mendingtools

why mending (and announcing workshops!)

it’s a puzzle. why spent hours darning a pair of socks if you can easily get a (cheap) replacement in a store or online? this might have never been more true for clothes these days as they are so cheaply available. with a mind attuned to rational capitalist logic (think time equals money), one might not be able to understand why mending is something we would even want to do. in this post, i’m trying to get to grips with the practice of mending and try to highlight its potential, in a personal as well as political way.

sockaftersockbeforehistorically, the practise of mending is nothing new and peaked in (post-)war time in the 1940s to 50s. when post-war families in the mid-century had lost their income and had to built a new life, they had to make do with what was at hand: “make do and mend” was the incentive title of a pamphlet issued by the british ministry of information during ww2. back then, people would often aim for an invisible finish of their mending, so others would not know the garment had been repaired. the most logical reason for that would be to conceal (or reduce) signs of poverty. the integrity of the general look – and therefore the clothes – played a substantial part in that.

needlework has been mostly (but not only!) women’s work. and in contrast to today, mending and darning was a household chore, rather than a pastime. as i was in the middle of writing this post Tom of @tomofholland was posting a picture of an early 20th handkerchief. i’m quoting part of the caption here: “nowadays, it is often assumed things are repaired out of love. however, motivations for repair are manifold: before WW2, textiles used to be very expensive and it was normal for everybody, whatever status in society, to repair clothes (or have them repaired).” on his instagram account you will find a lot of mending projects, of his own or commission work. he is known for the Visible Mending Programme which you can find out about on his blog and in this interview. not being able to achieve an invisible finish at first is what led him to ‘visible mending’, he says. I’m sure with his skill set he’d now be able to do that easily but the appeal of visible mending is unabated.  (Go check #visiblemending to see that it’s in no way inferior to it’s invisible ancestor.) also do check out Roberta @roberta.cummings while you’re hyperlinking. her sock darns are an art in itself and have me browsing ebay for a simliar tool to her speedweve. anybody knows where to find such a Stopfapparat or other tool that compares to this?

so, there’s love of textiles/particular garments. and there’s the money-saving aspect which seems to take a backseat these days (for a student mother not so much, though). are there other reasons to mend?

since the idea of mending itself is nothing new and has been with people forever, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that things have not been wasted in ancient times. that would be romantic, wouldn’t it. wasting is nothing new neither, but for expensive stuff like tailored garmens it’s something you must have been able to afford. luxury has always meant excess and with that, waste (think Louis-quatorze style). but it seems that the object of waste is shifting. i have a hunch that clothing only recently (say that development started in the last 30-50 years in western societies) has become an “disposable” item.* the mass production leading to a lessening of the(emotional) value of an item. evidence is out there, just take a look at landfills.

sockdarnit has to do with the reality of what you can afford: most ready to wear clothes are cheaper than ever, less money can buy more clothes today. and it has to do with a certain “spirit” of capitalism that makes consumers want to accumulate more and more. (Cf. Max Weber: The Spirit Of Capitalism) by the way, it would be interesting research to compare buying habits of former GDR and Western Germany citizens. the generation of my mother was born into a fenced territory where you had to be on the waiting list for years to get a car, and it’s an understatement to say that the clothes you could buy where not the latest fashion. now they can have it, money can buy it, it’s often seen as a sign of freedom. is it? many wonder, why would you go (back) into restriction? is it restrictive to stop buying countless items per year?

to speak for society situated in Germany – and back to Weber, i think we lost the spirit to a ‘mind-setting per default’ some time ago (it’s not a belief in a religious calling that makes people go to work every day) and for me, once questions regarding why to work for other peoples questionable or even destructive profits or careers came up – a lot fell apart for me. the perversion of capitalism lies exactly there: everybody has to make profits. the consequences are absurd, if you think about it – if even care instituitions have to make profits, who would have me believe that a system like that benefits from healthy people? i don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist and i know i am not fond of making general assumptions about things. critique is not always the way to go and change things for the better. but it can be helpful to realize why certain things stay the way they are.

look at the concept of sustainability, it’s now all over the place: did capitalism eat it’s critique (again)?we all know about planned obsolescence yet we feel powerless before it. mending and repairing can give back some ageny to the buyers who are typically on the passive, receiving end. companies are green-washing their businesses to make customers buy into it (a clean consumers’ conscience will buy again) are the best example of how sustainability can go blabla. shopping sprees do seem fine when you it’s all fair, almost like charity. i’m also in two minds about H&M’s textile recycling campaign. on the one hand it’s mostly catered to customers that will clean out closets to make space for more new stuff, and feel less like drowning in stuff when they get home. on the other hand it’s great to provide an option for recycling (even textile disposal is helpful) and big companies can afford to do so and support research for new technologies of textile recycling. what do you think, maybe you’ve taken stuff to the recycling bin and have more insights?

