The rational and irrational in mending

The legs of a pair of dirty, worn, baggy jeans with patched knees and a pair of black shoes poking out at the bottom.

Sometimes when I do massive mending, I ask myself whether it’s really worth it. This time I certainly considered retiring the gardening jeans. They were not fabulous jeans when they were new. Apart from being comfortable, there is little to recommend them now they have moved from best jeans to workaday jeans to only at home jeans to gardening jeans over many years.

close up of a patched jeans knee stitched by hand with white cotton thread using running stitch.

Even if I am not asking myself, I do get other people asking me why I mend. Especially on very worn out garments. And honestly, a lot of things might go into considering whether it’s rational to mend something. Like what other options you have available to you, and what the ultimate destination of that garment might be if not mended (landfill? worm farm?), how concerned you are about that; and especially, how much you love the garment.

Inside view of a green short sleeve with eucalyptus printed fabrics stitched on as patches with machine zigzag.

I’ve been so interested by the big mending commission and the series of decisions it reveals on the part of my dear friends about what should be mended. Some things clearly very much loved and much worn whether they might have been cheap or expensive when originally purchased, for example–something I very much recognise in my own decisions. I was intrigued by this mend from my friends–a t shirt worn to a very soft degree of thinness (which is the best attribute of some t shirts after all) with a tear in the front. I hand applied a patch to the back from one of my very worn t shirts–and that was the best I could do.

Sometimes I decide I must mend because I have nothing else suitable to wear and I need that garment right now; or because I have some plan I can carry out if this garment lasts a bit longer (like making a new one). I just mended my summer pyjamas for travelling, because I didn’t manage to make new ones in time and I’m not going to buy pyjamas. And of course, people mend because they have no other option.

Patch on the inside of a green short beside front button band.

As the mender though, I also make decisions based on whether mending will be fast or slow, fun or annoying, or whether I happen to have a free evening and something interesting to listen to or watch right now.

This gardening shirt you are looking at here is years old and has spent years in the rag bag. My beloved found the rag bag (not the main one–this one must have moved houses!) and pulled out one of hers and one of mine, and insisted I mend hers (done) and that this one was too good to throw out. Well, the cuffs look like they encountered acid. Lots of holes in them. A hole in the front pocket. Another beside the button band… and on and on. Maybe my one long ago encounter with paint stripper hit this shirt? Or did I wear it blackberrying? Or did it come to me like this (from the thrift shop)? It has paint from that time I painted the pink ceiling white finally. It has mismatched buttons. It has been stitched (both constructed and mended) in several colours already. When to stop?

After and before images. Apparently it is not time to stop yet! Rational or irrational? I’m not sure. I don’t really care much and no one else suffers. Patches from the small scrap stack beside the ironing board, all offcuts from eucalyptus-dyed apron making. Any old and all greenish threads, and all kinds of bobbin threads that needed using up. And back out into the muddy neighbourhood one more time for guerilla gardening. It’s rough and ready mending but utilitarian and functional. A bit like the shirt!

6 Comments

Filed under Sewing

6 responses to “The rational and irrational in mending

  1. Jenny M

    Our daughter’s partner had a big rip in her favourite jeans & I offered to mend them, with a mixture of machine sewing and hand mending – months later another big rip, but this time our “DIL” decided to cut down her jeans to shorts, she loved my previous mending with hand sewed little XXXX’s on it, so she cut out that piece of denim and has kept it as a keepsake.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. These questions are on my mind at present. My favourite house/garden cardigan that I knitted decades ago is moving towards it’s end of life. I am see-sawing between even more mending (I have already re-knitted the cuffs and collar and repaired various holes) or just removing the lovely buttons and feeding it to the worms. Who knows what will happen next.☺

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rhonda Bradley

    I find things I mend become more valuable to me. And if they have a second or third mend they increase in value. I can understand why the Japanese boro textile items were so prescious, handed through generations , I so wish that I had something mended by my mother or grandmother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have this experience of some items, but not others! And I often find with garments that there comes a point where I start to find them burdensome rather than more valuable. I have had the experience just recently of taking mended items travelling and then needing to make very substantial repairs on the road … but my much mended blanket I only love more as mend it more.

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