“This is the Way We Mend Our Clothes”

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Last week I was reading an article describing what a disastrous effect manufacturing of clothing has on the environment. Apparently for many people fashion now dictates that they must constantly buy the newest clothes, wear them for a short time and then discard them. Accordingly, much of this clothing is poorly made, designed to fall apart fairly quickly, needing to be replaced with more up to the minute fashion. The solution proposed by the activists worried about this situation was to buy sturdier clothing and wear it longer.

After I recovered from laughter realizing that I was now in the forefront of an environmental movement (I had always bought sturdy clothing and worn it a long time), I thought of something the article failed to mention at all. Mending clothes! Growing up, everyone I knew had the basic skills to mend clothes. My mother kept an active mending basket near her chair where she did repairs. Seams were resewn, knees reinforced and buttons replaced. My mother darned socks, using a darning egg such as pictured above.

We wore clothes longer using the time honored skill of letting out hems. At that time everything seemed to come with large seam allowances, so that they could be adjusted as children grew. If a dress had been worn long enough to make an obvious line after the hem had been let out, rick rack covered it jauntily. Sleeves went up and down, waists in and out. Clothes lasted through many children. When they were finally totally worn out, garments became cleaning rags.

My title today reflects how common mending once was. Even the nursery rhymes we sang included not only washing and ironing, but also mending. Maybe it has gone the way of fish on Friday. A once ordinary event now needing explanation for the young.

 

40 thoughts on ““This is the Way We Mend Our Clothes”

  1. I come from a large family and being in the middle meant wearing a lot of hand-me-downs. I was also lucky that my mom worked with someone who had a daughter a little bit older than me who had great clothes that I inherited when she was done with them. So I was also a very environmentally friendly dresser! 🙂

  2. My Mum mended everything. She had a huge ‘sewing box’, and a pre-war (1930s) Singer sewing machine. She even darned nylon stockings that had runs in them.
    I buy the best I can afford, and keep the clothes for years. The coat I wore today was bought in 2001, and the one I wore for dog-walking yesterday was purchased in 1990. I have shoes that are 20 years old, and have them repaired if they wear out.
    I am not mean, but just cannot see the point of replacing them with new versions when styles haven’t really changed, for men of a ‘certain age’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I had friends in high school who darned their nylons. Thank goodness clothes bought long ago last as long as appliances used to. I have to be careful when I have to buy something new to see that they haven’t scrimped on material, allowing seams to split easily. My husband gets his shoes reheeled and resoled. He has to keep finding new shoe repairmen since they keep retiring and are not replaced.

  3. Wow. I am completely incompetent when it comes to mending but as a kid it was definitely part of my life: shortened pants let out with ironed-on patches on the knees. When I was particularly active my mom would preemptively iron them on the inside.

    Today we don’t buy a lot of new clothes – our whole family prefers the thrift shop unless we need something specific right away.

  4. The modern consumerism and desire to always be up to the minutes with everything, combined with corporate greed, has resulted in this situation, Elizabeth. It has led to the climate change disaster we are now facing. Nature always wins.

  5. Both my grandmothers had darning eggs and sewing baskets. My maternal grandmother had an old treadle sewing machine in her bedroom. Living in a rural environment there was neither money nor opportunity to buy clothes frequently.

  6. I still mend & my hubby likes to do his own mending, especially his favorite work shorts! 😉 😉
    I love shopping for recycled clothing too & find all are good quality! Some never worn, still with their shop tags on!
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    1. I have never thrown any clothing out. Either handed on, given to Goodwill or turned into rags. I was amazed at how much clothing apparently ends up in the garbage.

  7. I am glad someone else is talking about throw away clothing as an environmental issue. How can people get upset about drinking straws and not think of the non-biodegradable clothing being tossed in landfills? Good stewardship should be important in all areas.

    I am also happy to find that I am not the only one with a mending basket, clothes that are 20-30 years old and shoes that are fixed rather than replaced!

  8. Unlike “Bitey Dog” – I do not own an old school mending basket but I do have all the tools. Recently I was at the home of a friend and commenting on the sight of her mending basket sent us on a long walk down memory lane, much like your post. We grew up with mothers who sewed a lot of our clothes as well as their own; well-made heavy duty clothing like coats were worn by sisters and cousins before their final relinquishment. We were taught to hem and darn holes in garments, as well as replace missing buttons; tomato pin cushions were ubiquitous. When I started college, my mother made sure to send me to school with my own sewing kit – which made me smirk until I had to use it almost immediately!

  9. A fellow millennial on Twitter was talking about mending his comforter set tonight, so it’s not just the clothes. There’s that too!

    A lot of the clothes I have, I’ve held on to since high school, so I don’t think it’s as bad as they make it out to be. I think “poorly made” is the excuse materialistic people give for cycling out their clothes for new styles. The reality is that especially expensive clothes are built to last, especially if you don’t wear them often.

    If I really want to get rid of something that’s in good shape, but I haven’t been wearing it, I give it away or donate it.

    1. Sadly I have run into some poorly made garments and I rarely discard something for new styles. LOL. I have become more careful when I buy things than I used to be. I used to assume things would last.

      1. I don’t think I own anything stylish, so I never have to throw anything away for that either! 😂 I have also become more careful about buying things. I constantly remind myself that my car can only bring so much when I move.

        Also, I hope you know it’s your “fault” that I’ve hatched the brilliant idea to drive across the country by myself. My family is still trying to talk me out of it!

        1. Haha, I will gladly blame you! I had been thinking about it ever since you said it. At first, I was going to opt for male company, but then I thought, “Why?”

          Why should I NOT go alone as a woman? Why do we rely on men to protect us when we so often need protection from them ourselves? Also, my car is tiny, so adding a second person would mean carrying less stuff!

          Shadow will ride up front with me and our stuff will be in the back. I’m excited about it. Not sure how he’ll handle 3 days on the road, but I think he’ll manage.

          I’ve had family and friends offer to come along in their own cars or rent one and drive with, but no thank you. Like you said, everyone should do it once!

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