somewhat visibly mended shirt

The project

Mend small tears in a shirt caused by wear and strain.

Why I chose to mend it when I did

Not long ago, I noticed that this summery linen-cotton shirt of G’s had become damaged and I put it in the mending pile but I wasn’t quite sure what fabric I’d use for the patch. A little while later I was reorganising my sewing stuff and fabric scraps and came across an off-cut from when I shortened this shirt along with the three others G has in the same style. In essence, that eliminated a decision, making the project feel easier.

Then the other day, I was washing those other three shirts and, noting this one’s absence, asked him if he knew where it was. It took a while for me to clue in.

Anyway, it’s perfect weather for this shirt so I figured I should get it back into circulation before the weather turns cool again.

The process

I already had fabric that matched perfectly. Next was to choose the thread. I looked at my collection of heavier threads and embroidery floss and found a white linen as well as a pale blue linen (both actually intended for weaving rather than sewing) that was pretty much a perfect match. (My pointless superpower is always having matching thread.) I preferred the white. It’s “somewhat visibly mended” because I wasn’t trying to make it invisible, but I also didn’t want to make it into a big feature because G prefers low contrast looks.

I rotated the patch so the stripes were perpendicular to the body of the shirt, partly for visual interest and partly because it would look weird to me if the stripes didn’t match up and there’s no way they’d match up. I tacked down the remainder of the patch using running stitches to strengthen the whole area, which was rather worn. (Technique inspired by Mending Matters,  discussed here.)

Then, as I was about to toss the shirt into the wash, I noticed the other tear, which I’d known about but forgotten. Damn.

If you want proof as to why it’s a bad idea to stitch down pleats, look no further. The back pleat is supposed to give extra room for movement through the shoulders. Stitch down the pleat, lose that room. Duh. When I originally noticed the tear in this shirt, I immediately ripped out the stitching in the other three. I don’t need to do any more patching than absolutely necessary!

The back patch was very similar to the front patch except for the placement: the front patch location was informed by the presence of the placket, while the back patch needed to relate to the (now-released) pleat. The back patch is virtually centred on the hole. It didn’t seem necessary to tack down this patch, not least because the source of the strain had been removed.

I glued this patch in place with a glue stick rather than pinning.

As it happens, I discovered this article yesterday via FB: The life changing magic of making do. “[G]etting mileage from our things should at least engender a sense of pride, and of mastery,” and for me it definitely does. Odd as it seems, it takes effort and skill to completely use something up, and I enjoy that sense of accomplishment.

visibly mended coat pocket

This is my first project directly inspired by the techniques in Mending Matters.

The project

Mend the pocket of my coat, which had developed a big hole from carrying keys. The fabric of the pocket (as well as the lining) is cotton so it wears more quickly than a synthetic would. Both coat pockets have holes, so I chose to repair the easier one first. The coat is only partially lined and thus the pocket bags are very accessible.

Why I chose to mend it when I did

I’ve had holes in both pockets for years now and just worked around it. I could often get away with not taking my keys at all because my partner and I were both working from home. If we went out together, he’d take his keys and I’d leave mine behind.

He has since gotten a job that’s not only out of the house but out of the city, and suddenly I had to carry keys again. I was tired of the workarounds that I’d used when he’d been away studying before, which was usually throwing the keys into my fabric tote bag (I don’t carry a purse). But then the keys are at the bottom of the bag and possibly bruising the fruit and vegetables I’d just bought.

The process

This mend is visible in the sense that I chose non-blending fabric and thread for the repair, but only if I show it off because this area is of course ordinarily hidden inside the coat.

For my patch, I used a scrap of robust cotton twill that was originally from a project I’d made many years ago for my partner. I chose it for practical reasons, but I found that connecting this project for me to that older one for him was also rather satisfying.

I’d cut the left edge previously by following threads. The new chalk marks are square and show just how off-grain the fabric is. That’s not too surprising though, as twill often skews like this. I left the selvage on because it avoids a raw edge (helpful with an area that gets a lot of wear) and the different weight and tension of that bit of fabric wouldn’t cause any problems.

