To Mend Or Not To Mend

Medieval viking reenactment from Pixabay In the last few years I’ve become much more aware of my consumption habits. Until recently this was coupled with a distinct shortage of pocket money, and the combo led me to focus on buying less in all areas of life. Retraining myself to simply want less is part of it – there are a lot of things that I can easily do without, and getting out of the habit of allowing myself the brief acquisition high relaxes its hold on me (I find the same is true of eating sugary things). Serviceable clothing isn’t something I can do without, though.

There are plenty of pieces of advice for stretching your budget on the shopping side of things. I shop sales and try to anticipate my seasonal needs; I haven’t had much luck with finding my everyday clothes at thrift stores, but I shop there for dressier and costume pieces. Another tip I’ve seen frequently is to choose pieces that all coordinate with each other. I wear v-neck knit shirts and jeans almost every day of the year, with cardigans on top in the winter, so as long as my sweaters coordinate with a wide variety of colors I already have that covered. My spin on that advice is to also avoid really distinctive, noticeable items that I won’t want to wear more than once a month, lest people think I just wear them all the time and never wash them. Dress clothes get a pass, since I am not going to wear those frequently regardless.

The third prong, after reducing quantity and shopping thriftily, is mending. I’ve been trying to determine the cost/benefit ratios of different mends, and here are my thoughts.

Worth It

darning jeans –
Jeans are expensive and machine-darning them is quick. Tears are easier to fix than wear from rubbing, and the mends last longer, but both are worthwhile. Save fabric from dead jeans for later repairs – my husband has a collection of identical jeans and he gets a lot more mileage out of them since I can patch his knee tears with matching fabric so they still look good enough for work. More on this next weekend.

mending bras –
Up to a point, of course. If the fabric or elastic is worn out, doesn’t have the oomph it should, then it’s time to say goodbye. However, if the strap has torn off the band or the underwire is poking out but the material is still good, it’s certainly worth fixing. Again, bras are expensive and the fixes can be quick.

overdying shirts –
Don’t bleach them, because it will thin the fabric, but blah shirts can be revived for a while with an application of dye in a coordinating color. Darkening the fabric not only makes the shirt feel new, it can help thinning shirts be more opaque.

reattaching underwear elastic –
Sometimes the waistband or leg bindings of underwear come loose from the fabric, and it is a quick matter to reattach them with a zigzag stitch, stretching the fabric and elastic while you stitch.

darning sweaters –
For me, sweaters are worth even more than their purchase price, because I have spent a long time finding the ones in my collection. I can’t wear wool sweaters without irritation, and high quality cotton or acrylic sweaters are hard to find. Even though a good mend on a sweater has to be done by hand, it’s worth the time.

replacing coat zippers –
This is typically not as difficult as you might think, and coats are another expensive item. If you have a puffy multi-layer coat the trick is to baste all the layers together maybe half an inch in from the edge of the zipper tape so they stay aligned while you remove and replace the zipper.

Not Worth It

(of course, this is unless it’s an article of clothing that is special to you)

darning socks –
This is a lot of work and most socks aren’t that expensive. I have fixed a lot of socks, but in the future I will only fix the superfancy ones (such as Smartwool), because the amount of time it takes to darn a cheaper sock is worth much more than the amount of time and money it takes to replace the pair. The mends are difficult to make well, also, and can be very noticeable and not very durable.

mending holes in shirts –
I don’t know how to make a mend on the little pinholes that t-shirts develop over time that is not hard, thick, and very obvious. I live with the pinholes until they are too much; fortunately for me that tends to coincide with the overall death of the shirt. I have once or twice taken care of a pinhole by shortening the shirt so it lay in or below the hem, but of course the shirt has to be long enough to allow that.

