Clothes are cheap and time is scarce, but Barbara Good finds satisfaction in mending
There’s a cupboard under the stairs we call the ‘cupboard of doom’. Narrow and badly lit, anything that get thrown into it is unlikely to resurface—at least not for a very long time.
Unfortunately, the same can be said of my clothes mending pile.
Don’t get me wrong—I really like the idea of mending. Mending is crafty, in more ways than one. Sewing on a loose button, patching a tear, stitching up a burst cushion is smart behaviour; it extends the life of your clothes and furnishings and saves you money.
There’s also something about the practice of mending that’s satisfying on a deeper level. The careful drawing in of loose threads, the closing of a ragged hole with neat stiches … to save something that would otherwise be tossed is to act against our throw-away-and-buy-again society. Like taking time out to mend a broken friendship, restoring something damaged is another way of being mindful of things in a world where so much is disposable.
Most of us intend to get to the mending, but time defeats us. What we need is a plan. Here are a few ideas for making the most of your mending opportunities.
- Assemble the basic tools: pins and a range of differently-sized needles, small sharp scissors, various reels of coloured cotton, iron-on patches, hemming tape and thimbles (cute to collect and save pricking your fingers).
- Keep your mending tools in one place. A fishing tackle box or picnic basket is ideal.
- Start a button collection by cutting buttons off old clothes to be turned into rags. Keep a few safety pins of different sizes. (Use them for pulling through drawstrings or elastic that has worked its way out of where it was threaded.) Collect a few appliqué patches or small pieces of interesting material for patching kid’s clothes.
- Have a dedicated mending bag—or two, to separate things that can be fixed by hand or by sewing machine, if you have access to one.
- Keep your sewing kit and hand-mending bag where you can easily grab it when talking on the phone, watching telly, or when a friend pops in for coffee.
- If mending with a machine, use a straight stitch for cotton, denim and any woven fabric. Use a small zigzag stitch for knit fabric. To mend a seam that rips often, try stitching two forward, one back.
- A stitch in time saves nine. Patch trouser knees before they burst through by ironing a patch underneath the knees, either when you first buy them or when the fabric starts lightening around the knee. Always wash tights or stockings inside out or in a mesh washing-bag to prevent catches, and keep kids’ toenails trimmed so sharp edges don't tear tights or poke holes in socks.