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Entries in mending (15)


Knit One, Pearl Seven

I picked up this mohair beret at the start of spring last year from an op shop (thrift store). I am a sort of connoisseur of berets, and this mauve number was unlike any I already owned. Someone had clearly donated it because it was missing quite a number of the pearls decorating its top, so it was priced accordingly, but this I knew was an easy fix if I could find matching pearl beads.

The warm weather was coming up, and knowing I was unlikely to wear it for many months, the hat languished on the mending pile for some time before I attended to it. I found Swarovski pearls that matched closely enough, and one day on a mending frenzy, I finally attached them.

And voilà! Someone else did not make do, but I mended, and I now have a rather cute little hat to wear in the coming cold weather.

Photos: March 2018


The Coat of Many Winters

Today I give homage to a very favourite old coat that I recently gave up to the hope shop. (That’s what I call op, or thrift, shops, and the designation is particularly poignant in this instance.) I bought this coat many years ago from Melbourne designer Obüs; it was my first ‘grown-up’ coat purchase. It was made from herringbone tweed, and featured a double-zipped front, the zips of which could go two ways. The sleeves also had zips up to the elbows, for extra ventilation. When I first saw it, I loved the modern minimalist design combined with the classic camel-coloured tweed.

I wore this coat for many winters, and even after the pockets tore a little at the sides from careless hand-stuffing, I continued to wear it. (Of course, I did not wear it all the time, as I am a coat aficionado from way back and alternated it with many others.)

I look at this photo and feel a little pang in my fashion heart.

It was only last winter that I noticed that one of the shoulders had become so worn in two places from rubbing caused by my shoulder bags, that the fabric had actually shredded into fragments of warp and weft. It was really ready for the rag-bag, but the coat held such sentimental value for me that I considered trying to have it repaired, perhaps by inserting leather shoulder patches. But there were also other signs of wear, and the torn pockets. I decided, in view of how many coats I actually own, and how little space I had for them all, that it was not worth the investment of a difficult repair, or even merely keeping it as a sentimental piece.

In a ruthless moment of wardrobe culling, I put it in a bag destined for the charity store (in case someone had some use for it, damaged as it was) and steeled myself to drop it at the Salvo’s depot. And I did it. But first, I photographed it. Now, I look at this photo and feel a little pang in my fashion heart. It gave me good love for well over ten years – I hope it comes to a good end.

Photo: January 2017


Ms Fix-It

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: glue is a great gift to budget fashionistas! Why give money to professional shoe and jewellery repairers when you can fix it at home yourself at little or no cost?

Case 1: A pair of plaited leather gladiator sandals

After only a few wears, the outer sole had became detached from the leather upper.

Granted, these sandals were very inexpensive ($22 on sale) purchases online, but still, one does not expect a pair of leather shoes to split in half so quickly. I was very cross. The sandals were punished and cast into the outer darkness (the back of my closet) while I contemplated their fate.

I refused to throw good money after bad by taking them to the shoe repairer, as the upper sole around the toes was also worn – the sandals are so soft and flexible the sole tended to fold back on itself as I walked, so the edges had become quite frayed. This was the first time I had experienced this phenomenon, and I wondered at first if I was dragging my feet – and then I observed (while pounding the pavement and stalking others’ feet) it happened to other women as well. It’s just poor shoe design or manufacture.

I wondered at first if I was dragging my feet …

I had been tempted to throw the sandals straight into the bin to teach them a lesson, but as this would further annoy no one but myself, I decided to attempt a roughshod repair so that at least I could get a few more wears out of them. I smeared on some Araldite (a two-part epoxy glue) between the layers, applied pressure for a few minutes, and that was enough to make them wearable again. Hurrah!

Case 2: A striped Indian brass bangle

The inlaid resin or plastic squares had lost their adherence to the brass base.

I could easily have thrown out this $5 bangle that I bought in an Indian boutique years ago, but I decided to attempt a repair. I love stripes, and it has a matching bangle in red and white, so I thought it was worth a shot. Possibly the original glue had become petrified with age, but it was a very easy fix. Good as new!

Case 3: Amazonite stone set in sterling silver

The stone broke in half and fell out of the setting.

This earring was a casualty of my evil ceramic tiles that are laid throughout my apartment. I had dropped it on the bathroom floor, and the green rectangular stone had actually snapped in half! This was a disastrous break, and not as simple a matter as for a jeweller to apply some solder and repair metal.

I decided I had nothing to lose by attempting to glue the stone back together, and then gluing it within the silver setting. Originally there would have been no glue – the jeweller would have manually set the stone by pressing the metal inwards to fit its shape. However, I painstakingly applied the same glue the stone, and then waited for that to set before I glued it into its frame. Then I removed all the glue from my fingers.

After curing, the joint is supposed to be impervious to boiling water …

The glue has held it all together successfully, even after, to my horror, it fell again on the bathroom floor just the other day!

