Saturday, March 06, 2010

Chapter 3: Mending

Can you tell I have been putting this chapter off? Who mends anything these days. We just chuck stuff out or give it to Vinnies, and buy new stuff. We usually buy things well in advance of their needing any mending, and the modern fabrics are not nearly so prone to wear as plain linen, cotton and wool. Anyone who knits socks knows that sock wool must contain some nylon, else they wear out in about the same time it takes to knit them.

Thérèse agrees, mending is wearisome. But she says that no woman should be ignorant of the methods of doing it. Darning and patching are the two main methods of mending. Naturally, she breaks those down into further categories. There is linen darning, twill darning, damask or fancy darning, and invisible darning. Patching isn't just sewing something over a hole, oh no. There is hemming down a patch, overcasting a patch, and drawing in a patch.

I thought about skipping this chapter. Julie suggested that my galoon effort around the hems of the Nitya Black Pants could qualify as mending. Perhaps, but I didn't think either of those courses of action were in the spirit of this exercise. If I started skipping or cheating at this early stage where are my standards?

When thinking about a possible assignment, I looked first at the damask or fancy darning. Some of the patterns and techniques illustrated in the pictures looked quite interesting. So too did the little description. "Figs 68 and 69 (in my edition) show two specimens of darning as it was once done in convents." Those poor nuns. Were they taking in other people's mending? Was the mending itself more beautiful than the original?

I just couldn't think what I would use any of this for - embroidery? But that's not mending, so not in the spirit of this chapter. I continued.

Aha. Invisible mending sounded useful. This is otherwise known as fine drawing, and Thérèse says that in spite of its undeniable usefulness and importance, the art of darning cloth invisibly is known only to a few people. She goes on to say it is easy to understand, but takes great patience and care. That sounds like me.

Here are the instructions:

"A very fine needle is used, threaded with hair, which is stonger than the threads drawn from the cloth itself and less visible than silk or any other thread. Red or white hair is stronger than other colours. It is scarcely necessary to mention that the hair must be carefully cleaned before use, to free it from all traces of grease."

I look up, and across at Michael. White hair! Looks good! He quails. I consider. Is it long enough to sew with? Perhaps I should wait until just before he has a haircut. Then I have a brainwave. My red-headed daughter has a fabulous supply right on tap:

I'd have to insist that she washed it, and no curling it please. When I broached the idea with her, though, she didn't seem too keen on contributing. Sigh!

Assignment 3: On searching for items to mend with this technique, I glanced down at the pair of black pants I was wearing. This particular pair is the Hedrena second tier black wool pants. Not the Good Hedrenas, the Old Ones. They have developed a small hole in the thigh. They also had a big run at the back (I musta snagged them on something) which I had mended once before, not well. This is my chance.

The hair will probably come from my own supply. No doubt I can find some of sufficient length and suitable colour for this assignment.