Tag Archives: mending jeans

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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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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Waste and avoiding waste at home 1

I tend to think that people who read this blog are already doing whatever they can think of on this issue.  But I find that there are stages, not always in sequence, in the matter of waste.  I learn new things about what I am using and doing. I find out about strategies that had not occurred to me (like those learned in Japan).  I go back to things I used to do. I establish a different level of comfort or dislodge a piece of entitlement. And sometimes a new conversation opens up at home, at work, or more widely–in the case of Australia, The War on Waste has opened new conversations.

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So my best jeans went through in the knee and I decided to patch a bit more thoughtfully, as they are my best jeans, and I have so many fit for the garden already! Here is the patch on the inside.  I had kept my grandma’s pinking shears for well over a decade even though I couldn’t free them up.  I had one more attempt and shazam!  I have mended jeans and functional pinking shears (the new sewing machine oil did it)! So the patch has pinked edges.

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Here is my stitching grid (yes, an ordinary drawing pencil in pale pink).  Since visiting Japan, I’ve read more about sashiko (sometimes called Japanese folk embroidery–but to summarise, running stitch made into a higher art form) and realised the simpler thing would have been to just trace a grid of lines.  This worked though! Much more attractive than my previous utilitarian approach, in fact I had a confusing conversation with a gentleman who thought I’d done this just for decoration recently. I had to break the news it was actually mending, not distressed denim–but we shared some puzzlement bout distressed denim as we clearly both wear our jeans out.

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This morning, I went for a pre-work walk and took some years’ worth of our dead batteries (including rechargeables) to a recycling station at the Clarence Park Community Centre. They also accept electrical goods and mobile phones for recycling.  Community Centres are just SO GOOD. Our local Food Co-op at Clarence Park Community Centre has an excellent range of foods including eggs, honey, flours, seeds, grains, nuts, driend fruits, pulses. It is run by lovely volunteers, and has been running with a view to reducing waste and keeping food affordable for many, many years.  National list of bulk food co-ops here.

On the way back, a friend stopped on their bike and asked what I was doing in that spot–and they said Goodwood library also take batteries for recycling.  We went on our separate ways and I collected dye leaves on the way home, and they passed me again and stopped to say it had improved their day to see me and remember there are other people who also care for the earth. Aww! (That was the trigger for this post).  So there were hugs and there was love and then off they rode and off I walked.

Needless to say there has been more spring guerilla gardening, and I always pick up rubbish while I’m at it.

We already do lots of the simpler things like refusing straws (I started on that in the 1980s); taking our own bags to the shop, packing fruit and vegetables without extra bags, reusing plastic bags, recycling, composting, worm farming and such.  But we’ve stepped up to seeing if we can bring less plastic into the house, difficult as that is given the way industry and commerce are now arranged.  I’ve been stopping off at Drake’s Foodland Panorama which has a huge bulk section and is on my bus route home from work. I take pre-loved ziplock bags from earlier purchases with me and refill them. It’s not especially cheap  but it’s accessible and involves no new packaging. When coming home from my parents’ house, I’ve been doing the same thing with a Coles that has a smaller bulk section (each Coles I’ve seen a bulk section in has a different selection). But in Adelaide, the bulk place to go apart from your local co-op or Farmer’s Market is the Central Market.  Needless to say the Markets sell fruit, vegetables, pre-made foods and all manner of other foods. No one turns a hair when I buy bread with my own bags and this is expected by many stallholders. (Random picture of a rosella peeping out of a nesting box–look carefully!).

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The Honey Shop at the Market sells all kinds of unpackaged soaps, tea herbs, ingredients for making your own cosmetics and massage oils, plus bulk oils, cleansers (dishes, bathrooms, clothing, you), shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser–and of course honey. They’ve been doing it ever since I first went to the markets in about 1983. There is also the upmarket and relatively expensive Goodies and Grains which has a huge selection. (Random picture of home made sourdough with whole barley rising).

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Then there is the much cheaper Tardis of bulk shopping The House of Health (every time I go there I discover more things I thought were not available in Adelaide–like sourdough starter–as well as more things I don’t understand, like freeze dried vegetable powder).  You have to be prepared to dance in a very small space here but I can get virtually everything we use for breadmaking, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, FODMAP friendly granola making and more.

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Then there’s hankies.  I’m one of those who never went over to using paper tissues.  But now I make my own and share the love.  These were a small amount of double gauze I just could not resist, bought new and sized for smaller friends who have smaller pockets (and smaller noses!) And then there is this stack: an entire fitted cotton bedsheet worn through–soft and lovely for hankies–and gifted to me by a friend. Then I made some more from a vintage paisley green lawn from Joyce’s stash but I gifted them away before taking a photo.  And some others from fine lovely cotton from Beautiful Silks’ remnants section. What have you decided to do to reduce waste at your place lately?

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