25 January 2008

Mending and repairing

There is mending to be done today. When I stripped the bed yesterday, I noticed a tiny rip just under Hanno's pillow. The cotton sheet is thinning, but it's still worthy of repair. Mending will give that sheet at least another summer with us before it goes on to other duties like polishing clothes, tomato stake ties or wipes for Airedale beards.

I have to tell you I love mending. It is one of those cherished homemaker duties that really connects me to this life we are living. It is a firm reminder that Hanno and I don't want to live in a throw-away world, that we care for what we own and we reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, renovate and revive. We are renegades and rebels, we don't throw much out. We want to resuscitate the planet, we are into renewal, we want to make reparation. Okay, enough of the "re" words. LOL

I am ashamed to tell you that back in my free-spending years I would throw away a perfectly good shirt or pants rather than repair them. That included throwing away clothes that just needed a button sewn on. : - ( I wish I could take back all those wasteful times but the best I can do now is to make sure I remain a good steward. Whatever needs to be repaired here now, is, and not wasted in the ever growing piles of "landfill" rubbish dumps.

Sometimes I come across a small rip or missing button in the course of my day but I usually find mending jobs when I'm washing or ironing. I make sure now that I look carefully at the fabrics and fasteners and put aside any that need repair. I have a spot in my sewing room where broken clothes and household goods sit until I have enough for a mending session. In the past couple of weeks, I've sewn on a number of buttons, reinforced handles on cloth shopping bags, and patched an old business shirt of Hanno's so he can wear it in the garden. Today I have the sheet to repair and I will also strengthen the top of a zipper on a pair of shorts and hand stitch the hem.

If you're new to mending and repairing, there is a nice little guide here that might help you. Get into the habit of collecting any buttons you find in your home. Have a small (recycled) jar handy to collect them so that when you find the shirt or dress with the button missing, you'll know exactly where to go to the find the matching button. When you're ironing, check hems and collars so you can repair them before they get out of hand. I remember my mother removing collars to turn them over on my dad's shirts. I have no doubt this almost doubled the life of his shirts. I haven't had to turn any collars yet, but it's something I will do in the future.

Here are other guides on how to sew darn a sock or a jumper/sweater, how to sew on a button and how to mend a tear (video). This is a lovely article about mending and the art of living.

I'm off to tidy my sewing room and start my mending. I hope you're having a good week and that you enjoy your time reading here. I send warm hugs to all of you.


  1. Something I once overheard: "Of course I darn my socks. Do you have any idea how long it took me to KNIT them in the first place?" I find that quote priceless. We *should* mend and repair things -- they took a long time to make! Even purchased items took a while; think how long it takes for a field of cotton to become a manufactured sock, and the miles it was transported between fields, mills, factories, and stores. That sock deserves a long life! It makes me happy every time I meet someone who mends.

  2. Lovely blog!

    Thank you for the links on how to mend! I confess that I've thrown away a lot of things I just simply didn't know how to mend. Luckilly my mom taught me how to sew on buttons, or I'd really be in a mess!


  3. I'm looking forward to checking out those links when I have a minute. I have mended for years, but never felt I did it really well.
    blessings friend,

  4. I remember going to my Grandma's and she 'topped and tailed the sheets', which meant that when they wore thin she used to cut them in half and sew them back again putting the ends in the middle and the middle bits at the ends. A bit uncomfortable if you now slept on the seam but a lesson if frugality.

    I have a duvet here with a patch in it. It got a hole but apart from that it had plenty of life left in it so I patched it from a bit of pillow inside. How I just love sleeping on it knowing how much I have saved (a new duvet set ). Cost here 100 plus Swiss Francs

    Karen. Switzerland.

  5. Rhonda Jean,
    I use old bedsheets as a futon covers. Too lazy (and cheap) to buy a futon cover when I have a perfectly good sheet that might have a slight tear in it. As well, I have winter and summer sheets so I am not using the same set over and over again. Thirdly, I go for a thread count of a min. 300, anything less than that and the sheets fall apart in the wash.

