We do not, nowadays, spend long hours bending over fine stitchery that is destined for no really useful purpose. To efficiently understand how to mend and how to make is our more practical aim. A distinctive and imperative branch of this knowledge is the art of preventive mending.
From the gracious days of our grandmothers, or our even more remote ancestors, comes a lavender-scented remembrance of patiently executed needlework, almost unbelievably fine; wonderful samplers were made and monumental pictures depicting Bible scenes were toiled over until the last of the innumerable stitches was filled in, and the triumph ready to be framed and hung up on the wall of the best parlour.
Some of us possess examples of these forgotten arts, bead necklaces so finely constructed that, entirely handmade and needle-threaded as they were, they altogether surpass the pretty ornaments of the present day, made upon apache looms. Samplers, too, we fondly cherish, if we are fortunate enough to have had one or two handed down from mother to daughter in our family.
The Day of the Ready-Mades.
But life to-day is more strenuous; the pride of the needlewoman must, in the majority of cases, have a more practical aim. We do not despise the lavender-scented sweetness and tranquility—sometimes we even sigh for the qualities that can only come to perfection in days of unhurried calm—but we recognise the every-day usefulness of the modern needlewoman and applaud the sanity of her methods.
mother teachign daughter to mend
Children may be taught that darning is really quite an interesting occupation.
Microscopic stitching is a delightfully interesting pursuit for the woman of leisure. The busy girl or the house-mother, harassed with many cares, would not find such sewing a sedative for tense and weary nerves; but the capable woman with quick, deft fingers and mind alert, finds it both interesting and exhilarating, in its practicality, to sit down and either make or mend something.
Mending and altering are two branches of the great art of Needlecraft which no woman can afford to despise in these days of ready-made frocks and shop-bought costumes. Turnings may be insufficient, buttons sewn on with too scant stitches, hooks and eyes trembling to fall off, but these deficiencies very easily can be put to rights. And the business girl would find herself sorely pressed for time to do the necessary shopping, matching trimmings, and the travelling to and from the dressmaker for fittings-on, while not her time alone but her pocket also would seriously suffer if the ready-to-wear gowns and walking-suits were suddenly to be banished from our drapery stores.
A shop-bought costume that doesn’t fit, however, isn’t cheap at any price. Learn, therefore, how to make alterations in the most common-sense and practical fashion, and take preventive measures, before the garment is worn for the first time, to overcome the little deficiencies that we may expect to discover in the “ready-mades.”
Tools for the Practical Needlewoman.
Chief among the aids for the practical needlewoman, taking first rank among her valuable assistants, comes the sewing-machine. For hard wear and every-day use machine-stitching is generally much neater and stronger than hand sewing, and the pace, of course, is far quicker. Her sewing-machine is a good friend to the busy woman who has most need to practise the art of preventive mending, for strength and speed are two of her chief demands.
It pays to understand one’s sewing-machine, and to treat it with tender care. Rough usage, or careless handling through ignorance of the rightful functions of the different delicate pieces may lead to dire disaster. A handbook of instructions is always given when the machine is purchased: cherish this book, for if it is mislaid you are at sea without your chart. The inexperienced girl who makes her early attempt to fathom the mysteries of the sewing-machine will find that a little personal instruction (which may be had at the depôt of her own make of machine) will be more helpful than an hour spent in trying to solve intricate problems by the aid of the printed page. Later on, however, the printed directions will read lucidly enough when her mind is conversant with the everyday workings of the machine, and an intelligent glance at her useful little handbook will disclose to her the cause and the remedy of the defective action.
Keep the machine scrupulously clean and thoroughly well oiled. To do this is again to recognise the wisdom of preventive measures. An un-oiled, dirty machine will always cause trouble in working, for when the parts do not run smoothly, dropped and uneven stitches are a frequent embarrassment.
woman at table cleaning machine
Open and turn back, so that when the oil has soaked through the clogged dirt it may be carefully cleaned away.
The Sewing Machine.
Oil in every part, and open and turn back so that when the oil has soaked through, the clogged dirt may be carefully cleaned away.
A capacious mending basket is a necessity for the practical worker, and it is all the more convenient if it stands upon legs, table height, and can be carried about to be stationed just within comfortable reach of the mender’s right hand.
woman sewing with machine
Her sewing-machine is a good friend to the busy woman who practises the art of preventive mending.
Keep always some tailor’s canvas for use as stiffening, buckram for millinery, white leno, and fine black lining, rolls of old linen and flannel for patching, stray pieces of lace, and left-over lengths of embroidery or insertions. Roll up all oddments in soft, clean muslin with tape or label attached, on which is written a list of the trifles to be found within your treasury.
If you frequently find your tape measure mislaid, try this plan, and thus prevent the long searching that interrupts your sewing. Cut as long a piece off your tape as will stretch from end to end of your machine, and paste it along the front edge of the stand. It thus will be always at hand when required, and will serve at any rate for all the shorter measurements required.
