and jeans …
    As for productivity this week 😊 … I’m about to put together a playhouse for my granddaughter. I’ve baked and cooked and more recently I’ve spent time in the garden. Planning and planting etc. Being home for so long has sparked an interest but I don’t think I’ll ever love gardening as much as my mum did and as Wendy obviously does.
    I’m totally in awe of other peoples beautiful gardens, but very much a spectator!

    1. I do remember that shop Rosie . Funny to think we might have bumped into each other round there . As for your gardening , it’s often something that people ‘ grow into ‘ I think . Maybe not Sue though 😁

      1. I used to visit York a lot, especially when I worked in Leeds and we had family holidays in the area, at Barton Le Willows when my family were young. So we may have passed by each other or eaten in Bettys at the same time!
        I think I may be like Sue but I’m trying and being hopeful. My mum was like you, so happy working in her garden … I’m thinking her love and enthusiasm for gardening may have skipped a generation 😉 x

    2. Lined jackets… you are skilled, Rosie! And you are way more productive than I am. I’m still waiting for the gardening bug to bite me… but sadly I don’t think that will ever happen. Maybe the mosquitoes in the garden.

  22. Like so many of the others who commented I made most of my clothes in my late teens and early twenties, including suits and coats. That stopped when I started earning enough to be able to afford the quality clothing I admired in Holts and Ogilvies (I lived in Montreal at the time). I became a passionate quilter when I retired and now will do anything I can to avoid mending or alterations, I’d rather pay someone to do it for me. After years of saying I did not like audio books I recently discovered how entertaining they were while doing simple tasks such as sewing bindings on a quilt, doing applique or knitting. My productive thing today will be putting together rows on a group raffle quilt – a challenge as the individual blocks were made by a large number of people with varying skills.

  23. When I was a young mom, I did a quite a bit of sewing, but as the years went by the sewing grew less and less. Even hemming and adjustments have gone by the wayside lately due to fingers that just won’t cooperate. Even sewing a button is rather difficult and not a calming activity. When I was a teenager I had quite a number of my clothes made just for me by my aunt and my mom, and fondly remember the outcome that was just for me, the fit and fabric chosen for my very own look and realize now that I should not have taken that perfect fit for granted. Off the rack will never be such perfection. Like a few others have mentioned, my passion for gardening has far surpassed the desire for mending and sewing and the outcome much more pleasing. That makes me forget the state of the world for just a while.

  24. I recently purchased a Patagonia vest from their shop of “gently used” garments. The item was 1/3 the cost of the vest if new and the company believes that if you buy used clothing you can save more of the environment. I do like to mend my clothing, it always makes me feel good to be able to save an item I truly enjoy wearing.
    Fun post.
    xo,
    Karen
    P.S. You may have started a great thing among your readers.

  25. Mending was a part of my childhood experience. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress. My mom was not, in that she didn’t have a sewing machine but it was amazing what she could do by hand. She once made me a skating skirt with a lining by hand. I was so proud of that skirt! She shared her skills with me but I stopped applying them until recently. Having a difficult time finding and replacing clothes I’ve resorted to all kinds of tricks to extend the life of them.

  26. I love that you’ve found a way to be productive AND sustainable AND at peace all at once. Hat off you, my friend, all my hats, in fact.

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