Does anyone else have a thing about bags -- that deal where you can't imagine leaving home, much less making it through a trip, without having your elemental stuff in the perfect bag?
Or maybe you think you're set with a satchel that is comfortable to carry and has room for all the essentials (flashlight, mug, pocket hang glider, ear plugs, spindle, pencils, dictionary, novel, etc), but then you start a new project
that generatesa bunch of material you absolutely MUST have with you at all times to survive whatever the future brings
which means that the extra large custom spindle case must be called into action
and the bag you were counting on is too small and the one that might work still needs mending
and is not, truth to tell (thanks to previous scattershot approach to reinforcing disintegrating fabric),
the most sophisticated thing you've ever made, much less mended?
Well that never happens to me...
After seven years of hard wear and two cuff mends,
the bottom of my son's sweater had begun to fray.
Shoulder to cuff is my preferred way to knit sleeves, which makes cuff mending a simple matter of unraveling a few rows and re-knitting (with other yarn if necessary).
The cast on edge of a bottom up sweater is not, however, made for unraveling,
so I went up an inch or so, snipped a strand of yarn, and pulled out one row all the way around, leaving a nice row of stitches to pick up and an inch of sweater to unravel for re-knitting (discarding the yarn from the bottom couple of rounds which was too weak and worn to re-use).
Foolishly, I picked the row right after a cable turn to snip to separate the two sections, so the unraveling was more awkward than it might have been.
But eventually I got it all sorted and reknit and cast off. Starting an inch up means that next time I can unravel right from the cast off end which will be much simpler.
The only drawback to picking up the stitches and going in the opposite direction is that the loops are half a stitch off, but with the cables this really isn't evident.
Nothing miraculous about any of this,
but a good deal of satisfaction in keeping it going, and much pleasure in handling the sweater and the yarn again.
It was a thoroughly-planned garment that began with choosing the fleece (grey Rambouillet X)
and went on to months of spindle spinning,
endless samples plied, yarn dyed, swatches knit and
mailed across several states for perusal and approval.
Final decisions on yarn weight and color led to massive plying (4 ply won out over 3), huge dyepots, much knitting, and even some swatch unraveling at the very end as all those cables used more yarn even than what I thought were overgenerous calculations.
Amazing how much sun fading there has been-- the darker strip at the bottom is the same yarn that I took off, but it shifted just enough when reknit that it appears a different color.
On the other hand, it's amazing how little fading there has been considering how hard this sweater has been worn, and how much it has been out in the weather.
So glad it can now get back to its exciting life.
Sometimes I think my love of mending has nothing to do with practicality
and everything to do with the energy of time.
It is as though the fabric itself is imbued with accumulated stories
and by continuing to use it,
by saving the good parts of beloved but unwearable clothing to make other things
and then mending them again when, surprise surprise, they continue to disintegrate,
the stories in the fibers not only stay put, but also get to keep unfolding in ways that might never have been predicted decades, or days before.
Two weeks ago I posted about fixing my running shoes and in the comments Lisa asked:
"At what point does the "Ship of Theseus" kick in and they become not the original shoes?"
I dont' have an answer to that, though it is fun to think about.
And certainly once I've covered up all of this-beloved-but-vanishing linen-that-was-once-my-favorite-favorite-jacket with chain stitch,
the nature of this particular bag will be quite different.
I might feel a new person when I carry it.
Or perhaps it'll demand a fresh purpose.
Being stuffed to the gills with spindles and pens and notebook and wallet and phone and empty bags for whatever I might find, or unceremoniously twisted into a sort of a backpack while I bicycle downtown, or hanging patiently on a hook waiting for me to do something--anything--out in the world and away from the studio, is probably not that much fun.
But it will be usable, which is the point.
Yesterday I wound a linen warp -- the first in a while--
and I noticed, as the strands unwound from the cone, how very differently I felt about the yarn
than I have about the hand spun wool with which I've been weaving for most of the winter.
Setting aside the widely different nature of the two materials for a moment
(not least the ability of my camera to focus easily on linen and not so much on wool),
with the wool I am careful and careless at once and work with familiar ease.
We, the yarn and I, already have a history together and therefor a kind of casual trust.
