Tag Archives: denim

Mending the mending

Recently the pile of mending on my mind reached a point where it became the weekend’s project. But–I realised that there was only one thing I was mending for the first time.  I’ve reached the mending on mending stage.  This knitting bag has been waiting for a few more stitches into the base–the fabric the base is made from has just worn through over time.  But I don’t want to let the bag go.  It was made by one dear friend and embroidered by another and it was a birthday gift from years back.  It’s a treasure.  This time I fully embraced the idea of stitching the outer and lining together because I think this bag is at a stage in life where more mending is inevitable and not too far away.

Then there was the raincoat.  This op-shop find has had years of living on my office door for emergency wear because it is shower proof and has a zip-out wool lining. It’s a high quality garment!  If I am caught by wind or rain on my way home, I can grab it and run for the bus. It had this sophisticated arrangement for hanging on a hook (and I do hang it on a hook) and it has been broken for quite a while.

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This week I was caught by sudden wind and rain and wore it home.  The hanging arrangement is now stitched back with waxed linen thread.

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And I did some mends to the wool lining.  Yes, visible mending it is. Check out the fringe on the wool liner!

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My leafy linen bag, patched together from offcuts of my earliest eco-printing experiments on recycled linen shirts had worn through in several places again. Here it is  in use in 2014 and being mended in 2014.  The fading shows. Could I bear to let it go?  Not yet.  The new patches are all from one piece of dyed cloth that took up a lot of yellows.

Then there was the mighty flourbag shirt, which was mightily mended in 2015.  The patches on the inside fronts had not been stitched to the seams in every single place, and now there are holes right where I missed that rather crucial step in mending a garment that has been worn this much.  here are some of the holes and frayed parts…

And here are the mends seen from the inside and outside:

Sometimes when I mend people post asking why I bother.  Which is a decent question.  In a case like this raggedy shirt I think the only explanation can be that I love this shirt so much I don’t want to give it up.  Even though I wear it for gardening and such (let me be clear, I love having time in the garden).  the fact that I made it is part of it, but I make other things that I don’t love this way.  I love the feel of the calico and I have come to enjoy patching it up.  There are more places that have worn through where I am not going to bother at this stage–like where some layers of the collar have worn away but there are others still holding together.

And speaking of gardening, here are my gardening jeans.  Another case of thinking you have patched out to where there is some fabric with integrity and finding that a hole wears through just beyond the patch.  Never mind, just add on!  These jeans are comfortable for grubbing around in, and although I have another pair that are beyond use in polite company, they are made from poor quality denim that won’t bear a whole lot of mending.  They had a twin pair and I tried–but sometimes I can’t mend something back to wearable.  How do you decide when to mend your mending and when to let it go?

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Beloved trees

As so often happens in my case, one project leads to the next.  The scraps left from converting unwanted trousers into bags were the biggest scraps sitting on the small scraps pile when I felt the pull to make “beloved tree” banners.  I decided that this might be a fun Womadelaide project–there I would be over a long weekend, sitting under beautiful trees listening to music.  What could be better? It was going to be way too hot for substantial knitting projects.  I decided if I took needle, thread and some calico or sheet offcuts–that would be a good start, and that is how I began.   Before I went on day 2 I made some “frames”.

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You can see how this goes.  It’s simple but it gives a sense of framing the words that I like.  It somehow draws in the idea of that-which-is-framed being important, precious in some way.

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And there I sat–I have inherited a small embroidery hoop.  I usually don’t use one, but it seemed like it might help and it caused several conversations with smaller people interested in the whys and mechanics of things, which were also fun.

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Afterward, I found more calico/scraps/leftover bits of ancient sheets or tablecloths and stitched them on to create a backing and a neat edge around the frame.

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There are six in all, some with linen frames.

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Some framed with offcuts of denim jeans that have passed into new incarnations as bags. And now they are ready to be applied to trees.  I do feel as though a tree needs no adornment.  However, I feel all too conscious that trees are not universally beloved.  After the last big storm in which trees came down on cars and the tram line in our neighbourhood, I put up two earlier banners, and one was removed almost immediately.  I don’t know whether it was souvenir-ed or whether it was taken down by someone who didn’t accept the message.  But I do know that at such times trees around me face higher degrees of threat, and this is one thing I can do.  Maybe this weekend of earth hour is the time for some to go out into the world?

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Bags 2

Did you really think I could stop at… oh… ten or twelve bags (especially as I was on holiday)?  Naturally, I could not.  I went to the Guild and there was a pile of denim offcuts.  You know how it is.

