Not so long ago, women were always doing something to keep their hands busy — mending, knitting, darning and sewing — if they weren’t handling a shovel or hoe or on their hands and knees weeding, if they weren’t tending to children, if they weren’t preparing and preserving food, if …
There is even a quote from the Bible: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” which must apply only to women; it doesn’t seem to jive with the way men occupy their hands with weapons, liquor and cards — at least in historic times.
Before sewing machines, constructing clothing was a laborious chore. And you rarely got anything new; all clothing unless totally trashed, was mended and passed down or around. So, learning the art of not only hand-sewing and knitting —b ut also mending, darning, patching, applique and embroidery — was an essential skill learned by girls at a very young age.
Not many of us occupy our hands with handywork like the days of yore, unless you call handling a cell phone “keeping idle hands busy.” I don’t. And most of us throw stuff away rather than repair it. But Methow Recycles’ Repair Cafes and the ladies of the Mending Meetups are here to help us refrain from those bad habits.
Many of us have attended a Repair Café, held on the third Saturday of each month at The Cove, but a new program created by Molly Filer “empowers others to reduce their consumption and feel the satisfaction of fixing their own stuff.” While the workers at the Repair Café use sewing machines, everything at a Mending Meetup is done by hand. And they don’t do it for you — you’ve got to learn to do it yourself.
I dropped in on the Mending Meetup at the Twisp Library on a Tuesday evening in the first week of January with a little mending job of my own (and my camera and my notebook). The particular object I presented for repair was an appliqued down vest that was 40 years old, bought at a craft fair at the Seattle Center.
I first met Terry Dixon, former Twisp librarian and now a Friend of the Twisp Library, when she identified the maker of said vest, Kathy Hope, AKA “Ripstop Rose.” Terry, who was at the library to assist, was so excited to see this vest getting a second life, she took photos and immediately texted Kathy to let her know how much I cherished one of her ancient creations.
I hooked up with Barb Gohl, an accomplished mender and Friend of the Twisp Library. Like all the menders, she had a sewing box loaded with the tools and notions needed for a mending project. Barb chose the right thread and needle, threaded the needle, spit on the end of the thread and twirled off an end knot, then inserted the needle and thread. With patience and teeny, tiny stiches, she repaired a torn seam so meticulously you could barely see the repair.
It’s not like I’m a complete idiot as far as sewing is concerned, but it never was my forte, quite apparent when Barb handed me back my vest and said, “Now it’s your turn.”
Maybe — next time — I’ll go to the Repair Café.