Saturday, June 14, 2014

Magic Needle

          If I want to amaze and mystify my sons, all I have to do is mend an item for them. They can't get over the fact that I can snatch dustbin-bound items out of the waste stream and turn them useful again by the simple expedient of threading a needle and placing some stitches. It is magical to them that an article whose life was finished can be resurrected by someone skilled in the Dark Arts of darning.

Where the magic starts, according to my sons.
          I've been mending since I was old enough to steer a threaded needle through cloth, and this is the first time mending has ever been cool. I've always thought of it as one of those skills that helped make a well-ordered life, and I enjoy it as kind of a guilty pleasure, because frankly, tell someone you find a little hand-sewing of an evening relaxing and meditative, and they will forever after think of you as some sort of undercover Mennonite, and they will avoid you in all social situations, afraid that small talk will only encourage you to share your disturbing proclivities in technicolor detail.

Really, it's just a bit of simple stitching and needle-weaving. I promise I won't proselytize you
about it.
          But thank you growing interest in sustainability, and also thank you urban homesteading (even though I will not cease to mock you, because really—clotheslines?). You have made mending cool for the first time in the history of ever, and there is some very entertaining and thoughtful work (of both the mending and the writing sort) being done on this humble but necessary subject.

          I'm currently loving the blog posts and tweets from one Tom of Holland (AKA Tom van Deijnen), whose Visible Mending Programme is a way to subvert the usual idea of mending, which is patching something as invisibly as possible, and instead to bring the mend front and center, celebrating the act of mending, and turning the mend into something worthy of paying attention to.

A perfectly capable mend. In other days, I would have stopped here.

          I think this is a lovely idea, both in terms of bringing into focus an invisible yet important skill that few people (with the possible exception of my sons) think or care much about, and also because it amuses me deeply to take something necessary and useful and make it function also in a completely decorative manner. Architects, I've noticed, get paid very handsomely to do this.

A plain mend has turned into a cheerful sun, shining on the hem of my dish towel. It looks
a little like the pictographs you see in Native rock art, and this makes me very happy.

          My idea, of course, is that menders will eventually command great respect and a commensurate wage. I may have to wait a while for that to happen, but in the meantime, my mending basket waits.

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