Mend

IMG_9346

When I decided to start sewing all my own clothes a few years ago, the task seemed daunting.  True, I could whip up a tank top in a single weekend using my sewing machine, but surely I didn’t want to spend all my free time sewing.  I envisioned a whole new wardrobe with color-coordinated pieces that I could wear both to work and to the beach, because (don’t hate me) my work and the beach were almost the same place.  I made a list.  I purchased fabric.  And then I waited for some of my clothes to wear out so that I could replace them.  For the most part I’m still waiting.

IMG_9303IMG_9304

What has happened in the intervening time is a gradual falling apart.  Tiny holes appear in my favorite shirts.  Jeans grow threadbare between the legs.  A cotton jacket becomes worn at permanent creases in the cloth.  Sometimes it takes me a while to notice.  Sometimes the hole or distressed area becomes so large that I consider declaring the item officially worn out, but then I think about having to sew a whole new piece to replace it and the patching or darning or reinforcing seems like a much easier task.

So there’s the secret to getting your mending done: the alternative must involve even more effort.

IMG_9307IMG_9311

Of course the flaw in this secret mending motivational strategy is my overabundance of clothes.  They fill up more than half of my shared bedroom closet.  They spill onto the floor from the laundry basket.  They are piled on shelves and in luggage.  They are certainly not all needed.  Not by a long shot.

IMG_9317

But my oh my the mending pile has grown.  And by this point it holds not only some of my favorite clothes, but some of my husband’s favorite clothes.  The procrastination period must end, and to help it along, here are some of my favorite sources of mending inspiration:

  • Examples of both visible and invisible mending.
  • How to fix store-bought socks with little patches over the holes from Tasha.
  • Karina Rodabaugh‘s blog and instagram with pictures of mended pants, sashiko, and boro.
  • Tomofholland‘s blog with pictures of mending, including mending knitted clothes in interesting ways.

IMG_9333

The above images are only a small sampling of the mended articles littered around my apartment, including (top to bottom) handkerchiefs, baby clothes my mom saved from when I was a baby, my husband James’ jeans, a pillow case my mom made for me when I was young, and even more handkerchiefs.  In addition, I have mended my own pants (both stretch and non-stretch), undies, cloth diapers that were starting to fray, shirts, a dress or two, and my husband’s winter jacket that had developed holes in awkward places (like every single pocket).  For adult clothes, at least for James, I usually try for invisible mending, but for many household items (such as the pillow case), I enjoy visible mending using a large box of fabric scraps.  Now that I have a couple t-shirts with tiny holes in them, I’m thinking about using applique methods a la Alabama Chanin to cover them up in a way that only makes the shirts more beautiful over time.

Do you mend your clothes?

Kathryn

Color from Yellow Onion Skins

IMG_8369

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t bright orange.  Yellow, maybe.  Or even light brown.  Looking back at a beautiful spread of fiber dyed using yellow onion skins on the Folk Fibers blog, I see that orange was definitely within the realm of possibility, but I was secretly hoping for more of a golden hue.  Mostly though, I’m in awe that something as simple as yellow onion skins without any mordants or after-baths or other tinkering could yield such a vibrant color on wool.  The effect on cotton is more subdued and much less orange, but I love the warmth.

IMG_8374

My mom is finally taking notice of my natural dyeing tendencies and recently knit Adi a wool bag for her toys out of a creamy wool so that I could dye it if I wished.  As an added bonus, my mom left a very large skein of the same wool with me to use for dye experiments.  Previously I had only been dyeing cotton and alpaca yarn, but the alpaca was mostly a light brown color to begin with (which is what created the very dark orange-brown color in the top photo).  Now I can finally dye white wool to my heart’s content and will even start experimenting with the difference between dyeing yarn before and after knitting.

IMG_8366Top: white wool used for dyeing and a square of knitting (seed stitch) for dyeing in progress.  Middle: (left to right) white cotton yarn, light brown alpaca yarn, and white wool yarn dyed with yellow onion skins (first through the dye bath), and white wool yarn dyed with yellow onion skins (second through the dye bath). 

It still amazes me how much natural dyeing and knitting have been perfect for life with a baby and toddler.  Without the distraction of taking care of Adi I would never have the patience to wait for yarn to sit in the dye bath for a day or two, or for it to dry without rinsing so that it really has to dry twice.  I also wouldn’t be as interested in knitting if it weren’t something I could do while watching Adi or waiting for her to finish eating at the table.  She has grabbed my knitting needles more times than I can count and never once hurt herself.  While I could be frustrated that I no longer have as much time to sew or (especially) use my loud sewing machine in our small apartment, instead I’m trying to focus on the wonderful way that I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone, starting at the very beginning again on so many things (knitting, weaving, natural dyeing).  Parenthood has been so full of these unexpected gifts.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there!

Kathryn