Anyone mend any more?

View from Hickory Heights

On my Facebook feed a picture of some mended pants and socks appeared this past week. It asked who had worn clothes that were mended. I quickly pressed like to indicate that I had worn clothes that were mended.

That got me to thinking. I do not think people mend clothes any more. If something rips or loses a button, it is disposed of. I know that my grandmother’s neighbors fit that category. I got many nice things while one family lived next door. Grandpa watched their junk and picked out things he thought I could make use of. I had one beautiful sweater that was hardly worn at all. It needed a button. I quickly replaced that button and wore the sweater for years.

When I came to Hickory Heights or should I say to the farm, I was expected to mend. My husband was a farmer who was very hard on clothes. It seemed like I always had a pile of mending to do. I disciplined my self to make sure that I got it done. Before I could start on any new sewing project, I had to clean up the mending.

I was always mending pants. There were holes in the knees mostly. It is difficult to mend the legs of work pants. I finally bought a sewing machine with a small arm so that the leg would fit around it. That made it a little easier.

Once I mended a pair of pants, I could be certain that the next time it came through the wash it would probably need mending again. Some of those pants go so heavy I m not sure how my husband wore them. We did not throw a pair of pants away until the back of the leg got so thin that it would not hold a patch.

Finally, I persuaded my husband to purchase jeans. They were much more durable that the old Dickie pants he was used to. The jeans lasted a lot longer. They were tougher to mend, but did not need to be mended as soon. I got pretty good at mending the jeans. That new sewing machine worked for them too.

Of course, I also mended shirts. Some of those got caught with the barbed wire fencing. The tears were irregular so that was another story. Sometimes the tear was in the sleeve. That meant that I had to put it on the new sewing machine to mend. Of course, missing buttons was a common thing. I kept a button box so I could almost always find a button to fill in the gap. Before you threw a shirt away you removed the buttons so you would have buttons for another project.

Socks were the worst. I hated darning socks. I had a wooden ball that had been my mother’s. That was for darning so that you did not sew the two sides together. I used that all the time although I never thought I needed one.

When you darned socks you created a pattern to weave to fill the hole. My husband did not seem to mind the darned spots. I always thought they were hard on my feet.

Frequently I knit socks for my husband. When they got a hole in them, I had to mend them. He liked the long boot socks. That was great because I used up many of my scrap pieces of yarn when I made them. I just had to be sure I had enough of a yarn to be able to make the second sock.

When the foot of the sock got too bad to mend, I unraveled the yarn and started again. I made another foot for the already knit leg. That was kind of fun so I did not mind doing that. It was much better than darning the socks.

Mending clothes saved us a lot of money. That is the reason that I did it. We could not afford to simply replace a piece that got ripped.

Do I still mend? I mend things like seams that split and buttons that fall off. I shorten pants that are too long, however, with my long legs usually I am taking out hems to let them down so they are longer. I still use my button box.

My sister-in-law and I were allowed to go into a house that was going to be torn down. Since I at the time was smaller than she was I got a neat brown jacket with hundreds of beautiful buttons. There were two long rows of buttons up the back of the jacket. There were buttons on the sleeves, there were buttons up the front right to the end of the collar. I wore that jacket until it no longer looked nice then I removed those buttons. I made a sweater for my grandson and used buttons from that jacket on it. I have also used some of those buttons on other sewing projects such as a little vest and a dress.

It was fun to see what I could make out of a scrap of cloth. It was a challenge. One New Year’s Eve we were going out with friends. I did to have a dress to wear. I went through my stash of cloth and came up with a brocade piece that I thought was big enough. I fashioned my own dress to wear out that evening. Everyone complimented me on the beautiful dress and were not the wiser that it was drapery material.

On one occasion a friend brought me two pieces of cloth from a trip she took to Texas. I made two shirts for the children and a skirt for myself out of the cloth. The children had matching outfits. I think I have a picture of them dressed in those outfits.

Life was different back then. I wasted nothing! I would not trade those memories for anything. That kept me creative.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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