They all turned out to be different denims, each one reasonably narrow but the width of the bolt.  No concern to me.  I paired some with a yellow open weave linen (I think) I have inherited.  I made several of these and they look quite elegant.

This patch was found on the footpath in Melbourne in December. It seemed wrong to leave it there to the wind, rain, mud and passing shoes and dogs, until it found its way into the stormwater drain.

And this bag is made from a piece of fabric my mother-out-law passed on to me in the last year.

On the inside, all manner of scraps and bits and pieces, and of course–more pockets!

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Transformations: turning discarded tapestry into bags

Some time ago, I bought two pieces of tapestry (the embroidery kind, not the woven kind) at the Guild trading table, where the cast offs of members go to find happy new homes. It’s one of my failings in the acquisition stakes.  There are some things I look at and think–someone dedicated many hours of their life to creating that, and here it is in a thrift store or a garage sale, discarded completely.  Sometimes that is enough, they have to come home with me.  Finally I had an idea, and I acquired enough $2 pairs of jeans to make it happen–because woollen tapestry is heavy stuff! I made denim surrounds for the tapestries, which, judging by their shapes, might have been intended to cover a seat back and perhaps a stool.  Then I worked out some linings, and sewed on patch pockets!2017-10-01 18.34.25

Once I started actually figuring out how to convert them to bags I think I understood how they came to be discarded.  They had biased in some way that meant they could not possibly have worked out in their intended applications.  the rectangular one was a trapezoid.  The one designed for a shaped seat back was not symmetrical.  I can only imagine the heartbreak of having stitched these only to discover they were not going to work.

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It’s a bit odd even in this context–but unquestionably, it can work as a bag.

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In the end I realised I had a third tapestry.  It had been reduced from $5 to 40c in an op shop in Warrnambool (country Victoria).  I bought it thinking the frame could be re-used.  But the badgers?  I am not going to hang them on my wall.  So I deconstructed the frame ready for its new life and here is the new destination of the badgers.  Where will they go next?

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Epic jeans mending

So my gardening jeans are many years old and have long since passed out of being suitable for  wear in polite company.  But my jeans do tend to wear through in places that I don’t really want to draw attention to. They have reached the point where I’m at risk of the fabric suddenly and dramatically parting company. But these are comfortable and fit for purpose otherwise. And won’t be easier to mend if they do rip dramatically.

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I kept thinking it might be time to let them go, but one night I decided against that.  What to do?  I made a paper pattern of the section I decided to try patching, so I could make the patch go all the way onto the seams. Then I cut patch pieces from the leg of another pair of jeans.

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I now hold my grandmother’s pinking shears, so I decided to pink the edges of the patching.

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I am a slacker so I pinned them on and then tacked by machine.  I know that hand stitched patching can be a lovely thing, but I have tried it in this part of a pair of jeans and the stitching wore off on the outside!  And, the less obtrusive the better.  This is not a situation for the visible mending programme, though I am in favour of it, in general.

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I did some early stitching to hold the patch in place and then stitched around the perimeter. This was followed by a lot of straight stitching up and back again in the most worn sections.

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And–the finished item actually looks slightly better than the original did, with lots of machine stitching in grey–the colour that was the best match to the fabric at this stage in its decay. These jeans will never return to their prime and don’t need to look glorious.  That’s probably part of why I was prepared to do an epic mend: I love a low stakes project.

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And now, we see how that wears! They will be back in the garden on the weekend for sure.

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Scrap patchwork bags

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The more sewing there is, the more scraps there are.  The more garments get cut up and converted into other things, the more bits and pieces of old clothing are lying around the place.  I notice there are waves of action around here.  Waves where things come apart–clothes get cut up ready to convert, dyeing creates new opportunities, fabrics come out of cupboards, sewing clothes creates leftover pieces of cloth… and then there are waves of coming together, sometimes driven by a sheer need to clean up and manage all those bits.

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Having made one round of bags with printed patches on them, I began to piece onto the remaining patches and to sew scraps together for linings.  Perfectly good pockets coming from clothes that have passed the point of no return (as garments of one kind) were sewn into bag linings for future use.  Eventually, they all came together into four lined bag bodies in search of straps, and all the pieces of old clothing and exhausted tablecloth that had been through one indigo vat or another started to come together as well.

In the end, I decided more denim would really help and invested $4 on the bargain rack at a Red Cross op shop.  Anything that has made it to half price at an op shop is likely on its way to rags or landfill.  If you’re feeling tough minded, or you would like to know what happens to clothing that is donated to op shops in this country, here!  Read this.