    One of the reasons why I want to learn how to sew is that I'll be able to hem my dress pants. I don't know if it's the same all over the world, but in Canada, dress pants have a standard leg length, and the size differences is more in the hips or waists. So I might own pants that fit well in the waist but are 2 inches too long in the leg. Great with boots with heals, but a real pain to wear with flats or sandals.

  6. Your blog continues to be a ongoing inspiration, of fresh ideas.

    Thank You

  7. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    What a wonderful man Michael Swain is and what a great way to think outside the box he and his sponsor has to make art really live, especially in a community that needs some metaphorical "stitching together". I suspect even very affluent areas would benefit from that sort of community spirit. Something our western society has lost sight of is a real sense of living culture (other than buying it). Guess I'd never really thought of mending as a way to contribute to that! Just goes to show you what you can learn.

    I was having some trouble coming up with the last of my 3 challenges, (trying to eliminate the use of cling wrap was one) but now mending will be my big one, as we already do most of the things that you and everyone else have mentioned. Now I know. Mending and altering etc. will be it.

    I think you're the first person I've met that enjoys mending. It had never entered my head to think of it as something to be done with any sort of positive feeling attached, except for thinking "there's one more annoying task crossed off the to do list. Thanks. I think I'll choose to think about it in a whole new light.

    Kind regards, Marilyn.pfjkyoko

  8. Hi Rhonda :) I've always liked mending too. We used to turn our sheets when I was growing up, although we did them lengthwise - but unfortunately it doesn't work with fitted sheets. My mum still refuses to buy fitted sheets for this reason.

  9. Thank you for the links Rhonda! I've been wanting to learn to darn socks for a while (my husband's socks always seem full of holes), but didn't know how to do it. By chance, the pair he pulled on this morning developed holes, so I'm off to see how I go at mending them.


  10. This morning I sat by the woodstove and mended a beautiful wool sweater I found at the thrift store for a couple dollars. It was a small hole and easily and unnoticeably repaired. I will enjoy wearing this sweater all the more because of it.
    Enjoying your blog as always,


  11. Great blog. I have been mending for years. I was raised to be kind of thrifty because we didn't always have a lot. As far as recycling things to hold buttons, I use an old pill bottle. I can store them in there and put it in my sewing box until mending day so they don't get lost. I also made a purse/travel sewing kit by putting a few sewing essentials in an old metal mint tin. I cut a bit of cardboard from a toilet paper tube and wrap a bit of basic color threads around it, tucking the ends into a cut notch so they don't unravel. Much less expensive than buying small spools too. It works great and stays closed very well. Is that to thrifty? ;-}

  12. Hi Rhonda Jean :) What a lovely post! It is such a blessing to be able to do little mendings and repairs with my own hands.

    The things you shared here seem so intimate - just so close to your heart - and I thank you for the smiles they brought.

    All of the talk about buttons reminds me of one of our favorite ways to recycle - sock puppets! They are an endless source of delight to my sweeties :) We make the characters from their favorite books and enjoy them so much!

    Love to you, Q

  13. Rhonda,

    This has not been a great week but it was nice to read your blog! It encouraged me to keep on & provided a distraction from troubles.

    I,too, enjoy mending. I find when I'm hand sewing my mind quiets and it's a great time for thinking & praying. I have,though, been guilty of not bothering with the boys' socks as much as I should. I will need to work on that! I liked what perilousknits said about how long to make something!

  14. I love your blog, yes yes, but you know, I love reading the comments too. It's like another blog and you do seem to get some inspirational and interesting comments...and dare I say, I even have favourites amongst your regular commenters (?is that a word). After reading your blog and the comments I feel I've just spent a lovely morning chatting and listening to some truly inspiring people! Oh this world of technology is surreal but truly amazing to nurture a sense of community spirit.

  15. I had never heard of turning shirt collars until my MIL did some of my husband's shirts.I have recently turned a couple of his collars and found it much easier than I had thought. The trick is to do it before they wear right through so the collar will still stay together when you wash the shirts.

    I have made several flat sheets into fitted sheets lately as well, quite satisfying. Made a couple of nappies and several baby wipes from a flanelette fitted sheet which had worn through. The sides of worn sheets are great for making pillow cases.

