Mending life – a story

Sometimes I see great parallels between life and my mending pile. I learned to darn and hem as a Girl Scout. I was never very good at either. My hems improved when I came to understand that those enormous stitches easily got snagged and pulled and snapped and had to  be re-done. <sigh> In those days of skirts and dresses and uniforms and years of changing hem lines, I had lots of practice. But, I was never a perfectionist never skilled.

Fast forward to when I married  into a family with a rich inheritance of needlewomen. I knew his aunt had taught needlework skills but I was not really interested in learning then. Aunt Dolly curtained my house with her skills at the machine I borrowed then dressed my little one in crochet and smocked dresses and warmed us with afghans. I still didn’t ask her to teach me. She was busy and I did not think I would be an apt pupil.

When I was growing up, my mom was quite particular with the few hand worked items that she had. The beautiful crocheted tablecloth crafted by my Grandmother was always covered by heavy plastic when on the dining room table. So I was quite shocked to take my toddler to dinner at my Mother-in-law’s home and find embroidered or appliqued tablecloths on the table – without protection. Nana never blinked at a spill, it was never a problem. (I wish I knew her cleaning secrets.) There was one tablecloth that captivated me. Just before she passed away, my precious sister-in-law gifted me with it.  Just as pretty as I remembered, grown softer with wear and washing and with a small hole. You would always see the hole. The eye would see it immediately and the beauty of the whole would be ignored.

Sometimes it takes courage to mend a hole. I hesitated, did research, asked “experts”, got lots of different advice, but in the end, I’m the one who had to face the sad dilemma of poor darning skills to mend it. So a patch would be needed. I spent too much time searching my stash of misfit linens for a piece with the same look and feel. I thought about square vs. round – anything to keep from doing the work.

Sometimes life can be that way too. I inherit or create my own hole in the fabric of life… I try to figure out what to do to make it whole again… Knowing how clumsy and inept my efforts will be, I put it off…

The day finally came. I took courage, sized the patch, cut it and prepared it, stabilized the hole, oriented the grain line, threaded the needle and got to work making the tiniest stitches I am capable of sewing. Start to finish – 30 slow minutes. Yes, it’s a patch, yes, it shows, yes, it’s ok. In the grand beauty of Grandmom Weger’s applique and embroidery, no one will care and I think she would be happy to know we still treasure her work. I’m still captivated by it. And in real time and space, you won’t notice it – or maybe you would and realize how much someone cared to make it whole again.

The mending project

Life is a captivating treasure. Wear and tear can happen. While I must consider well what to do, I must not wait long to repair, to mend so that the beauty of the whole can be seen. I’m looking to see what else is in the mending pile…

4 thoughts on “Mending life – a story

  1. mandythompson

    I grew up under a heritage of quilters. I remember my great grandmother bringing her huge loom (is that what it’s called?) out? I still have the hand-made doll my grandmother made. One of a matching set for all granddaughters. I was probably 3 or 4 when she made them. I collect scraps of dress patterns even though I don’t know how to sew much of anything. It’s deep in me — the making.

    You’re a beautiful writer, Elaine. Your truth about mending the gaps and tears, it’s going to stick with me. It makes me think about what is ripping and tearing in my own life right now. The truth is that I’ve taken too much on this summer, or at least underestimated what I could do. And things have ripped and come apart at a few seams. Nothing ruinous, but there are repairs to be made and I’ve gotta stop pulling at the stitching. I’ve taken “off” three days now, since the show at the Stewdio. Long deep breaths. And am planning to take tomorrow off as well… Thank you for the reminder that the mending has to be slow and deliberate, careful, patient. Kind gentle hands with no rush to make it all better. That’s where I am now.

    1. Elaine Post author

      Mandy, I’m so glad you have your doll, what a precious gift! I think for quilters, it is called a frame… I hope someone cherished the quilts that came from it. “the making” is deep in you. Times and seasons of life can change “the making”. Take more of those deep breaths and cuddle your littles. You will see the way through. Wish I could have been there for your show! Thanks for visiting here.

  2. Cathy

    Elaine, I think your patching skills are just fine–a perfect circle, neatly stitched. Now, all you need to do is practice your embroidery skills around the patch and down from the lovely appliqué/embroidery that Grandma Weger did and it will look like a part of the design…like a little flower trailing down from the other flowers on tendrils. :-) I love your observations….I agree, we mustn’t put off what can be mended….whether it’s just so it can be of use again or can be modeled into a thing of beauty.

    1. Elaine Post author

      When I’ve described the tablecloth problem, most have told me to applique a flower over the hole, until they see the position of it. My patch will do – unless I come upon a cache of vintage fabrics that work well with the design!

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