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Two bags got linen straps. This one, I think I will send to a fellow climate change activist, someone I met in Newcastle at a protest last year.  I’ve become her friend on facebook and I can see how hard it is for her to be constantly trying to explain how serious the issue facing us all is–and how urgent, while she deals with her own feelings on the subject.  This is a bit of a long distance hug for her, ’cause she’s awesome.

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This one is going to another friend who lives in the country.  She and I go way back.  I can see it’s tough being so far away from so many people she knows and events she might want to attend–though of course there are great things going on at home too. She’s a musician and knitter and gardener and feminist. Also pretty awesome.

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This patch is so like something she wrote a few weeks back I decided as I read–that it should be hers. And in case you’re wondering… there are two still bags to finish!

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Jeans

Some time ago–you know, about the point when I finished the major jumper project–I started making a pair of jeans.  Please understand I finished that jumper in June.  Perhaps I started the jeans in July.  But it is now October.  Say no more.  This is the one picture I took of the process.  I do usually think of the blog when I’m making something, and try to take the odd photo.  This was quite a fail.  But here is a freshly applied pocket, with bonus chalk marks.

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These jeans arose from a few different motivations.  I am still asking myself whether I can buy less, and whether I might just stop buying new clothes, certainly the mass produced kind.  It’s a thought experiment, don’t panic.  One of the things that makes me feel this goal may be over ambitious, is jeans.  I love them, I wear them whenever possible, and you know, I have made them, but I find it difficult and even more than that, I find it a bit scary.  On the other hand, two pairs of jeans have made it to the gardening only department (which takes a LOT, in my case).  And one more is only just behind them.  I am running out of jeans while not buying jeans.  This winter it led to my wearing woolen pants I had made to work quite a bit–no bad thing.  But jeans.

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I decided after listening to a friend about the benefits of craftsy, that one approach to my confidence issues would be to do some training.  So I enrolled for a class on craftsy and surprised myself by not really liking it much even though it seemed like something I should enjoy.  And for all kinds of irrelevant reasons that I myself thought were silly reasons not to have the benefit of the learning.  I learned a couple of things that really helped (and I can still finish the class one day and learn more!) But I also had a pile of new thoughts.  I remembered all over again that many of my feelings about clothes are really feelings about my body, and how sad it is that there is so much money to be made making us feel bad this way–because there is a lot of invitation to feel less than loving toward one’s own body in this society.  Especially if you grew up female.

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I remembered all the ill fitting and less than perfect jeans I have owned and worn to rags.  Why do the jeans I make have to be perfect?  Maybe they don’t.  And so on.  So, I made the jeans.  I already had two patterns that I had bought in the past and not made.  So speaking of not buying stuff, I chose between them and settled on Vogue 7608.  I like the level of instruction offered by the designer and they sounded like the kind of jeans I might like to wear.  I made the pockets.  No problem.  I set the zipper and constructed the fly (those instructions were awesomely good).  Then, sewed the whole thing together to try-on-stage and found that these ‘below waist’ jeans were only below waist if you understand that they were half way up my ribs at the front.  Below waist as understood in the late 1970s or early 1980s, perhaps.  Not below my waist, however.  Perhaps I am not the shape contemplated by the designer, and indeed, I have had this pointed out to me when buying jeans in shops…. which has occasionally had me in tears.  So, in a genius move that long time readers will recognise, I put them aside for weeks.

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Then came the afternoon I did all the adjusting I could do.  When I measured the curve on these jeans I found it was 5 cm longer at the front than my current favourites.  Quite a bit!  Note to self, next time try measuring this before cutting out.  I did all the adjusting I could figure out, and my overlocker suffered a discombobulation that required a trip to the shop (for a new belt).  Then, I put them down for some more weeks until one day a friend came over.  She is a tailor with loads of experience.  I tried them on and actually, she pronounced them very good, complimented my topstitching and we both agreed that the adjustment had been quite successful, and that I could make the ‘waistband’ (it isn’t really a waistband) narrower and help things along.

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So over the course of the following week, I finished them.  Not perfect, but wearable, and jeans.  Made from denim I already had, with thread I already had, and a brown zipper (who will see it?) and an op shop jeans button from a pack that made it sound like I needed a patented tool.  No, I just needed a hammer and a block of wood.  Good outcome!  A further realisation was that I always make pants that are too big.  Even when I measure and compare with the pattern.  In this case I feel sure there is a lot of ease to allow for adjustment.  But for some reason I am allergic to making things that fit.  So… it seems I need more practice!  Perhaps I should try the other pattern…

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