The penalty for having such a nice time before Christmas making all sorts of fun creative gifts was that a large pile of mending didn’t get done! Despite the exciting projects bubbling away in my mind with the start of a new year, I knew that I had to be strict with myself and clear the decks of some these mending chores before I started anything new. I know I won’t be alone in needing clean, fresh space and a clear mind before starting new projects. It’s deeply important to how I approach a new idea that all the old bits and pieces associated with previous projects be put away. Not so much the slate washed clean – more the spare room bed (AKA my Woolly Room) be emptied of clutter.
So to the mending then! We are great menders here. At the heart of it – far beyond the desire to help our planet (though that’s important too) – is the fact that we like our old things, and it makes us sad to get rid of them. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than with Stephen and his attitude to his clothes. He loves his existing stock of check shirts with a passion …..err, no, I wouldn’t go that far. But they are part and parcel of our lives, being mostly hand-me-downs from a motley selection of family. His very favourites came from his oldest daughter’s ex-boyfriend, and have never been superceded in affection.
So, though my heart sinks when I see his shirts with frayed collars and hole patches on the elbow like this …I know how very much it means to him, that with a little loving attention …Actually, particularly loving attention, and very hard work when they get as bad as this …They can be carefully re-pieced ….It’s worth it in the end … when they are almost as good as new …Ironically enough, the more loving repair and attention his shirts get, the more precious they become, and the less likely it is that we will throw them out ever!Even his trousers needed repair this time. I minded this less, because although trouser repairs are hard work, the only damage to these jeans is where he caught the leg on barbed wire …A new patch carefully stitched on …And a little loving sashiko work …I may criticise Stephen for hanging on to old friends for far too long, but truth to tell, I’m just as bad. This chiffon leopard print scarf once belonged to my grandmother, so even though it was as worn as this …It’s worth putting in the repairs (even though the fabric is perishing as I stitch)…From a distance you might say it ended up as good as new …I finally got round to sewing on the replacement buttons on my vintage alpaca coat …They don’t really look that special like that, but up close and personal you can see how very beautiful these buttons are. They also belonged to my grandmother, and I have longed for ages to find a garment worthy of these beautiful mother-of-pearl buttons. Aren’t they just gorgeous!!So that’s the clothes sorted. Now you might think that I could rest on my laurels, and turn my attention to a new project. But no, there is more repair work to do!
This is an old wooden red lacquer tray – so worn that the picture has almost completely disappeared. Can you just make out a faint Japanese scene? I broke it a couple of years ago …I must have picked it up carelessly, because the corner just crumbled off in my hand, the wood so friable that it just snapped. Luckily, very easy to glue together, and the tray just looks a little bit shabbier.Some repairs have hung around waiting for love and attention for a long time – because I really don’t want to do them. The laundry basket was just such a case.I won’t tell you in so many words how the damage occurred. Let the picture speak for itself …I hesitated to get started with repairs because I wasn’t really sure how I was going to tackle it. But once I started – with some of my homespun, hand-dyed yarn – it sort of fell into place. Binding round the edges … And then a little weaving to tie in the broken bits …I am so pleased with the end result!And so, I think, is Ilsa!Another sort of repair project that I have just completed was to make a cover for the old leather photograph album which housed the photographs of my father’s Australian childhood. Old leather powders and sheds which isn’t only unpleasant because it leaves brown dust everywhere, but causes further damage to the leather. It was housed in an old plastic bag, but plastic can’t be good for leather, so I decided to make the very precious album its own special cover.
I cut up an old tablecloth that I found at a local charity shop and machined a cover together, and then decided to stitch a label on the cover. First to print out a mirror image of the words I wanted to embroider …Then to iron the text on …Now the embroidery work …It looks OK …A very satisfactory result for a family treasure …Hmm …. that’s almost it. But there’s one more chore that I made myself face with beginning of the new year. I unravelled my blue homespun cardigan. You may have been one of the kindly folk who gave me advice on this knit – and if so, thank you so very much. I thought I long and hard about what to do with it, and for quite a time, I really wasn’t sure. Then a new project bubbled up from my subconscious. What about if I used the blue yarn for a blanket project like this little swatch here …..?! Oh, inspiration! Definitely time to frog!Whew! That’s it, folks! Am I glad to have finished this batch of repair and mend! Wouldn’t it be easier to just chuck some of these damaged things out, and just buy new? After all, a new laundry basket won’t break the bank …
I couldn’t do it. I grew up with parents who had lived through the second world war, and they saved and scrimped every little thing. Mending was core to their way of life. It’s definitely sunk deeply into my psyche.