I had thought when TR was born that the most difficult thing would be to make time to do things like great grandma. In fact, I am doing lots of things like great grandma but the challenging thing is making the time to write about it!
A month or two ago, during one of those long nights with an infant who prefers the comfort of his parents to soothing himself, my husband pulled the fitted sheet back on our bed a little too vigorously and the sheet began to rip. In the coming months, it ripped further and further and it became clear to me that I had to either patch it or buy new flannel sheets.
In an effort to be more like my Great Grandma Edna Kinglsey, I decided to patch it. Even though I’ve never patched anything in my life. I found a 1920 home economics textbook called Household Arts for Home and School that was actually very cleverly written as both a narrative and instructional text. (A reminder, I suppose, that the concept of linear progress is a fallacy and that education strategies have not changed so much in nearly one hundred years than we would like to think.)
At any rate, the book gave me some quick tips on how to mend different types of wear and tear. I grabbed my sewing basket and got started.
There, I discovered a tool I never knew I had to assist me. The sewing basket was handed down to me from my husband when helping to clean out his departed grandfather’s home. The basket had belonged to his grandmother. (Or perhaps his great grandmother? There is a pill bottle with buttons inside from 1967 made out to Mrs. Haider.)
Fabrit is an exciting iron-on patch product from the 1940’s-50’s. Since the sheet was getting kind of shredded, it was immediately clear that it would need a patch. I didn’t have any appropriate fabric so I though ah, what the hell, let’s give it a shot.
The fabric strips seemed in pristine condition so I snipped off lengths of it, rounded the edges as the instructions directed, and placed it underneath the tears. I ironed them on, counting 20 seconds in my head.
As I lifted the sheet to proudly show my husband, the Fabrit patches clung on weakly, some of the edges separating. I realized immediately that the glue on these patches was not going to be enough. At the same time, I also knew that I was not interested in spending a ton of time on a fitted sheet patch that literally no one but me would see (oh, and I guess you too, Dear Reader). So I decided to take the patches to the sewing machine and reinforce them with a top-stitch zig-zagged across the patch. Effective? Yes. Pretty? Nah.
Miss Ashley from Household Arts for Home and School would have disapproved, I think, of my sloppiness and impatience. But I haven’t slept a full night in 9 months, so I decided I did not care about what she thinks. She’s not real anyway.
I like how the patches look like giant Band-aids when you look at the backside of the work. I just used a straight stitch and used the back lever to zig-zag the straight stitch across all the shredded fabric tenuously held together by the patches. It turned out pretty neat and was really fun to run my fingers over. Here is the final product (to be covered immediately with blankets and forgotten forever):
Miss Ashley should like me to pay more attention to the weave of the fabric if I am to blend the stitches in and create a patch that is largely unnoticeable. But I opted for quick and effective over slow and potentially ineffective. Give me a C, Miss Ashley. See if I care.
Okay, maybe I do care. I was a teacher. I can’t handle getting less than an A!
Let me just try again.
I had a beloved sweater that fell prey to some scissors a while back (we were draping a bodice and there was some friendly fire…) I had planned this post, thinking I’d patch it and enjoy some research on mending. Little did I know that Miss Ashley would be glaring down at me disapprovingly, raising an eyebrow at my messy, impatient stitches.
The Household Arts for Home and School explains:
The thread should match as nearly as possible. Sometimes horsehair, human hair, or split silk thread or No 150 cotton makes a good darning thread when one does not wish the darn to show. Ravelings of the same cloth are sometimes used. The size of the needle will depend on the fineness of the cloth to be darned. No 8 is right for ordinary darning. (270)
The thread on this sweater is cotton and very fine. I only had standard grey acrylic thread. So much for an invisible darn. I also don’t know what a No 8 needle is or how to tell the size of a needle by looking at it. Another book I was reading about sewing mid-19th century clothes also mentioned needle size and I was admittedly perplexed. I made a note to self to look more carefully at needles next time I’m in the fabric store.
I barreled forward impatiently making do with what I had. If I’ve learned anything since Teddy was born, it’s that waiting to do Something until the circumstances are ideal is a sure-fire prescription for never doing Something.
The weave on this shirt was almost impossible to see. I very very carefully followed the impression of what I thought the book said based on a cursory glance at the illustration.
I did my best to do a consistent weave but I can guarantee I failed. The final product, however, didn’t look half bad!
Plus, the darn is nearly in my armpit so who’s going to notice it anyway! So what do you think, Miss Ashely? B+? Eh?