Since I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I have had a sewing kit. It contains some hand-me-down items from my mom and grandmother and then stuff from my junior high sewing class. I carried this with me to college and have moved it with me to every place I have ever lived as an adult. (Weirdly, though, I can’t find it at the moment, so I think I may have left it in my storage unit).
If you know me at all, you might be surprised, because I don’t really sew much. In this sewing kit, I have some scraps of fabric saved for a long-talked-about-but-never-started quilt project, some embroidery thread leftovers from my seventh grad friendship-bracelet-making days, and some very basic hand sewing equipment: needles of various sizes, a couple of thimbles, scissors, pins, a pin cushion, and thread, lots and lots of thread from a couple of mending kits and some hand-me-downs from my mom. Why do I have this sewing kit if I don’t sew? Why, it’s for mending of course.
Yes, I mend my own clothes, at least the minor-I-can-do-it mends. My mom has helped me with things like mending a thrift store jean jacket or hemming an uneven skirt and lots of other mending projects over the years. For the little stuff, though, I do it. I repair holes in socks. I fix holes in the armpits of favorite t-shirts. I have mended a favorite pair of faded black leggings too many times to count. Currently in my pile waiting to be mended are: a pair of plaid flannel pajama pants that need a little help in the fly, the previously mentioned black leggings that have a small tear in the left leg and a hole in the crotch where the seams come together, a navy blue t-shirt with a small hole on the back of the neck, a pair of faded white running socks that have holes in a heel and toe, and a skirt and pair of pants, both of which need buttons replaced.
In a time when almost everything feels disposable, I like being able to give my clothes a longer life. I like that I can make a cheap t-shirt last much longer. I like the self-sufficiency of it, and mostly I love that in mending my clothes, my less than divine handiwork is never really on display. I don’t think I could pass muster as a seamstress, but with a matching thread and tiny stitches, the repair becomes almost invisible. An hour or two of mending every few months is a soothing activity. It feels good to sit still and work with my hands. I love the thrift of mending and I find it to be a very grounding.
I keep a small tote bag in my closet to store the clothes that need mending. If I notice the hole or tear, I toss the shirt or pants into the bag right away, so I don’t accidentally wear it again, or wash it when a hole could grow to continent-on-a-map-size. Once the bag gets kind of full, or on a night that I just feel like it, I pull out the tote bag and the sewing kit and plop down to do some mending. The tote bag is kind of full at the moment, so it’s very possible that I’ll be doing some mending soon. Luckily, my sister has a mending kit that I can borrow. (I hope my mending kit is indeed in storage and that I find it soon.)
The first step in mending is to take stock. What do you need to mend? Can you find the holes, the tears, the flaws? Do you have anything that can use the same color thread? Do you have everything you need? The thread, the needles, scissors? Do you have good light so you can see? Do you have a space to work, a comfy chair with some adjacent space to spread out an item of clothing?
Most of the time, the mending doesn’t take that long, but it takes time to examine the holes, match up the thread, find the buttons. You also need to take time with your stitches. Even if the repair won’t show, you don’t want things to get worse. You want to make sure to leave enough thread if you need to double-back so the repair is strong and won’t unravel. You might need to pause and consider how you’re going to repair the tear. Do you need a patch? I do all of my mending by hand and I don’t know how to do more complicated repairs like replacing a zipper or if the fabric is going to need a sewing machine strength mend. That’s when I call in the help of my mom and her expert sewing and possession of a sewing machine. In our visits to see each other there may be a handing off of a couple of things to repair or she’ll return the stuff she has mended. I am grateful for my mom and this option, and luckily she says she enjoys mending, too. If a matriarch option isn’t there for you, check to see if there is a local business that offers alterations and repairs.
It turns out mending goes beyond a few stray holes in t-shirts, socks, and pajama pants. I feel like I am in need of some mending, some care, some time. I need to take stock of the wounds, the damage, the holes. I need to see what I need to make repairs. Do I need time with a friend? Time with my sister? Do I need time to reconsider and reset? Do I need time for reflection? Space for self-soothing? Do I need some prayer time? Meditation time? Strength for forgiveness?
We are always growing, moving, reflecting. We are always hurting and healing and transforming. We are always mending.