Maybe, Maybe

replacing jeans zippers –
If the jeans fit well and have good life left in them, and there isn’t a lot of hardware or excess stitching making the zipper replacement trying, then do it. If the jeans aren’t that great or are on their way out, or the replacement process is going to be a lot of labor, I’ll take a pass.

replacing coat linings –
If you love the coat and it’s in good shape on the outside, this is probably worth the effort. This is a LOT of effort, though, so choose carefully.

replacing PJ pant elastic –
Since pajamas don’t get the kind of wear that, say, pants you wear to work do, the fabric often lasts a lot longer than the elastic. The elastic takes wear from machine drying, but also will simply harden with age and get crackly. The reason this is in the “maybe” category is that there are two ways PJ elastic is typically installed: threading through a casing or stitching flat onto the inside of the waistband (generally with many rows of stitching). In the latter case it is probably not worth the effort (though if you have vaguely matching fabric you can cut off the old waistband and make a new one that does thread the elastic through the casing). In the former case, provided the fabric is still good, it probably is worth the effort.

Travel Craft Case

Beginning a monthly (or perhaps twice-monthly) craft night at the Sew-op gave me the urge to sew up a travel craft case that was more of a hussif than a bag. This was the spur for making my host of little felt patches, since I wanted one instead of a cushion for needles and pins. After I finally set out to work on it, it didn’t take too long to get this:

photo of craft case interior laid flat

I chose the felt for it based on liking the color contrast and shape of the patch. After that, by coincidence, I found I had both bright green buttons (from my late grandmother’s stash) and bright green elastics (the cut off ends of no-tie shoelaces). The denim is the last remains of my wedding jeans, including the coin pocket.

photo of craft case rolled up It is messy and where the elastic ends are stitched down there are wads of top thread on the wrong side, but it works for me. The main body is three 6″ x 9″ pieces zigzagged individually, butted end to end and joined by zigzag, and then zigzagged around collectively in a sort of double figure 8. Everything else is stitched flat on top of that. The inside button that doesn’t hold the felt is mostly there for decoration; I don’t know that it accomplishes anything in terms of holding in the scissors. I may find a use for it later. The elastic that holds it all shut has two knots so it can be strapped around the roll at multiple sizes – tuck four full-size spools of thread into the innermost end and you’ll need a longer strap than with a few embroidery floss bobbins.

I always seem to have more than enough crochet to fill the evenings my husband and I spend hanging out and doing nothing, so with some exceptions embroidery and hand-sewing get postponed indefinitely. I’m hoping craft nights will help me get through more of my handwork.

Weavers: Relaxation, Invitation, Ornamentation

I’m in an art exhibit for the first time ever! [This is more a function of me getting in gear than anything else, but it’s exciting nonetheless.] A set of three mixed-media fiber art pieces, with sewing, embroidery, weaving, and gluing.

"relaxation" art embroidery "invitation" art embroidery "ornamentation" art embroidery

From left to right, these are Relaxation, Invitation, Ornamentation. Click to embiggen; the next larger size would have made them taller than my browser window, and I find that super annoying on other sites.

My hubby took some fantastic closeups of them that I’ll share two of:

"relaxation" embroidery detail "ornamentation" embroidery detail

These will be on display at the Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River Junction, VT, as part of their Earth Day art show. I believe they are up for three weeks starting today, and there’s a reception 4-6 PM today.

A bit on the making: The hoops are 12″, 10″, and 8″ wooden embroidery hoops painted with acrylics; two are over 12″ scrapbook paper. Each has a two-layer fabric “frame” perhaps with other fabric elements and a hanging ribbon that originated on a candy package. The webs are nylon filament sold for beading and the dewdrops are Mod Podge Dimensional Magic, a material I’d been looking for an excuse to buy and try.

The smaller spider is thread and wire (and a loop of filament leading to the hanging thread), held in place with friction and Fray-Check. The bigger one is wire and beads made rigid partially via Jewel-It embellishment glue. The wire lettering is also held in place by Jewel-It. I used steam (was going to say an iron, but that implies touching) to “block” the nylon, which shrinks it a bit but also helps it take the shape it’s pinned to when heated. That was especially important for the hanging spider, who doesn’t weigh enough to straighten the nylon itself!