She has a powder blue plastic sewing basket that lives in a cupboard near the stove. A clear tray rests on the top with little compartments housing nobble headed pins, cottons and unused thimbles. There is always hat elastic and a rusty old pair of pinking shears. And underneath a life time’s full of dressmaking accoutrements is the mending pile.
On a rainy afternoon my Mum makes a cup of tea and settles herself into the corner lounge chair and threads her needle. Her quiet labour breathes life back into my Dad’s worn and already patched boilermaker pants. She darns the knees time and again and when they finally resemble a scarecrow’s garb she cuts unscathed squares to put away for patches in new pants. The metal button tin, a simple and enthralling childhood toy, is also ferreted about in to match a missing button. It is a tedious task at times but one she has performed for as long as I can remember. And it is with this gentle industry she taught me to mend and make do.
With the rise of the fast fashion juggernaut our feelings towards the longevity of our clothes have become hazy. Where once we would squeeze every last breath out of cloth, wool and leather, we now often discard at the merest hint of a hole. And with this flippant mindset has come a demise in skills; simple, quiet domestic skills. The ability to sew on a button, patch a worn knee, darn a sock, take up a hem… But to reclaim this lost handiness is to not only save untold garments from landfill but to take back a sense of competency, a feeling of “I am steering this ship”. To turn inwards to our own capabilities and rescue our responsibilities of providing and doing for ourselves.
So make a cup of tea and position yourself in the corner lounge chair. Pick up the phone and ask your Mum, a grandparent, a neighbour to pass on their self sufficient ways. Or consult the extensive list of YouTube tutorials on all matters of mending. And drink in the insightful words of Esther Emery on the domestic arts.
To mend and make do – recycling at its most simple.