The House of Tatterdemalion

Unfashionable, unskilled, inexpensive--but still sewing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Starving Artists

Some people on sewing boards have a tagline that goes something like this: "Asking me to mend your clothes is like asking Michelangelo to paint your kitchen." I think this is supposed to dissuade people from asking, but around here, that saying would be met with, "Don't get any paint on the stove, Mike, it's only a couple years old." To tell you the honest truth, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Michelangelo had to do utterly boring, menial work before he became rich and famous. (The phrase "starving artist" didn't just pop up out of nowhere, you know.)

As for me, there are certain mending jobs I like more than others. This one here is my most recent. This my Grandfather's jacket; it's older than I am. As you can see, the closure is unconventional for such a garment--that's part of my mending job. He's lost quite a bit of feeling in his fingers from diabetes complications, and traditional buttons and buttonholes are quite difficult for him to work. So step one of "fixing" this jacket was changing the closure to one that was easier for his fingers to work. I bought the buttons from M. J. Trims (I was happy with their service, and shipping was prompt), as well as the cord. My painter sister and I spent altogether too much time trying to decide on the right color for the cord. In the end, I think we got a pretty good color, but I only hope that I got the right kind of cord. It seems like it might be prone to snagging, and I hope that doesn't cause complications during use.

That was the easy, and also most satisfying part. Putting buttons on always is. In a few brief moments, you can change an unusable garment into a completely serviceable garment. How powerful you feel!! Hemming is boring, but not too terrible. Since I, and my entire family, is short, hemming is something get stuck with fairly often, though many of us just choose to ignore the fabric puddling up around our ankles. Mending rips and tears--while fairly easy--is by far the most futile, pointless mending job there is. Sure, I know how to patch the holes in the knees of jeans (another task I'm called upon to do fairly frequently), but it seems so silly and pointless when I take a good look at the fabric and realize it's all on the brink of disintegration. What difference does it make if I reinforce the knees, when the thighs are all begining to fray? Who cares if I re-attach a pocket coming loose when the entire rear is about to wear out?

So the second half of the repair job was less pleasant. The lining was tearing all over the place, and he wanted it mended. I realized, after looking at it a little closer, that the 'best' solution would be to entirely replace the lining. However, the same closer look showed that it had two inside welt pockets that cut into the facing. I'm not afraid of doing welt pockets, but I don't want to mess with wholes already in the facing, and in the process destroy the jacket worse than it was to begin with. Besides, if the lining was already older than I was, I'm fairly confident my mending job will last it the rest of it's life time.

This is a fairly straight-forward repair; a tear following parallel to where the sleeve meets the body. It wasn't too badly frayed. I sewed it shut using a ladder stitch, which makes it look almost identical to the pre-existing seam beside it. (My repair seam is on the left, the construction seam is on the right.) The dead give-away is that at either end of my repair seam, it opens up like a pleat--a very small pleat, but a pleat nonetheless. Other, more frustrating repairs had to be made on tears that were quite old, and had either frayed badly or stretched out of shape. I briefly entertained the thought of trying to iron things back into place, but I got scared off by the "dry clean only" tag, and I didn't know what affect the steam would have.

Here's my sad attempt to mend near the pocket. The weight and stress of things being taken out and put into the inner pockets had caused them to rip loose from the lining. They were too distorted to line up properly, hence the fact I sewed the lining to the interfacing up a the top there. You can see how the end of my seam opens into a pleat. My only consolations are that 1. It's all on the inside of the jacket, so it's not likely to be seen, and 2. The lining on the jacket is so wrinkled, hopefully no one will notice.

I did managed to repair all but a dime sized hole one the inside of one sleeve (no swamp colored silk scraps laying around, or even anything of a similar hand, so a patch is out of the question). If I was really daring, I would have discussed replacing the lining, but every time I see that welt pocket poking into the facing, I loose my nerve.

But it still reeks of futility. The fabric simply wearing out. I can stitch it together, but what's the point? Well, the point is prolonging it's functionality, which I've done. So hooray.

When I'm a real artist, rich and famous, I will say, "Mend? Mend? I will not mend your coat. I will make you a brand new coat, that is even more beautiful than what you have ever had before, and I will make it for you in just 7 days." But until then (I can't seem to make anything in just 7 days, much less tailored jackets), I do my share of kitchen painting.


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