what is truly fair, ecological and biological? what does sustainable really mean? it’s all woolly somehow, but not in a good way. how to see clearly, who is really to be trusted with your money? i tend to feel paralyzed when having to (online) shop. there’s responsibility in what to buy and if i need new socks i don’t always want to carry the world on my shoulders. it is intended to be empowering if someone tells you that your purchase makes a difference. but who is that person that can always make informed decisions? a person with privileges. privileges that mean they have access to knowledge, or make time for research, or the finances, an able body, the list goes on. i’m insanely privileged but swamped!

and before i drift off.. what’s the point and how does that relate to the act of mending?

bluejeansmendi do believe in the effectiveness of making. not in a religious way, it can be the plain quantity of how many items have i made in a certain time span, what new techniques have i learned and mastered? plain and simple, you help create an object which is not as inert as it might appear. it has an impact or force itself. just think of the conversations it sparks: did you make that? sewing and knitting really opened a gate for me. not just for conversations with other makers, friends and family. the pace, the tactility, the memory of my body to perform certain moves. the tangibility, the textiles.

in a setting like today here in germany, most of the production and actual sewing happens in parts of the world we are not able to access or are simply out of our view (like, in a factory in a foreign trade zone). we are detached from the production of objects that sourround us. or we are involved in the production of objects we cannot afford and that can be depressing, too. i think Marx was right in observing this. however we maybe need to realize we have agency (and privilege) in that we can make time to shift from throwaway culture to one of mending and repairing. besides, the appeal of visible mending shows there is social acceptance (or even admiration and acknowledgement) as we are further moving away from a mass produced aesthetic.

greyjeansmendclothes are always handmade. with the plethora of fashion being cheap and available all the time, it’s easy to forget that. mending is a way of caring for your clothes while appreciating the work that has already been put into it. wages differ vastly throughout the garment industry and let’s face it: most of the garment sewing is done by woman paid below living wage, which is crucial to keep up our western lifestyle.

mending is re-connecting with (formerly neglected) items, making them wearable again. through alterations or repairs a garments live span is increased and that might save the earth some trouble, that is: waste. instead of having a fast waning rush of buying something new, the satisfaction of mending does last: it makes for a one of a kind garment.  fashion is not an disposable good – it’s an opportunity to practise and learn new skills, be it awareness or inserting a zip. let’s do it together!

thanks for staying with me, and please feel free to comment or share!

curious? for upcoming workshops in berlin check out

www.cutikula.com/care-repair-workshops

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* consumer good intended to be thrown away or consumed (like, eaten), instead of re-used over and over again (examples for goods that fit into the latter category would be a washing machine, a table, books) – where do clothes fit in nowadays?

drawstring-bag

green drawstring backpack in toddler size

and, last but not least in the birthday making series: something essential that she was missing: a backpack. it’s only a drawstring bag but it does it’s job*, is easy to use and does’nt go out of fashion soon, i.e. it still has a use value whenever she is older. even if it’s just for dirty underwear.drawstring-bag-peek eyelet-detail-drawstring-bag

there is lining in two different fabrics (damast bedding and fleamarket bargain). and a peek at a size 94 pyjama i made in red/white striped jersey ;)

i found these eyelets in my stash. just another example of the odds and ends that can be found there! they’re actually from a household clearance. despite my first impression, they’re easy to use. first you cut a hole – the stencil was included in the still sealed package – and then you use pliers to get the eyelet in. i had the pliers but i think i wouldn’t have bothered to buy eyelets for this simple project, you can either sew a loop in the side seam and thread the cord through that or a buttonhole. and some fancy machines have an eyelet stitch.

always many ways to do something!

thanks for reading and take care!

*now, since this post has been a draft for some weeks, i can conclude that this bag is not the most practical to carry, because it always (and i mean always) comes off her shoulders. it’s a common issue that bag straps are always likely to slip off the shoulders of small people. that was confirmed when i bought a toddler backpack some days ago. the sliding off can be salvaged by having something that fastens the straps over the bust, like a small buckle or clasp. the sales woman even had a small speech about how daycare tells parents backpacks must. have. this detail. i didn’t need convincing though!

here, it would be easy to add in still, but i’m lazy you know.