Usually when I apply a patch, I’ll glue it in place using an ordinary glue stick so that it doesn’t shift while I’m stitching. But that’s usually for jeans or other clothes that are getting washed and I’m not sure whether the glue would cause problems if it stays in indefinitely. This time I skipped the glue and tried the safety-pinning method shown in the book.

The safety pins worked just fine, but I still prefer gluing. I made sure to put the right side of the fabric facing out.

As luck would have it, I was in Japan in November and when I was at a large department store with a great craft and sewing section I remembered that I was considering trying out sashiko embroidery. At the time I was envisioning the classic white-on-indigo look, so rather than availing myself of the good range of colours they had (where do you start? where do you stop?), I just bought one skein of white to try it out.

I considered using that white cotton sashiko thread here but found that it looked a little harsh with the fabrics of the coat and patch — the lining fabric is a slightly warm grey. So I chose a cream-coloured cotton embroidery floss instead, which I found to be much more complementary, and the tint is so subtle that it still reads as white. Yes, the floss has a bit of sheen that the sashiko thread doesn’t but it’s not noticeable unless you’re looking for it.

All of the stitching was done with three strands of floss. The rectangle is the first part to be completed as its function is to secure the patch. I did the bacteria-like mend next, and rather than whip-stitching according to the book, I did a blanket stitch. The finished look is almost the same, but the blanket stitch effectively outlines the hole in thread which gives it a little more protection from wear. Because I’ve done more blanket stitching than whip-stitching, I also find it easier to do evenly. Finally, I threw in a few gratuitous lines of stitching because (a) I like how it looks, and (b) it gives a little more stability to the “white space” of the patch.

I’ve had this coat (and its twin — that’s another story) for many years already and had been idly thinking of a succession plan since it is (they are) showing a fair amount of wear. But wear is love, and now I’m inclined to keep it (them) on the road as long as I can.

visibly mended gloves

I first heard of visible mending years ago, online somewhere, but almost certainly in reference to Tom of Holland, who is its biggest proponent. Tom is mentioned in Mending Matters, but I fixed up these gloves before I bought the book and with just my dim memory to inspire me.

The project

Mend a pair of good woollen gloves that my partner had received as a gift from his mother. She’d bought them on a trip to Australia, if memory serves, and so an exact replacement wasn’t possible.

Why I chose to mend them when I did

It was winter and he didn’t have any proper gloves. He had also just gotten a job in a nearby city and I wanted to send him off a little more prepared, since I now wouldn’t be able to present the mended gloves to him just whenever I felt like it. (Which, if past experience is anything to go by, is possibly never.)

The process

This mend was visible of necessity. I have only two types of wool thread in weights that I thought might work: this blue, and a red. The red was too much. I like the blue with this grey, and despite the fairly high contrast he was OK with it too.

I bought these wool threads at a weaving shop in London, so it’s not like I can just pop round to pick up a better match. Of necessity I got creative with what I already had, which is kind of what mending is about anyway. While working on this project, I was reminded of the Christmas when these gloves were given, and the field trip with friends to the weaving shop out in a part of London I’d never been to before and haven’t returned to since.

I didn’t try to make the mended patches into any particular pattern. I just reinforced what was worn. The gloves are seamless (sorcery!) and I couldn’t quite figure out how the joints on the thumbs were achieved, but there wasn’t much wear there anyway so I just skipped those bits.

The blue thread was too thin on its own, but doubling it gave it just the right weight. I folded it and threaded the resulting loop through the needle so it was easier to unpick if necessary. (And it was necessary.)

I’ve learned that the technique I used is called Swiss darning or duplicate stitching. You follow existing stitches with a sewing/darning needle.

I didn’t keep track of how long this took me, but it was a long time and a labour of love. Six hours sticks in my mind but that might be for one rather than both. *shrug*

The stitches are small enough that my eyes were starting to cross, but I also did enough of it that I got into a state of flow, which kept me stitching longer than I would have predicted I’d have the patience for. I’m not a knitter, but I got a taste of the meditative nature of knitting, in addition to the satisfaction of providing for a loved one and keeping textiles out of landfill.

Visibly mending a mass-produced item is a way of asserting one’s personality over potentially dehumanizing mechanization, like an abandoned car becoming overgrown with weeds. It’s a small and cozy act of rebellion.