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The art of mending clothes

The art of mending clothes

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Does anyone mend clothing anymore?

The subject came up the other day in a conversation I was having with several friends. One friend said she would mend a special shirt or a pair of slacks she especially liked, but that was about it. Another commented that she mended the knees of worn-out jeans with iron-on patches, but none of them resorted to a needle and thread to fix a rip or strengthen the elbow of a shirt.

I remember my mother mending anything that could be stitched. If a dress had a tear she would take her needle and thread and make tiny stitches to create a neat, almost invisible seam where the tear had been. If a pair of pants developed a hole, she knew how to cut a piece of fabric just the right size, trim the edges of the hole, and then stitch the two together.

She didn’t limit her attention to shirts, blouses, skirts, and pants. As I was growing up, it seemed I was always wearing holes in the heels and toes of my socks. Mother would put something called a darning egg into the sock. It was made of wood about the size and shape of a light bulb. The darning egg filled the sock. That made it easy for my mother to use a large needle to weave yarn in and out of the sock to close each hole and reinforce the area. She took care to avoid putting any knots in the yarn, since those could cause discomfort for me when I wore the sock again.

My mother was a wonderful seamstress. In her early days she learned to sew her dresses, night clothes and undergarments. She taught me how to sew, and through the decades it has proven to be a valuable skill. As a young woman working in Chicago, I made a very small income and so sewed most of my own clothes. A good friend loaned me her portable sewing machine to use whenever the need arose.

Mother also helped me sew my wedding dress. World War II had recently ended, and for fabric we were able to use soft parachute silk left over from the military.

Soon after Robert and I were married, his mother gave me her old treadle sewing machine. It was called that because one operated it by pumping a footpad up and down with one or both feet. A clever system of belts and wheels transferred the energy to cause the needle to rise and fall at high speed, carrying thread with it.

I used that sewing machine for many years to make clothes for our young children and for myself. I also mended clothes, of course, especially my husband’s overalls. Some of his pants had so many patches it seemed they were more patch than pant. Little did I realize that one day worn out, tattered jeans would be fashionable garments.

I was always pleased that my young sons seemed to like the shirts I made for them.  I especially remember the dark blue cavalry shirts and the bright red bandana print fabric with a western flare. Even when our sons were grown and off to college, they liked my homemade shirts because they had sleeves long enough for their angular arms.

In recent years I have made shirts and bathrobes for my grandchildren. One of the fun parts of that project was the little secret pocket I stitched inside each shirt and bathrobe. Into that little pocket I’d put a personal note to the recipient.

Not long ago I checked in a robe I made for son Craig a number of years ago and found the little note filled with love still in its secret  pocket.



This great cookie recipe came from Tuesday Wray of Hamburg, one of my hair dressers. It is a favorite of her two children, and now it is one of mine.


3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 pkg chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 375. Combine butter, sugars, pudding, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until creamy and fluffy. Slowly mix in flour and baking soda. Add chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake only 9-10 minutes.

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