Merken

wiksten-harem-pants-pocket

kitten pants and whale dress

the birthday making is over and it’s an uncanny thing but i had thoughts about christmas presents already. i can’t help it. there’s something immensly satisfying in making things for others. although i should be honest and admit, it’s not making things for somebody else that is satisfying but it’s making things for my daughter. is it because i get to see them whenever she wears them, because it certainly feels good (especially true for occasions where she wants to wear something i made).

also, is that true for making for my man (actually, husband, but that is uncanny written out. so of course, not so uncanny written out in parentheses…HA. sorry love. we got married this summer and now, nothing has changed and also a lot)?ok, so is making for him equally satisfiying? i’m not sure. at the moment i’m not committed to make a pair of pants or a similarily involved project although he could use it and would happily wear it, i think. and there’s also me, i want to get a piece of the cake, too!

today i just wanted to share what i made for n.’s birthday a week ago. i think she wore everything already and the pants, as well as the skirt are currently waiting for a spin in the washing machine.

wiksten-harem-pants-front

let me introduce the kitten pocket pants first. they’re the wiksten harem pants by jenny gordy from wiksten. they are underlined in a thin (see-trough!) white cotton voile. that see-throughness is also the reason why i decided to underline vs. to line. you would have been able to see the seam allowances and i’m sure it’s neater this way. i might line a next pair though, the idea to use flannel is great, as jenny gordy did here for her daughter. the pocket is something i made up, not included in the pattern. it’s a quilting cotton with a cat print designed by lotta jansdotter.

wiksten-harem-pants-inside

the outer fabric was a remnant (ca. 65x135cm) of a linen/viscose mix – don’t remember the percentage of each but it was tagged with specifications which i think is nice (bought at hüco grosshandel berlin, not only for retailers though). sometimes i go to there and find nothing and at that time i was lucky to find beautiful fabrics. i also but a tag (sort of!) in the pants altough front and back pattern piece are the same. which is great for 2 year olds that try to put on their clothes. definitely gives them a sense of achievement if they don’t have to try again to put them on “the right way”.

anyways, i did not french seam as for the first pair i’ve made (see here). coincidently, they were also made from a linen/viscose-mix, but unlined, intended for summer. now, it’s definitely too chilly outside to wear those on their own, but they totally transition into autumn with tights. the kitten pair is still warm enough to wear withouht them, though, thanks to the underlining. in general, the harem pants are great to wear for play.. they’re basically perfect for the whole day. i feel they could be a tad longer (i made the size 2 yo). they are intended to be cuffed so they withstand the growth of the child and the test of time, respectively. however, she just turned two and is of average height, about 87cm tall, and they are a bit short when cuffed twice.

here’s what they look like cuffed once (top) and cuffed twice (bottom).

wiksten-harem-pants-cuff-folded-once wiksten-harem-pants-cuff-folded-twice

 

onto the whale dress, which is popular with n. one, for the whales but also for the fact it’s a dress. not sure where the preference comes from (you’re not getting me convinced by saying ‘hey, it’s a little girl. girls like dresses/pink/horses..ok.) anyways, i don’t see a bad thing in dressing in fun clothes. it’s a great thing being a kid, as the thought of something being childish is an absolutely foreign thing to think/feel. that’s about the most uncomforting time of life..when you start thinking about what others might think about you (or judge you).. classmates, colleagues, strangers. shudder. but back to the dress, which is in a way out-of-this-world, but not literally so, really. (…) after all, an easy to wear dress!

i used a brindille & twig pattern, a basic raglan tee – and modified the side seams to be a-line. i used a dress she already has to determine the width and length of the skirt. really easy. i could have attached a gathered skirt at the waist of the raglan but i did not want to break up the print. it’s already seen multiple washes and the fabric and print hold up well (a cotton jersey with some lycra, bought at stoff & stil like, 2 years ago?).

whale-a-line-dress

let me close with a question concerning the ongoing theme here: kitten pants and whale dress. what is it that kids like animals, or; animal prints so much? certainly our culture has a focus on animal imagery from very early on. i’m thinking of, for example, first picture books for babies and toddlers. it makes me wonder. and yes, we do live in a big city where you see dogs, sometimes a cat but that’s it.

hmm, i definitly prefer animal prints to, say, disney or commerzial imagery that changes it’s face every now and then to set a new ‘trend’. animals  have been here all along and still rule, right!