  16. Although I haven't done it seriously for ages, I love darning. Todays mass produced socks seem to wear out over such a wide area that it's not worth it.

    It's another way of getting sucked into the consumerism of the world today. You are enticed to buy cheap which doesn't last and because of its initial low quality isn't really repairable so you have to buy new.

    This is where your integrated policies comes in. It should work out cheaper in the long run to buy a better quality material product (higher thread count, more natural fibre) and obtain a longer life from it firstly through its higher standard and secondly through it being worth repairing. Thirdly it will probably be useful for cleaning cloths or rags when it does go beyond repair

  17. Hi,
    THanks fpr another great Post!:o)
    Have agreat day.

  18. Not to forget that for many items, mending is an opportunity for a touch of embroidery!

    Also a question. I have bath towels that are perfectly good except they are getting ragged all around the edges. Can anyone suggest a good way to mend/repair those? Thanks.

  19. Hi Rhonda,
    Another great post - I have taught all three of my boys to sew on buttons, boil eggs and make pancakes! Two of them have gone on to be reasonable cooks and the third, well he's still only 11 so still a WIP! I too love mending - such a sense of satisfaction - all that saving.. money, landfill, time (which would be spent shopping for replacements) etc. etc.

    Debbie asked about towels - I sometimes make bias binding out of fabric scraps and bind the edges of towels or cut them in half, bind the edges and make bath mats. If towels develop holes I applique over them with fabric scraps - at the moment I am using a lovely fish fabric. I have mainly white towels but if they are coloured you could cut them in strips, patches etc and make patchwork mats (I even use these at the backdoor). Hope that helps.

  20. I have to say I stumbled on this web site when I was looking through some simplicity web information. I feel so grounded reading your entries. This is my first post but I would love to know are you ever going to compile this and put out a book?

    T from Kansas

  21. Hi everyone! I knew we'd have a few menders here. It was lovely to read about your experiences. Thank you.

    Marilyn, we have a sewing circle at our Centre, the lady who runs it also teaches mending. I'm going to promote that side of it more after reading about Michael. It's such a great community service.

    I agree with you Bella, the people who comment here add a dynamic element to the blog. I love reading the comments.

    dnd, we try to buy the best quality we can afford. The higher price is deferred over a longer period, making the cost - to us and the environment - less.

    Debbie, I agree with Robyn's great suggestions. That's what I'd be doing with frayed edges.

    Hello T from Kansas, welcome. I started writing a book, but then put a lot of it on the blog. Then I decided to publish an ebook, but after investigation I realised the high costs of currency conversion makes it too expensive for an ebook. I've had no publisher approach me with a view to publication, so I guess we'll stay here as a blog.

  22. Happy Australia Day!

  23. As always your blog is inspiring! I actually like to mend things by hand, of course, I like to iron too, LOL!

    I just love the new picture on the header of your blog - did you take it? Lovely.

    Your friend,

  24. Like the new look! Apparantly, my grandmother in Ireland could 'turn a suit' which meant she could take it apart, turn it inside out and put the whole thing back together again!

  25. Hi Rhonda,
    I like your new header.

  26. Happy Australia Day, Anon, and to all my fellow Australians.

    Hello Shan. Yes, I took the photo, made the soap and grew the loofahs. I like the photo too. It has a gentle feeling to it.

    Hi the mother. I have Irish ancestry too so I knew what you were referring to with the turning of a suit. I think all our great grandmas could teach us a thing or two.

    Hi Birdie, thank you. I love your name. : )

  27. Love this post! Linked to you here:

    Of course I always find great inspiration at your little corner of the web. :)

  28. I have started a pile to mend. I don't mend everything but I throw away less than I did. Also, my girls broke their china teapot yesterday. My first inclination was to throw it away but then I realized that it wouldn't hurt to at least try to glue it back together. It's only a toy so doesn't need to be watertight and if it works, they will be so happy.

    A mindset that changes oh so slowly over time...

    Thanks for your great blog- I love to read here.


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