Stress and Inspiration


This was one of those projects both conceived and executed over the course of 48 hours.  While I try very hard not to stress about crafting projects, there is an element of necessity if I commit to not purchasing a needed thing ready made.  In this case it came down to my dislike for most sorts of shopping (all except food and crafting supplies really) and especially any sort of shopping that will almost certainly involve buying some sort of synthetic material that I’ve more or less sworn off if at all possible.  So instead I made a soft, lightweight, lovely little bag for Adi to take to her new school and it only cost me brownie points for James to keep Adi out from under foot and half a night of sleep.

Fumbling with bound buttonholes at one in the morning, I start to question the wisdom of taking on these, perhaps unnecessary, tasks.  Without fail they are pushed to the last minute, as though the perfect alternative will fall into my lap if I just wait long enough.  But there’s also an excitement in being stressed about something other than work, to be pushed to the limits of speed and care when top-stitching, and to put together a complete and final creation in such a short period of time, design and all.  It reassures me that this crazy idea we have of retiring early and living on less won’t bore me without the incessant hoop-jumping of an academic life.


And Adi?  She loves the way her new backpack turned out just as much as I do.  I used a linen blend fabric and some ribbon from my stash.  The pattern is made up, but heavily inspired by the look of the Colette Cooper backpack.  I even used the instructions to square the bottom of the bag from their sewalong.





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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


Giving New Life to Handmade Clothes


I have been sewing my own clothes for over three years.  In that time I have tackled shirts, skirts, dresses, leggings, underwear, bags, slips, and scarves.  My plan was to sew new pieces slowly and carefully, filling holes in my wardrobe left by my ready-to-wear clothes falling apart.  I considered fabric type (cotton, soft and breathable), color (mostly neutrals), print (mostly solids because they go with everything), and style (flattering while remaining work-appropriate).

But I did not consider whether my clothes would grow with me as my body changed, whether they would provide nursing access for breastfeeding my baby, and whether they would double as maternity wear.   As a result, when my husband and I decided to start a family, some of my favorite tops and dresses were packed away.

At first I thought the situation would be temporary, that within a year I would be back to my pre-pregnancy size, reveling in some of my favorite handmade pieces.  A year later, I have finally accepted that my body is simply a different shape.  My hips are wider, my chest is still larger.  In response to these changes my style has shifted from fitted wovens to drapey knits.  I revel in the comfort of clothes that gently hug my body without drawing attention to the bumps and wiggles motherhood brought.

So what do we do with our favorite handmade clothes when they no longer fit our bodies or our style?

The nuclear option is to turn them into something else entirely.  Perhaps a tank top becomes a toddler dress or part of a quilt.  This way the fabric doesn’t go to waste, but time and additional resources (thread, for instance) are needed.  Frankly, I have an entire box of old clothes waiting to be transformed into something more useful, so I’m hesitant to add to the pile.

A less dramatic approach is to alter the clothes to fit a new shape and style.  This way a shirt stays a shirt, but its sides are taken in or let out.  A collar is added or the hem is shortened.  The time and resources required scale with the level of alterations, but there’s the chance that a quick fix will bring the piece back into the fold.

Perhaps the easiest and kindest path is to find a new home for our clothes with someone who will love them as they are.  No more time spent crafting.  No more resources spent making. Another person gets to enjoy a piece of clothing made with care under fair conditions (a mug of hot tea handy, tunes in the background, a comfy seat on the couch).

What do you do with your handmade clothes that are no longer worn?