Patch. Work.

I’ve taken a little break from making new things in order to take care of the things I already have. Over the past few weeks I’ve mended and reinforced four pairs of hand knit socks, darned my favorite warm weather top (it has a peplum! It must last forever!), and made patches for a bag that my boss made for me a few winter holidays ago which was getting holey.

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Due to the exuberant fabric and my exuberant politics surrounding the idea of mending 😉 I decided that visible mends were the way to go with this fix. As Tom of Holland writes about his Visible Mending Programme:

The Visible Mending Programme seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the Programme attempts to reinforce the relationship between the wearer and garment,  leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour.

I cut little squares of washed cotton fabric and folded a seam around all four sides, then pressed. I cut the corners to remove excess fabric. I then took my hole and darned it with 3 strands of embroidery floss (it’s strong!). I then put my patch over the darned hole and stitched it on in a decorative manner with the same embroidery floss. There was another hole on the opposite side of the bag, and I did the same thing for that one, varying the color of embroidery floss and pattern of stitches. I was very pleased with these badges of honor!

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There are a few small holes starting in various places, and I  envision many more of these little patches performing the triple role of securing the fabric, advertising that mending is awesome, AND adding even more pizzazz to the bag.

Patchwork? Ah, no! It was memory, imagination, history, biography, joy, sorrow, philosophy, religion, romance, realism, life, love, and death; and over all, like a halo, the love of the artist for his work and the soul’s longing for earthly immortality.

This quote from the work of Eliza Calvert Hall is in reference to quilting, but I think it can be extended to all sorts of working with patches, mending, and fixing — literally and figuratively. Our modern culture is so obsessed with shinynew, and I think it is becoming a problem of the soul. Nothing has a history or is part of your biography or is woven into the fabric of your life if you are continually discarding. You do not have to exercise your imagination to create ways of keeping an object beautiful and useful. You are not honoring the creator of your object and/or the time you spent earning the money to purchase your object when you discard things easily. I can’t help but think that an extension of this attitude is evident when I see animal shelters full to bursting, neglected children, high divorce rates, and forgotten elders. “Eh, you can just get a new one” is not the answer to the small ills and great ills plaguing our culture.

The mending work I’ve done as part of this project has been transformative for me. What other holes need fixing in my life? What needs a few stitches or a great big patch? What can I do to make what I have even more beautiful, full of character, and history? What do I visibly honor?

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3 comments

  1. Our society has a really contrary attitude: things either have to be shiny new or new things distressed to look old like the plethora of vintage-style objects available off the shelf. But something that bears the honest scratches of bruises of life is often just tossed aside…

    I love your analogy with shelters, divorce rate… It is controversial to suggest it in a day and age of entitlement and anything-goes but is spot on!

    1. It is controversial but somebody had to say it 🙂 I volunteered in an animal shelter and I only made it for 6 months before I got so so so sad I couldn’t bear it. I would ask about the cats I took care of the previous week and find that the vast majority of them were euthanized. People think they give away their cat and it finds a home and that’s that — so not true (as we know about the tons of clothing we think we give away and it finds a new home and that’s that — so not true).

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