April 26, 2013

Darn it! - and other mending


Being in year two of our No Clothes Buying challenge, we have started running very low on socks, underwear, leggings, pants, and skirts. I have not, in general, risen to the challenge of sewing enough clothes for my family of 5 to keep the no clothes buying on a sustainable footing, which makes me sad and somewhat disappointed in myself. Ah well, not every ambitious project is destined for success. But one way to extend the runway for no clothes buying, and for any clothes already in use is by mending.


At least with a skirt, I have a general idea of how I would make it, but with socks for instance I think there would need to be some significant iterative development on design, fabric, and construction. So I was mighty happy when Becky picked up a big ball of black string and some darning needles and repaired like 5 pairs of nearly useless socks in my drawer. She has been darning over a tennis ball to support the surrounding fabric and shape her woven string in the darned area. 


Awesome!



She also cannibalized the knit fabric from another garment to sew some patches on one of her last pairs of leggings, which had holes in the knees. 


I have patched and sewn closed some holes in pants, as well as rehemmed a couple pairs, but I was not bold enough to take up true darning.

12 comments:

mssewcrazy said...

Sewing all clothing for five and doing all chores and cooking,preparing food the old ways is a really difficult plan especially when added to making a living in today's world.If you are able to do some of the items needed it is quite the accomplishment along with teaching the importance of avoiding over consumption. I'm sure your blog inspires others to think about simple living and to try some of the old ways so that is a really good thing. My mother was a wonderful darner of socks and textiles. She attended a convent boarding school and that was part of the sewing/needle work classes. Sadly I only observed her doing this a couple of times so my darning is very mediocre. Sadly a lot of the socks made today are so worthless,I only bother with the better boot socks my dh has.

Rhymeswithgeek said...

I also taught myself to darn socks this past winter, saving six pairs of wool socks in the process. It's much easier than I anticipated (and rewarding!). Now whenever I have my shoes off, people like to tell me I have something stuck to my socks. Then I get to educate them about the lost art of darning (and get a lot of strange looks).

Holly Gates said...

@mssewcrazy - thanks for the positive feedback. Somehow the housewives of yesteryear could sew all clothes for their family (by hand up to not all that long ago), wash them in a tub with a stick, cook food far more from scratch than I, put up food for the winter, plus take care of toddlers and babies, etc. It really boggles the mind. Sometimes I feel like I can barely manage to get dressed in the morning!

@Rhymeswithgeek - Wow, another serious darner. Nice work! So far the response I have seen from people when Becky tells them about her new skill is utter bafflement. Not the conversation starter at a party you might think it would be, ha ha.

Phyllis said...

Well it is true that my grandmother did all of those things (she did have an washing machine but no dryer, the clothes went through a wringer) but she also had fewer clothes. According to Elizabeth Kline most Americans now have a few hundred pieces of clothing whereas my grandmother had maybe 15 pieces (including outerwear and underwear) in her entire wardrobe. She wore an apron every day because it kept her dress clean during housework, it's wasn't a fashion accessory. If she did need to grocery shop there were small stores within walking distance of her home. And my grandfather did not have a long commute, he worked in the town they lived in and he walked to work. So yes people had a more domestic chores to do but they also had more time to do them and they were less burdened by *stuff*. But back on this fun topic of darning I have to ask: are you using a darner? They're still easy to find (Etsy is full of them) and here is a Pinterst board with lots of examples, they look like an egg with a hnadle on one end: http://pinterest.com/meraleesmith/darners/

Rhymeswithgeek said...

We're used to the bafflement at this point. But thanks to the great big Internet, I know there are other quirky families out there a lot like our own.

@phyllis I have a darner! I was repurposing a decorative wooden Easter egg, but when I saw a lonely little darner tucked in with some wooden spoons at a local antique shop, I couldn't resist. I like to think I rescued it and somewhere, someone's great grandma is smiling.

Also, yes, I have to agree, several generations ago we owned far less clothing. Now we have closets full to bursting of cheap, shoddily made clothes of low quality material that falls apart after one season. I'm trying consciously to reduce the amount we own and buy, and to buy durable, classic clothing when we do need something (or knit or sew it myself). I feel when I spend more effort making our clothing, or spend more time researching the very best purchase for our needs (rather than an impulse buy), I appreciate it more, wear it more and I am satisfied with what we have.

Rhymeswithgeek said...

@holly. Also, someone in your house totally needs to learn how to knit. I taught myself a couple years ago, and it opened up a whole world of possibilities. It's tricky to get it all figured out at first, but once you get the hang of it, no yarn is safe, your project list will be a mile long, and you'll wonder what you did before wool socks and mittens.

Ann in NJ said...

I am new to your blog so I apologize if you have already talked about this, but rhymeswithgeek is right, you need to learn how to knit. Knitting socks has a mystique that is totally undeserved - it is simple, and while not exactly fast, produces socks that wear well and last longer than many cheap commercial ones. I learned to knit my first sock using this tutorial online http://www.cometosilver.com/socks/ which is excellent if you are a visual learner. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book "Knitting Rules" also has basic instructions for socks and hats. Socks are easy to bring along and fit into found time - dr's office, line at the post office, while watching tv. And nothing beats the satisfaction of turning a heel.

Ann in NJ said...

Oh, and my mother used to darn socks using a light bulb. She had a couple of darning eggs but an old light bulb was handy. I don't darn much - not patient enough to do a good job.

Holly Gates said...

My wife Becky is a pretty accomplished knitter, actually. Before we had kids she used to knit quote a lot and has made sweaters, scarves, etc., but never socks.

In the fall she started knitting me a pair of socks from various yarn we had sitting around, but she got about half done with one and it was clear it was going to be too small. Of course the right thing to do is start over again on another iteration with an adjustment to the pattern to account for her typical tension, but she got discouraged and hasn't made another attempt.

I tried knitting briefly years ago, but I wasn't in love with it. No good explanation, but I felt like I could get more bang for the buck with sewing. Plus for the most part on a practical level I'd rather wear something sewn than knitted. But knitting does seem like the right way to make socks, and its more portable than sewing and more suited to short bursts of work at opportune times. Maybe I'll give it another try someday.

Right now I've got bigger garment problems to address, like the fact that I have gaping holes in the seats, ragged hems, and split pockets in my few remaining pairs of commercial pants. But the socks issue is looming...

Ann in NJ said...

I find sewing to be much more "instant gratification", despite the time it takes. Even a simple hat can take a few hours to knit - but while I knit I can do something else as well (if it's oral or auditory). I would encourage your wife to give socks another go - worth doing a gauge swatch to determine how many stitches to start with, but after one or two I usually don't bother if the yarn is similar to one I've used before. And a too-small sock could always go to one of the children!

Ann in NJ said...

I meant to mention (and got distracted by a child) that I recently heard an interview with an author of book about cheap disposable clothing. Her book is "Overdressed", and she makes the point that "fast fashion" is much like "fast food" in that it has quite a lot of hidden cost. Your effort to reduce your consumption is admirable. We used to buy quite a lot at consignment or thrift shops when my kids were small, but now that I have teenagers, well, they are more opinionated. Good luck with the patching, though.

Holly Gates said...

Both Becky and I read Overdressed last summer, about halfway through our first year of not buying clothes. I really enjoyed it! It was so interesting to learn about how the apparel industry works, and of course it gave us added zeal to stick to the no-buying-clothes project.