Weaving business and people together

Make up and mend.

March 1st, 2016


mending a nightshirt

One of my quiet, secret pleasures is mending things. I’m not great with power tools (yet) but pretty handy with a needle and thread. I darn socks, sweaters, the annoying toe-holes in my pricier stockings and sweaters; buttons get sewn on; seams on split boys’ trousers repaired and, occasionally, the sewing machine comes out, though I enjoy working with my hands and a needle the most. I settle in front of the TV with a range of cottons, wools, needles and a bright light and work slowly through the little pile of crumpled things. The slow process of figuring out how best to tackle the garment, where to start, how many colours to use, invisible or obvious, what stitch, turning it round and over, testing the strength of the fabric, is almost meditative. Although the pile never quite ends, the satisfaction of slowly returning a thing from being an object of irritation and rejection into something worthy, usable and worth having, is wonderful. I feel I am giving the object back its dignity and sense of purpose, and doing a small bit to counter the excessive consumption that I, along with most of the Western World, indulge in. As a child I remember seeing my mother turning sheets ‘edge to middle’, turning my father’s frayed collars and cuffs around to make the shirt smart again. Hard to believe that it’s within living memory. Even as I write it feels like a very ancient behaviour. Who turns collars on flannel shirts now?

My student daughter has a much-loved, linen t-shirt which is now more darn than original fabric. It was originally mine and turned gradually into hers after a very, very, long borrow. It is now literally falling apart, practically held together only by the mending. It still looks absolutely lovely on her, not just because the colour and shape suit her and she is a very beautiful young woman, but because I love her for wearing something so old and patched, just because she likes it, and when I see those darns I somehow feel connected to generations of women, a long thread of history, love sewn into a shirt. If I dwell on it too long it brings on Welsh sentimentality and a consequent lump to my throat. Every now and again I get a mending parcel from her in Manchester. Last time it was a flannel nightshirt she had borrowed from a friend for a fancy-dress party which somehow (‘but not me, Mother’) got a cigarette hole burnt into it. Invisible mending required on that one, and the housemate owner didn’t notice until it was pointed out to him, by which time the effort to mend it had entirely superseded any sense of outrage. It’s a lovely connection with her and her life.

On my morning walk today I mused as to whether I pay as much attention to my relationships as I do to my mending. Do I notice when I have made little tears in the fabric of a friendship, when I have yanked too hard, when I have left someone in a metaphorical cupboard so long that the creases are almost impossible to remove? Life’s too fast, too full: there’s always the next call to make, the next thing on the list. I think I could learn from my handiwork and apply some of that careful observation and thinking to my friendships, both personal and professional. I’ve always enjoyed the stories in that lovely book ‘From Good to Great’, about the unknown introvert CEOs of hugely successful companies who spend their leisure time dry-stone-walling or mending old tractors. Their companies gleam with attention to the small things, a quiet insistence on continuous improvement, including paying dedicated loving attention to people and relationships. It’s not Make Do and Mend. It’s Make up and Mend.

And of course I am thinking this way because it’s St David’s Day. The man who preached about looking after the small things. Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus, everyone.

  1. Incredibly thought provoking article. No tears in the fabric of this friendship, have learned…and continue to learn a great deal from this ‘wonderwoman’

    by: Julia francis on March 1, 2016 at 9:28 pm
  2. Lovely!
    Thank you 🙂 x

    by: Zoe on March 1, 2016 at 10:46 pm
    • thanks for reading Zoe. x

      by: Anne Owen on March 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm
  3. Thank you for this Annie, has made me think about some of my old relationships and how I can do some darning of my own! Also reminds me of some of my own personal projects I want to get on with..

    by: Sophie Marcroft on March 2, 2016 at 9:36 am
    • Life’s full of projects! hope yours involves fabric 🙂

      by: Anne Owen on March 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm
  4. What a wonderful piece Anne, I really enjoyed reading this. It made me feel completely ‘in the moment’ and think about the need to slow down, assess, review what has been, what is now and how best to move on.

    by: Eileen Peters on March 2, 2016 at 11:17 am
    • Thanks Eileen. I’m glad it had that impact and lovely of you to let me know.

      by: Anne Owen on March 23, 2016 at 12:43 pm
  5. A lovely twist (ha!) on Make Do and Mend!

    by: Gill How on March 2, 2016 at 4:26 pm
    • Thanks Gill. I alwaus enjoy your posts with the same sort of twists in too.

      by: Anne Owen on March 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm
  6. Dear Anne, such love… In both the story and the words chosen to write it. Wish I could sit next to you as you darn one day.

    by: Alix on March 3, 2016 at 9:46 pm
    • WE can bring our mending to Mooirivier! Thanks Alix. x

      by: Anne Owen on March 23, 2016 at 12:39 pm
  7. What a great article; so well put. Make up & Mend, loved it !
    No tears in this one either; you pointed some of the tears I had in my story over a year ago and it looked so perfect when I put it on show.

    PS: About 10 days ago, I was fixing a top which my washing machine has harshly torn in a number of places and was wondering who else was still doing that. Now I know 🙂

    by: Sencan Sengul on March 7, 2016 at 10:39 pm
    • Thanks Sen 🙂 Good to know I’m not alone!

      by: Anne Owen on March 23, 2016 at 12:38 pm
  8. Thanks Annie for sharing and inspiring. X

    by: Xandra on March 23, 2016 at 4:52 pm
    • thanks, chief Happiness Officer 🙂

      by: Anne Owen on March 26, 2016 at 9:39 am
  9. Annie – really lovely piece, a pleasure to read. Thank you .

    by: Alison on May 22, 2016 at 8:59 pm
    • Thanks alison 🙂

      by: Anne Owen on May 26, 2016 at 10:49 am


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