Merken

Merken

Merken

birthday-outfit

so faded candy sweater and burda pinafore skirt

hi everyone!

i took photos of things i’ve finished after getting up in the morning, feeling a cold creeping up in me. hi headaches! other than that i’m feeling pretty fly because i finished all the birthday gifts for n. – her birthday is on the weekend. i dont have to tell you that the last year went quick! whereas the first year did seem endless. but that is another story!

it is a privilege that i had the time to make her stuff for her birthday: the first two weeks of october are the time of holidays for me because deadlines for papers are usually 30th of september and there is this lovely gap until the new semester starts next monday. i did not buy many things as gifts, some wooden stuff like a tea-pot, cups and yeah, this and that for her kitchen. that’s where she loves to play (pretend). but i sewed quite a bit. from my stash, i should add, because my bank account [.] and because really, i had everything i needed on hand for the skirt. wait, i bought overlock thread at 1000stoff last week for the other projects though. can’t sew without thread, can you.

birthday-outfit

today i’m sharing the most intricate (i.e. time-consuming) stuff i made for her.. it was actually smooth sailing and there where no hurdles. there are always mental hurdles, like buttonholes, but they turned out fine. my 2nd hand bernina actually does a fine job with it’s six step buttonholes. that is, once i realized the machine does not adjust the needle position for the righthand row of the buttonhole by itself! it seems to be an error and means that something is actually broken. however, i can adjust it manually and i took a note which i’m always refering to whenever i lost memory about this quirk. i have a pretty good relationship to my machine, i got to know her well in the past and love her dearly (bernina 1020). so i don’t mind quirks when i know how to deal with them. i digress. for the buttonholes i used fray check and it has made a big difference – especially for the corduroy. the buttons where actually really cheap and i bought them at a discounter, probably over 4 years ago.

button-detail-pinafore-skirt

the sweater is the already mentioned so faded pint sized by andrea mowry of @dreareneeknits.* i named it ‘candy’ because the main yarn color (popoki, madelinetosh fingering weight) reminded me of candy, obviously. such a pleasure to knit with. the second color is called vintage sari, also mad tosh. i used the recommended 3,25 and 3,75 needles. i used addi lace needles and they are great. the basic addi needles have a very round tip and are fine, but these are a bit more precise. i blocked the sweater yesterday and it is already dry. it’s quite lightweight but i think it’ll keep warm without heating her up.

the pattern of the skirt is burda #129 10/2017 and is from the current issue. which is crazy for me. but i guess with kids’ clothes you cannot let time pass like that. they grow out of stuff so fast. however, this skirt is a size 92, and my daughter being about 86cm tall this will hopefully last for some time. at some point, i could remove the pinafore detail (straps and the yoke in the back, see below) so it can last much longer than a size 92. in fact, the pattern piece for the skirt is already quite big (it’s just gathered because of elastic in the waistband). lots of slow fashion potential here! admittedly, i was waiting for that age. i barely sewed any clothes for her before,  just started this summer, really. i made a sun hat last year that still fit this spring/summer but that’s about it. the rest of her clothes is from second hand sales at daycares in the neighbourhood. we’ll see how it goes now that she’s really picking out what she wants to wear. skirts or dresses are favourites.

pinafore-skirt-back

so chances are good that she will like it. i mean, isn’t it adorable. and it has pockets!

pinafore-skirt-front

the insides are pretty pretty, too. take my word for it. we had enough photos for today.

on a (not so) different note: as you migh know it’s slowfashionoctober this time of the year (how great this has become an annual thing) and i haven’t had the mind to post ‘just’ about that. i’m heavily inspired by it, and an advocate of it and everything and more – but right now is not the time for me to write a post on my journey or thoughts. if i’m feeling like it, i will let it flow. i simply haven’t been feeling it, yet. last week i followed a discussion about thrifting clothes and if it’s morally ok to keep thrifting if you would have the means to pay for other kinds of ethically and environmentally fair clothes (local, small women-owned businesses and similar) – i really liked the different perspectives. i agree that this question is  an example of overthinking things a bit but has obviously been productive! i haven’t read all the comments yet but will do my homework ;) do you prefer thrifting/buying second hand for you or your kids like i do? are there exceptions to the rule? like, i buy new shoes for her because every day shoes are worth that for me. not every pair, but the most-used ones. same is true for me.