I know what to expect from it even as together we make something new.
Its flaws are my flaws and therefor both forgivable and irritating.
Like a piece of clothing I've been wearing forever.
Or shoes I made for my feet.
With the linen (which I inherited, unlabeled, from a retired weaver), all is new,
all unknown, and though I can admire its sheen and color and texture, it is not until I've leaned against the backstrap for a few hours,
not until I've unrolled and washed and stroked the yards of cloth, that I begin to feel a connection with its future.
It's not bad. Indeed, it is exciting.
Until yesterday though, I hadn't been able to name the difference.
Note: Margaret Sunday wrote a wonderful piece for ATA talk, a forum for members of the American Tapestry Alliance which you might think about joining if you are not already a member, about the inherent creative possibilities of the juxtiposition of the new and the familiar: "...we are simultaneously neophobes (haters of the new) and neophiles (lovers of the new). Where/ when the two qualities meet, ie: where their contrast is most intense, is the ah-ha!"
My attachment, then, is not fear of the new.
Nor is it a belief that my labor is so precious.
Indeed, one of the many reasons for making and mending my own things (particularly if I can connect with the material from the very beginning), is because I'm distressed by how little others (usually women, at least in the garment industry), are respected for their labor.
My hands and the work they do are in no way more important or valuable than anyone else's.
It's just that they are mine to use and abuse and admire as I will.
So I've grown attached.
As I do.
It's probably time if the leather tears when removing the old soles,
and certainly when when previous patches are falling apart.
But here's an old toothbrush,
and that bottle of shampoo I don't use because it turns my hair yellow.
A little scrub means they'll look less disgusting
when I hang them on the wall.
But I don't want a shoe shrine.
And I'm not ready to toss them in the compost.
Just a few stitches.
And hey -- here is that pile of leather scraps my friend Ivy game me.
None are large or sturdy enough for a new pair or shoes.
But there are so many colors!
I guess there is life in the old shoes yet.
I see that it is about a year and a half since I last resoled these shoes,
and three years almost exactly since I made them.
For the technically minded among you,
I run about 25 miles a week which makes about 1500 miles per set of soles, give or take,
since sometimes in the summer I wear a yellow canvas pair,
and sometimes I wear no shoes at all...
Last night, as the snow fell, I did a little mending.
This morning (after shoveling and before remembering that it is tuesday which means blog day),
I wove a few feet of hand spun plain weave fabric as the snow continued to fall.
600 years ago (ish) in Greenland,
someone spun, wove, sewed and mended
My patches are haphazard, half-assed and untidy,
the stitching just barely functional.
Many of the scraps are from unmendable favorite garments
and of dubious durability,
But I use them anyway.
And they wear out again,
I'm lucky in this.
In Norse Greenland in the 1300s, I'd have had to take much more care.
Indeed, I'd have been trained to take much more care.
I've been hand spinning most of my yarn for 35+ years,
knitting my clothes for longer than that,
weaving for nearly 30
and like to believe I'm better at all of these things than I am at mending.
Some of my garments survive because even half-assed attention is better than none,
but even with tools like this:
not to mention this:
I've yet to spin, weave and sew (much less get to mend), even a single dress.
Nor, for all the care and effort I put into my materials,
would such a garment be likely to survive for centuries
buried in the permafrost.
There is just so much to learn.
Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland by Else Østergaård; Aarhus University Press, Denmark
I seem to be out of words.
Here are a few pics though.
Ever wish you had eight arms?
New to him, anyway--
though it might be more accurate to say that the truck has been newly liberated
from where it has been resting for nearly thirty years.
It could not, alas, make the break under its own power
particularly as only two of the wheels would turn--
and even that after a fair bit of persuasion.
But no matter.
It is a highly desirable vehicle
--an FJ 45 Toyota Land Cruiser--
with hood ornamentation
that matches my yarn.
are cool, relaxed and forgiving.
But when a gal spends a lot of time sitting on her butt,
shifting from one comfy position to another,
there invariably comes a moment when the sound of ripping interrupts the quiet.
and decisions must be made.
Does the patch belong on the inside, or the outside?
Does it matter if it (the patch), shows through the tear?
What color thread would be best? What weight?