Araldite, a synthetic resin, was first invented in 1945, in Switzerland. I use a version that comes in a double syringe, with the resin and hardener kept apart until equal parts of each are mixed together. After curing, the joint is supposed to be impervious to boiling water and all common organic solvents, although I have not tested this theory.

However, let us all raise a glass to the Swiss – first they give us chocolate, and now glue … what’s next?

Photos: March 2016


Mend Your Ways!

The infernal chain strap on this leather bag keeps disengaging from the interior hooks! My fourth New Year’s fashion resolution this year was to keep up with my mending, to stitch, darn, rip, bolt or glue as needed. You know those pesky little chores which you dismiss with that old excuse, ‘Oh, I’ll do that later …’? But later never comes, does it?

At least in my case (as we established in the last story) I don’t continue to wear ripped or holey garments, but it is aggravating to have one’s wardrobe reduced for such a petty reason. So I determined that I would mend my ways this year, and keep on top of the mending basket.

I do very well with mending seams and sewing buttons back on and the like, but I draw the line at wielding scissors at anything except a length of thread. I mend; not alter – that’s what professionals are for.

I’ll tell you a funny story though, the thing that forced me to change my wicked ways …

Two pairs of jewellery pliers come in useful to open the links at the ends of this chain. The metal is quite a heavy gauge, and the link quite small, so pliers are quite definitely needed to open and close the links – fingernails wouldn't cut the mustard

The Funny Story

Many years ago I purchased a lovely silk 1950s dress. I wore it usually to work only, although probably only once or twice a season. But it had one flaw: the hem was falling down. Because I wore it so seldom, I never remembered to fix the hem, so I would be forced to take emergency measures at work. Earlier this year, I finally laid the dress out, determined to repair the hem, and discovered not only that I had to tack up almost the entire hem, but I first had to remove a number of tiny black safety pins, a couple of lengths of double-sided sticky tape and even (I blush to confess) a staple!

You can laugh about it sure – but I can exactly picture the scandalised/amused/disbelieving look on my mum’s face if I were to tell her! After that mortifying discovery, I determined never to let things come to such a pass again!

If you’re going to take your mending seriously, you need to put together a basic sewing kit, as well as perhaps a few jewellery tools (used here to repair the chain strap of this vintage 70s snakeskin bag) and also glue for adhering different types of materials. There are some things you just can’t repair though.

Swinging Seventies!So, with half the year almost done, how’ve I gone with this resolution? … Not too badly. I have gone on the odd domestic frenzy and mended a heap of garments at once to clear a backlog. Admittedly, there are still a few sundry items still bubbling way back there, but mostly Santa would have to say I have been a Good Girl. (I wear size 39, in case you NTK.)

Ironically, I found that I had to finally remove and trash the chain strap on this bag – after it snapped off no less than three times on a single outing! The bag has since become a clutch.


The Most Beautiful Coat in the World

A Fashion Emergency

Late last Wednesday evening on my commute home, a sartorial tragedy occurred. The last closure on my vintage 70s suede and rabbit fur coat tore from its moorings. Devastated, but preserving a remarkably calm front in the freezing conditions of a Melbourne winter’s night, I examined the mutilated coat. My knees would be cold on the way home, but the damage could be repaired. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The next evening I assembled the tools I would require in the reparation of this fashion emergency: needle, thread, scissors … and a pair of tweezers to retrieve the recalcitrant strip of leather that kept trying to escape its foundations even as it was being sewn back into place.

Fortunately I was able to access the reverse side of the leather as the lining (painstakingly replaced my lovely and charming adored sister Blossom several years ago as a birthday present pour moi) was left open at the base. Let me state at the outset: I am not a seamstress. I loathe needles and thread, and only reluctantly assume the rôle of mender when it is thrust upon me in direst circumstance.

The needle is not made for sewing leather. It’s tough to push through the hide, and my fingers hurt. Bits of fur are caught up in the slit. The tab keeps slipping from my grasp. But intrepidly, I sew on until I am finished. My repair is rudimentary and would probably amuse said lovely sister, but no one will ever see it as it’s on the inside of the coat (ahem). I give the closure a tug, and the stitching is firm.

a stitch in time saves nine and all that jazz …

And voila! The coat is repaired and fit for a princess to wear! In passing I notice that the closure above is loose by a few threads and ought to be reattached (a stitch in time saves nine and all that jazz), but one fit of industry is certainly enough for a single evening and was exhausting for my nerves besides. I must rest from my labours.

It was all worth it though. This coat is unutterably fabulous, and friends and strangers in the street constantly accost me to exclaim and marvel and pat me. I fear however, that it is one of those infamous garments that wears me, rather than the other way around. But I don’t care, I’m persuaded it’s the most beautiful coat in the world and I will love it forever. Or until it falls completely apart.