Autumn is for Mending

Spring cleaning is about clearing out stagnant energy. Fall cleaning is about carefully picking through the contents of your life to find what to keep and what to pitch. It is for opening your closet doors and laying all your clothes on the bed, for pulling out your fall and winter gear and inspecting it. Those gloves and scarves and coats you carelessly packed away six months before get an airing out. You wash those that need it. You pair up gloves, toss those what are missing partners, or, as I do with my son’s gloves, pair them up with another lonely one to make a mismatched set.

This is the process I’m going through now. I am trying to bring order to a house I never properly set up. Our move-in was hasty and chaotic, and the last year didn’t afford me much time to purposefully arrange things. This fall, however, has brought me the time and energy to tackle such housekeeping details.

Ripped Skirts
5+ years old, these skirts have seen better days.

I’ve started with my clothes. By virtue of my life spent mostly in my home, my daily wardrobe consists mainly of pj pants and T-shirts. Those times I have to venture into the outside world, I will exchange the pants for one of my skirts. This has been my daily uniform for the past five years, and my clothes are beginning to show it.

Handful of scraps
I’m really just happy to be able to use up some scraps, to be honest.

I began with the shirts. All the T-shirts riddled with holes went under the pinking shears. In thirty minutes I had reduced them to rags for cleaning. They replaced the previous rags that had come to the end of their useful life.

Mending Skirts
There are so many holes, I just pinned scrap fabric to where they were.

This last week I moved on to my skirts. Currently I have four every day skirts, one “fancy”, and two that haven’t made it into rotation yet. All of them are handmade. One skirt went into the bin, so torn up and run down it wasn’t even fit for rag duty. The other three are threadbare and torn at the seams. If I toss them now, I’ll be short of outside wear, though, so I’ve decided to mend them enough to get through the next month while I make new skirts.

Fancy Patching
This is what it looks like when I take my time to patch my skirts.

I’ve patched these skirts before. Those times I was careful with my fabric choice and my stitching. This time, knowing that I just need to keep my underwear from showing, I set to the task by first grabbing a handful of scraps. The result is haphazard, but serviceable. And that’s all that’s warranted. Once I’ve made up new skirts, these will be retired. I’m considering remaking them into a throw, something cozy for the winter nights ahead.

Less Fancy Patching
My patch jobs this time were less careful and more quick and dirty.

This upcoming week the target of my fall cleaning will be the pj pants. Several need some light mending and I’ll probably make a couple of new pairs, as well as retire a couple that are as ratty as the skirts. Then I will move on to the winter clothes: sweaters, sweatshirts, long sleeved garments, as well as tights and leggings. By the time December rolls around I should be well sorted out to survive the winter.

Dreaming of a Craftsman Economy

“I like your computer,” she said. “It looks like it was made by Indians or something.”

Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. “Coral,” she said. “These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable.”

“The rest is silver?”

“Aluminum,” Chia said. “They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That’s linen with this resin in it.”

One of the things I loved most about the novel Idoru by William Gibson was the idea of handmade computers.  Going beyond the limited customization offered by tower cases and laptop decals, he presented a vision of one of a kind units.  In a world of cheap T-shirts, fast food and Walmart, the idea of something so unique, so intentional, has instant appeal.

One of my greatest disappointments of the future is that we haven’t embraced a hand-crafted model like the one described in Idoru.  There are hints of handmade technology—phone cases here, apps, widgets and live wallpapers there—most notably in the Steampunk genre where a DIY aesthetic is applied to everything from fashion to machinery to vehicles.  The glimpses, though, serve more to highlight the predominance of mass produced items.

I think about that a lot, about how we have reached a point where we shouldn’t be relying so much on mass produced clothes and furniture and houses.  I wonder what it would look like, to live in a world where there were more crafters, making more beautiful things for people.

It’d require a higher standard of living than we have right now, that’s for sure.   Obamacare has been helpful in easing one of the main reasons people don’t strike out on their own.  But when you can’t be certain if you’ll make enough to survive, all the health care in the world isn’t going to convince you to leave your day job.

A guaranteed income would probably be necessary.  Or at least creating a living wage.  If we could ensure that people wouldn’t starve, that they would have a place to sleep, that they could have their basic needs met, what would they accomplish?  If someone could be certain that working forty hours at a fast food place paid enough to meet their needs, what could they do with all the extra time they didn’t have to spend at a second or third job?  How many cottage industries would crop up, providing beauty to replace the beige and plastic molded bits and bobs of our lives?

I don’t know. I’d love to find out, though.


This article was originally posted on January 14, 2016.