It is a good plan to assemble your hooks and eyes on safety pins. Slip the opened pin through the separate hooks and eyes, then when they are all securely dangling, firmly close your safety pin, and they are ready for use when needed and will not get tangled and twisted together as so often happens if they are kept in a box.
Keep odd buttons in glass bottles. No more hunting in the dark and dust! You can see the button for which you are searching, and by shaking the bottle can bring it near to the top, where it can be easily reached. Bone or pearl buttons for underwear, or any others that are not affected by exposure, may be securely fixed upon a hairpin. Straighten out one of the long hairpins, bend back one end about a quarter or half an inch, run the point through the holes, and when your buttons are neatly crowded together turn up the other end to hold them securely.
Aids to Strength and Durability.
We have heard that in China it is the custom to pay the family doctor to keep his patients in good health rather than to call him in only after illness has laid the sufferer low. Many of us applaud this system, but have neither the opportunity nor, perhaps, the courage, to defy conventions in England.
But why not pursue the same wise course in dealing with household mending? It works admirably.
Take that proverbial stitch that “saves nine” in very good time, even before there is any apparent need for for it, and you’ll find it will work miracles.
Stockings, for instance. The toes and heels of children’s stockings may be neatly darned before they are worn for the first time, for this purpose using crochet silk or mercerised thread, which is less bulky and clumsy than wool. Insist on frequent change of hosiery, and forbid the wearing of any stocking that shows even the tiniest hole. To prevent those long running ladders which are almost impossible to mend, sew a band of silk or cotton, or a border cut from an old stocking, round each hem of the new pair. Hose supporters (chief cause of these destructive ladders) will seldom cut through this double band. Or another excellent plan may be adopted. Take a round brass ring and double crochet closely over it to make a soft, firm covering. Sew this securely into position upon the stocking top with neat, strong stitches, and always insert the clip of the suspender within this ring. You will thus make it impossible for the tension to strain the stocking beyond the area enclosed by the ring.
In the knees of children’s stockings small shields may be placed, pieces cut from other stockings and fastened in so neatly that they are quite inconspicuous and not at all uncomfortable.
The “ready-mades,” whether visiting frocks, walking suits, or underwear, as was hinted in a previous paragraph, cry out loudly for preventive mending. For instance, sleeves should be stitched in by machine, for on ready-made clothes the machine stitching is not always carefully done, and a weak place in the sleeve seam will quickly give way under strain and start an ugly tear.
Embroidery with scalloped or pointed edging should be machined strongly all round the extreme edges, the machine needle patiently following the circuitous course of the pattern. This will double the life of embroidered lace, preventing frayed untidiness and breaks, gaps and tears.
To prevent an embroidery flounce from ragging out before the petticoat itself is any the worse for wear, neatly hem the edge as soon as it threatens to fray or gets torn by an accidental mis-step, and add a bordering of Valenciennes or fine Torchon lace.
Buttons should receive careful attention when any ready-made garment is bought. The trimness of effect and the general prettiness of coat or costume may be entirely spoilt if one of a set of distinctive buttons is allowed to drop off and get lost. Therefore sew on all buttons at the time of your purchase. Stitch carefully with a strong thread; when you have sewn through and through the button half a dozen times, wind your thread round and round the strands which hold the button, between the button and the cloth, making a sort of shank. Treat boot and shoe buttons in the same way.
It is wise to strengthen bed-linen with broad tape laid on at the corners, inconspicuously stitched into position, so that an added firmness is given to the sheets where the clothes-pegs might do most damage.
Look closely into the wool-worked buttonholing at your blanket ends. You may, with advantage, stitch fresh buttonhole edgings that will keep the neat turn-over, when the blanket is in use, for a longer time than if the shop-bought edging were left to suffice.
Remember that half-an-hour spent weekly in preventive mending, will save the busy housewife hours of darning and patching later on.
Jesse Glessner wrote:I just buy the iron on patches for pants repairs. Works great and after a washing hard to tell it is there. These are patches applied from the inside to repair rips and tears.
I used "Liquid Stitch" permanent adhesive for gluing a piece under the front part of a straw hat to keep my nose out of the sun. I swear, it looked like that cloth was a part of the manufacturing process.
I also use this glue on my paper back books that start falling apart and that works well if applied very lightly.
Never used it on anything that has gone into the washing machine, but, the tube does say it is permanent but to let it cure for 24 hours before cleaning.
Edward Lye wrote:I have seen the videos and notice that they are using "ordinary" needles.
I found these two kinds of needles at the morning market. One has
two holes and the second hole is split into two opposing barbs. This
makes it easy to thread but also to do a mid-operation rescue if a
spontaneous knot develops. ...