Category Archives: Sewing

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!

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Reverse applique

I have a friend who has made several beautiful reverse applique t shirts with lovely images of plants or insects. Then she made a couple with the Extinction Rebellion logo (a circle representing the earth with an hourglass shape in the centre that symbolises time running out and the urgency of action). I loved them! When she said she would offer it as a crafternoon project I decided to try and give it a go–I guess that was an indication she thought it wasn’t too difficult, where previously I assumed I would not be able to do this.

The hard part for me was getting the image right. In the end, it was cereal box stencil to the rescue.

T shirt from the op shop with a little image on it that I thought could vanish in the process.

I tacked another piece of old t shirt under it and then had a go!

And–result! I made two! And gave them away at a working group meeting to people who will use and appreciate them.

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Very hungry caterpillar shirt #2

Some time ago I made a Very Hungry Caterpillar shirt, while under the delusion that I am twice my usual size. Or something. Anyway, the fit was appalling, so that even I was not prepared to wear it much. So there came a day when I pulled it apart and cut out a different shirt from the pieces, with a bit of creative piecing together in places. And the shirt was reborn as Lotta Jansdotter’s Esme Shirt.

And the back… and now we wait to see if this one gets more wear!

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Pincushion + Cushion

I have tried a few pincushions thinking I’d like to go beyond the commercial ones I own. This one has been so long in the making I’ve lost track of its antecedents on the internets–there is no longer anything like it at sewandso.com.uk. I even completed the embroidery on the top ages ago and apparently squibbed (that is, acted on my cowardice) at the sewing it together stage.

Then my sweetheart requested a very specific cushion and it occurred to me that it was about the size and shape of this rather large pincushion–and so a second item came to be. Two layers of a t shirt that was waiting to become part of a quilt batting. I’m happy that part of the image has lived to see another life!

Small round green cushion with design of a dandelion in black

I’ve also had some fun ripping apart business clothing I will no longer need. It came from the op shop and is a bit far gone to go back there and expect to be sold again. Rather than have it enter waste or rag streams, I’ve converted it to component parts and begun transforming it into bags, beginning with drawstring bags…

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More mending adventures

My mending adventures just keep rolling. In between the boring old mending that I do regularly–stitching fastenings back on, repairing falling hems, re-stitching seams that have popped… these mends are much more fun.

I did also take up these hiking pants for my beloved (by about 6 cm). They have those zip-off legs that allow you to convert the pants to shorts, and a complex arrangement down by the hems. In the end I took them up just below the zippers and the change did not show at all.

There have been stretch pyjama mends…

Torn dress mends…

Mending of beautiful pillowcases so soft and buttery and thin I used most of an old linen shirt in an effort to keep them going…

Hand stitched patch on a floaty fine dress.

Now replaced!

Worn, exquisitely soft quilt cover mending. I used a hand stitch I learned in Girl Guides (for canvas tent mending) to pull the edges of this tear together, then applied a reinforcing patch on the inside and machine stitched it into place.

It’s piling up a little…

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Mending adventures

One day, some time after the conversation that triggered it, the mending arrived. A LOT of mending! In fact, I’ve taken to calling this “a big mending commission” just for fun. Friends handed over their mending pile and I’m working my way down through it gradually.

Black jeans with ripped knee..
Finally, I get to mend jeans knees!
Black jeans with patch.

There is darning (and in this case, I took in the side seams and sleeve seams–gulp). First the side seams…

Then the actual darning.

Lots of jeans patching…

Skirt zipper mending….

Serious feature patching: on small jeans I rip out the side seam, apply the patch, turn the edges on the right side, stitch in position and then re stitch the side seam.

And yes! There is more! For another day…

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Beloved trees

This tree has had several beloved tree banners in the last few years. This one is well and truly eucalypt dyed at this stage, and the fact that it is made of biodegradable fabrics is showing too.

I had been planning a new banner for a bit, and found companions for the ceremony one fine evening. So we added a new one.

So now it has two banners!

And the tree is as glorious as ever. Long may it stand.

river red gum

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Boomerang Bags

The most recent stack of Boomerang Bags were made over a considerable period. Here are some in progress–straps being interfaced with shaggy leftovers of flanellette sheet well past last use on a bed, and a shirt being turned into a bag lining.

I made linings out of all manner of bits and pieces. The Remakery had a sale and I went in and bought upholstery samples and scraps of cotton fabrics. Here are some of them being pieced together for linings.

And eventually, there were bags–spot the upholstery samples!

And more bags…

Still more bags…

And yet more.

And in due course, I handed them over and the amazing BB volunteer I see most often exchanged them for more labels!

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Mending–above and beyond edition

There came a time recently when some pretty major mending came along. First this shirt was found in a bag in the shed (where to judge by the company it was keeping, it was intended, for a time, to be a rag) and it came back into the house as a much beloved shirt of my beloved, which it certainly had been for many years prior to its trip to the shed and long stay there. Could I mend it, because the holes were substantial?