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*There’s a recent article with andrea mowry of what i think is my favorite blog series over on fringe association: our tools, ourselves. i’m very much fascinated by the material culture of craft, i.e. the tools of the trade.

so-faded-neckband

a reflection on knitting and sewing

it’s slow fashion october and this post has not explicit connection to that but it seems ‘slotober’ is the month that gets me blogging. hope it stays a bit longer this time around! just babbling away today…

knitting is fun at the moment. i have a little sweater for my daughter that is about to be finished, it’s the so faded pint sized by andrea mowry of dreareneeknits. you can find my project here ony ravelry. it’s been a really lovely knit so far, after some months of a knitting break i enjoy being able to just do plain rows of stockinette and this pattern is mostly stockinette in the round. it’s top down and has you pick up stitches for the collar. on my first ever sweater (also mini size) i did a collar from the top down and it won’t lay nicely, i’m never going back to that way of doing it. but i guess i was a bit intimidated by picking up stitches when i first set out to make a little sweater (it was the free flax pattern by tin can knits). this time i actually did a folded neck band ’cause i’ve seen it and liked it on other sweaters, for example here on karen’s fishermen sweater. it’s a better quality finish and you dont have that cast-off edge showing so close to the face.

with knitting i like to learn small things like that on the way, but mostly i do it for pleasure and enjoyment and i’m not overly ambitious with it. i’m not rushing to learn how to do cables or such things, you know. i’m not ‘ripping for joy‘ (yet). i do it only when technically necessary, rather not for aesthetics. but there might be change creeping up in me with time, not gonna rule out the possibility. however, the point i wanted to make is, i’m a lot more patient and content with knitting, whereas with sewing it really bugs me if i can’t do something or if i think i can’t and it keeps me from doing it. because somehow with sewing, i want it to be close to perfect and i dont want to mess it up. i don’t care so much about bubbly stitches in a knit, but wrong tension or weird folds in a garment: that’s a nightmare. and it remains one, mostly, because it never actually happens when it’s avoided! i actually don’t feel bad avoiding stuff with knitting, which is kind of freedom in my book. just do what i feel like. sewing is different.

i know i can do it all (slight hybris here for the sake of illustration)  if i either 1) take time and go slow 2) study and practice or 3) just do it, maybe fail, but then also, succeed the next time. that is how i learnt in the first place, trial and error.

we all could do it all if we were crazy patient and had no other thing to do in life. which is, both sadly and luckily, not the case. do you agree? what are your ambitions about, do they stress you out or keep you interested? it’s a fine line, isn’t it. ok, really, i’m done with my daily (not) reflection on knitting and sewing practice. but i do think a lot about stuff like that, call me crazy.

my daughters 2nd birthday is in about 10 days and i have some clothes i want to finish for her, except for the sweater mentioned above the most involved project is a corduroy pinafore skirt. it needs buttonholes and buttons sewn on so it’s the standard “i’m waiting for the right (or last!) moment to tackle it” situation. the pattern #129 10/2017 is from the latest burda issue, which is crazy thinking i made something so close to it being published. that’s never happened! i’m in love with the girls’ patterns in this issue, there’s a coat and a blouse which are adorable, but i probably won’t make them, my daugther already needs the biggest size drafted for (size 92). she is developing an interest now in what she wants to wear (skirts!), and has an opinion now about what she doesn’t want to wear. i mean, she has already had an opinion a year ago when i knit her a vest from alpaca wool. it was soft to me, but must have been somewhat scratchy for her, she always started pulling on it once it was on and subsequently only wore it two or three times over turtlenecks or other layers so it wouldn’t touch her skin. after that happened – and i was mourning a bit – i decided that if i want her to wear what i knit i should take no risks and go with superwash merino. and the next sweater, a lila sweater (bottom up, pattern by carrie bostick hoge ) was worn without hesitation. so my theory was validated and i can happily knit superwash merino for my daughter without being in fear that my knit will be rejected.  i always would prefer a non-treated wool, but those i can still knit for myself. anyways, about her style – it’s not solely about comfort anymore but about what she thinks looks nice. and black corduroy pants are not among her favorites right now! it’s flowers and bold patterns, strawberrys and dots. stripes are fine, too – phew.

other things i have lined up as presents are a pair of leggings and raglan tee (already done) in a thin red/white stripe jersey – intended for but not limited to sleep wear. i also made two little dishtowels for her kitchen. and if i have the time there will be another pair of harem pants (pattern by jenny gordy from wiksten patterns). over the summer i made a lot of iterations of the wiksten bloomers in short and long length, for friends’ kids and newborn babies alike. i guess there will be more of the harem pants, too. but for winter they need to be lined and that takes a bit more fabric to work with… and i really try to avoid buying more fabric because i’ve got no dinero for that at the moment. i’ll do fine using what i already have. and it makes for some creative solutions.todays the first day after a very long weekend (read: no day care) so i’ll be sewing for sanity now…

thanks so much for staying with me!

hope to be back soon

xx