Is it worth reinforcing the other cheek?
And how much effort am I willing to put in
to secure the disintegrating waistband stitching?
The answers, at least today, are as follows
4. The thread I have:
Güttermann cotton thread and brown pearl cotton (leftovers from making the pants)
6. Restitch but don't bother removing the old green hand spun silk that clearly didn't hold up.
Gotta draw the line somewhere...
and was so disappointed to wake up and find it wasn't true
that before I even had a cup of tea (Earl Grey of course),
I started pulling enormous and dusty pieces of pipe from under the bed.
Then I pushed them back.
There are mobiles to balance
and existing tapestries to mount.
I have neither the time nor the space nor the mental energy just now,
for unknown projects of massive dimension.
But perhaps a bit of pre-emptive knee reinforcement,
would take the edge off my desire.
As I stitched, however, I thought about things I might weave.
No perfect ideas showed up.
I am left with jeans that are stronger than they were
and the smouldering feeling
that if I did happen to mess around with the odd piece of pipe
and wind a bit of white warp
--nice and tight--
fabulous things might happen.
When it comes to sewing bits of fabric together
and mending holes in my clothing
I'm a sloppy running stitch kind of gal.
But fixing stuff still demands decisions:
Is it best to put the patch on the outside, or on the inside?
Should I use denim or plain weave cotton?
Raw edge with chain stitch?
Raw edge with buttonhole stitch?
Or turn the ends under?
Might as well try all three and see which lasts longest.
These garments, after all, are for wearing while working.
I have no one to please but myself
and it pleases me to be warm.
After 15 + years of almost daily use (and nearly that many of mending),
you can still see some of the original fabric on the sleeve of my studio jacket.
Every couple of years I dunk the whole thing into an indigo pot
to even out the hodge podge of patches.
Silk/Rayon Velvet takes indigo very nicely.
Sometimes my patching fabric choices have not been wise.
But so what?
Though deeply influenced by the concept of Boro
and delighted to be distracted by looking at such garments
I choose my patch materials from my current collection of scraps--
an ever-changing assortment--
and stitch with the yarn or thread at hand
so it never looks like proper sashiko.
The mood of the moment is all.
This is not the case when mending things for other people.
When an adorable puppy had his way with my friend Heather's precious hand spun mitt, I agreed to do my best to make it useable -- then put it off for months while I worried about continuity, fretted about technique and dreaded trying to live up to the high standards of of the original maker, my dear friend Nancie who died a year ago this month.
This past weekend on my annual retreat with my spinning group
I finally tackled them,
First I darned all the little puppy-teeth holes.
Next I unraveled the mess around the pinkie, picked up what I hoped was the right number of stitches and re-knit it using my hand spun which didn't match in anything but grist (two ply cormo, about 3000 yards per pound).
Then it was time for the mess around the middle and pointer fingers.
Truth to tell, by that time I was a touch frustrated.
Indeed, if it had been mine, I'd probably have done some casual stitching around the raw edge to halt the fraying and called it good -- anything to avoid more time with 00 needles, miniscule open stitches and fragments of yarn.
But I couldn't do that to Heather and Nancie's Mitties.
And luckily my dear spinning comrades wouldn't let me.
Vicki took the whole thing out of my hands and carefully ripped back until she reached solid mitten (apologizing for undoing the pinkie finger I'd just made, but doing the wise thing nonetheless), and reknit to the base of the fingers, continuing one part of the complicated and unrepeatable cable into the new section.
I patched my jeans, drank beer and practiced feeling grateful instead of guilty.
Rochelle then re-knit the fingers -- three of them anyway.
I worked on my jacket with glee and relief.
Mary Jo wanted to knit the last finger but found her gauge was too different
so Vicki remade the pinkie with a smidgn more of my even darker hand spun.
I wove in the ends and gave both mitts a bath.
Here is the result of our communal Visible Mending:
functional, beautiful in a new way, worth the effort, clearly not new, done.
Thank You Tom of Holland for the term.
Thank You Nancie for what we hope is your approval.
After I send this post into the inter-webs
(and have a bracing cup of tea),
I'll deliver them to Heather.
Then I can come home and resume admiring my knees.
Sarah C Swett