Yes, I could–in this case by machine stitching a thin piece of reinforcing fabric on the inside, in several places.  With the end result on the right, above.

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Then, this pair of linen trousers. I got a new job a while back, and it demanded some smarter clothes (it’s one thing to be judged less than stylish personally, but it’s another to let the team down). The Salvation Army and other op shops, plus some home made tops got me through winter, but summer was a whole other issue. So these pants (and a blue shirt to go with them) were a rare new purchase, and this is how they are faring after one and a bit summers. Not as well as you’d hope given price tag and materials. Not as well as the linen pants I made myself (though they have their faults)–just saying.

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I decided on another machine mend–in which there is a lot of stitching that will show, so choice of thread matters more than it would in a seam. Sometimes when it comes right down to it, you have a preconception about the colour of the garment that you need to discard to do a good mend that won’t yell out. Sometimes using two different colours is the right thing to do. Choice made with thread laid across the fabric on the right side, I chose some thin fabric that will reinforce but not make the patch rigid (once stitched–the stitching adds some bulk).

Patch 1 pinned, tacked and then stitched, patch 2 begun. Here I’m using a three step zigzag as my mending stitch.

And, finished.  The texture and colour are slightly changed, but I’ve asked my beloved if she can tell me where my pants are mended and she can’t (when I have them on). Because the truth of the matter is, my friends, that the reason my pants wear out in this spot is because friction. And the reason there is friction is because two surfaces are in contact. And because they are in contact with one another–they don’t show a whole lot. These pants are no longer for best, sure.  They are still comfortable and shapely though, and will last a bit longer.  The big job is done with and the clothes I bought for it and didn’t care to keep have returned to the op shop for some other woman trying to pass herself off as a professional.

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Finally, a drum case.  Being a drummer involves hefting a lot of kit, and doing it regularly, and doing it ingeniously.  In the case of the wonderful drummer in our band, I’d noticed the snare drum case was looking pretty sad. So I offered to mend it. I threaded up a leather needle, the most sturdy needle I can use on my machine.  First I trimmed off the frayed sections. Then unpicked the binding. Then realised I could not insert three layers (especially tatty layers) into it neatly, especially because the edge had shortened through fraying and disintegration.  I found some black seam binding tape in the stash (thanks Joyce!) and neatened up the edge, then finally reinserted it with considerable difficulty, into the binding.

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It’s far from perfect.  But it is much better.  If this fails I told my friend the awesome drummer I’d be prepared to try again.  But for local readers it has occurred to me that the industrial strength option would be The Luggage Place, 108 Gilbert St, Adelaide. I’ve had various repairs done to suitcases there and they do a good job. They are not paying me–there are just so few places left where you could get something like this repaired, every one is worth sharing. In one instance, I’d given up completely and bought a new suitcase, and then realised I could take it to The Luggage Place. They sewed the carry handle back on a fair sized suitcase and in fact that case has kicked on for some years since then. They also replace wheels and suitcase innards!

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And there you have the above and beyond edition. As all manner of lovely books on mending come out, Tom of Holland’s Visible Mending programme becomes a hashhtag, and the beautiful, ingenious work of India Flint in converting one garment/s to another/s and such spread more widely, mending is having a resurgence. It’s a wonderful thing!  And with the encouragement and occasional shock response to my mending of you all, dear readers–I’ve continued to be a prosaic and practical mender in the main.  But I am now more able and more likely to look for a lovely way to mend garments and items that are not quite so thoroughly damaged as these!IMAG2337

Just a little public service announcement. Age no barrier.  Striking school students are calling out to everyone to join them. In Australia, University students are coming. Grey Power for Climate Action are coming. Parents are coming. Our Climate Choir and local Extinction Rebellion will be there, honouring the leadership of the student strikers and standing behind and beside them. I will certainly be there.  So join us!  Wherever you are!

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Festival of handkerchieves

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I love the humble hanky. The way it accompanies me through life in a pocket, ready to assist when pollen is too much, when I’m moved to tears, when the wind is chilly enough to make eyes water or when genuine misery leaks out of me. The way it supports me through illness time after time. The way it saves me from single use napkins, means I never find a tissue that has gone through the washing machine, and rescues entire trees from being turned into tissues. I love the way it can be called upon to wipe up spills, deal with sticky fingers at unexpected moments, prevent chafing, or (if clean) wrap a small item at short notice.

The latest festival of the hanky was generated by a friend whose hanky collection had shrunk to zero. But needless to say it didn’t stop when I’d made a collection for him. Soon I had some made from cotton voile and some made from muslin that had a past life wrapping a baby. Then a fine cotton scarf which has been in the cupboard unused for over a decade became four lovely hankies. Then the main parts of a striped shirt that belonged to a friend, who gifted it to me, which had a superpower of making people in shops address me as sir for many years–was converted from a very worn thin shirt to some lovely fine hankies.

And then some fine cotton I’d dyed… and some brand new fine cotton voile… and there it stopped for the time being.  And now I have so many opportunities to share the hanky love…

 

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