Tag Archives: holes

Darn it pills and lint

I spent an evening this week closing up the holes in some of our sweaters.  I’ve been seeing beautiful and skillful examples of mending in the blogisphere lately and though lovely, they make me feel anxious.  Must I learn to do everything perfectly?  To have textile conservator-level mending skills to make repairs nearly invisible or mad creative ones to do a perfect herringbone in a cheeky accent color?  Don’t get me wrong, I love these things and love that someone is doing them and doing them well, but for me, I still embrace  absolute utilitarianism and efficiency when it comes to darning/mending/repairing.  I also usually wait until I have at least three garments that need to be fixed before I sit down to do them, even though it means I’ll probably need three different thread colors and it would have taken just as much time to do them one at a time.   All of the items that got a new lease on life were thrift store finds (some decades old) and I’m always what- amazed, impressed, happy?  I don’t quite know the feeling, but that these things have endurance and history, both unknown and our own, and can outlive us.

Darn-elbow

N’s favorite cashmere sweater is just a few years old and was probably fairly new when it was given up by its original owner.  (Unbeknownst to me my sister-in-law gave my brother the exact same as a [new] gift around the same time I found N’s in the thrift store.)  He wore it for work and not-work and everything in between several times a week and this year his elbow popped through.  It’s now been patched but retired from work-wear.

darn-pills

I’m also chief pill-picker.  I hate pills but I somewhat, and somewhat perversely, like picking them off.  I’ll periodically give an item a good pick and then a vigorous brushing and I’m always amazed about how much fuzzy detritus comes away… how much crap we carry around on us and how a sweater can continue to shed yet never feel as if it’s going bald overall.  But I do really hate pills on hand-knits (I’m looking at you Malabrigo!) especially when you’ve done a textured stitch and the pills hide in little valleys.

darn-lint

That little pile of pills and fuzz got me thinking about hoarders (and my fear of becoming one, though I do draw the line with things that rot and stink as being only for trash/compost).  And then N bought some new kitchen towels – some white, some red – that gave off this nice rose-pink lint in the dryer.  I know dryer lint has many uses, and once upon a time when I made paper I often used the stuff, but to keep it now seems a little excessive.  I can’t compost, don’t have a pet, haven’t spilled any oil, don’t need to start a fire, and I’m not making paper or papier mache at the moment…

…or will I be?

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My old cardigan friend, (damn you golf again), and bullying because of thrifting…

I’ve had this c. 1950s/60s men’s alpaca cardigan sweater since the late 1980s.

cardigan full

It was among my first “thrift scores” and I have loved it ever since.  It warmed me through the amalgamated post-hippie/punk/ folk/college-rock years dubbed “alternative” (or “art-fag” if you were stupid and from my neck of the woods), a dabbling of grunge, a decades long love of emo-ish hardcore, and even got away with looking like a hip “boyfriend” sweater the last few years.  It’s been paired with Sex Pistols t-shirts and vintage hippie skirts, over-sized R.E.M. t-shirts and leggings, strategically torn jeans, boot cut jeans, and then leggings again.  I’ve mended it many times, but my elbow finally poked through one of the sleeves the other day.

cardigan hole

So at the moment, it’s not doing very well – I don’t think I want to sew on the classic professorial suede elbow patches, so I may go with some wool tweed.  And I can’t get Weezer’s Undone out of my head to save my life (even though this isn’t what the song is about).

Highly uncharacteristically of me, I never noticed or looked up label before until now…

cardigan label

And oh holy hell, what have I got here, something to do with golf again!?!?

Yep,  Gene Littler was a golf champ and probably got his own line of sportswear in the 1950s or ’60s.  At least he had good taste in fibers and got behind a smart timeless design…

But back on the subject of thrifting – I’m not quite sure when and how I got started.  Like most families in our rural area, we had a single modest income and were extremely conservative* with money.  Our food budget was supplemented by a lush garden and the slaughtering of our chickens and rabbits.  Horse camp?  Nope, I couldn’t go, or any other childhood activity that required fees.  Clothing was homemade, handed-down (yes I wore my brothers’) and never purchased at full price.  However, as a small child, my mother liked dressing me in Polly Flinders hand-smocked dresses from a previous decade.  I believe she found them in consignment shops or garage sales and recognized some of the quality handiwork that went into them (possibly from sweatshops in the ’60s maybe?).  And thankfully she stopped acquiring them when my tomboy-hood banned all things smocked, gathered, and frilled, but I believe this is what set the precedent for obtaining used clothing.

I also have a clear memory of the second grade and being on the outer ring of a group of girls surrounding a lone victim wearing a dress I had secretly liked but was clearly from an earlier generation – a blue pinafore or jumper** with colorful embroidery (I think it was a pattern of small fish).  The ringleader of the mean girls, whose name I recall was actually Ashley, taunted the girl (I’ll call Pam) without her realization of what was happening along the lines of:

Ashley:  [Sneeringly] I like your dress Pam.

Pam: [Shyly blushing and looking downward] Oh, thank you!

Ashley:  Where did you get, it?

Pam: [Brightening] Oh, I actually found it at Goodwill!

Ashley: [Sneering even more] What is that?  Is that a fancy new shop downtown?

[Ashley’s friends break out in cruel giggles]

Though this taunting was pretty tame, I am ashamed now that I didn’t punch Ashley, but I pretty much knew from then on I wouldn’t be friends with her or the others for the next ten years at school.  I remember going to a small birthday party for Pam at the local trailer park once, but shortly thereafter something started to go terribly wrong with her or her life and she often just cried by herself on the playground.  Though the school was tiny, I lost track of her.  She was one of the first to die from our class after graduation – I don’t know what happened.

Knowing I too was on the fringe and would never be a cheerleader, jock-cock sucker, star athlete, or sweet hometown homecoming queen, and I’d always have a long strange ethnic name in a sea of Smiths and Jones, was not the same religion as most of my peers, came from a liberal outspoken family, got good grades, was a band freak, was tall for my age and flat-chested to boot (then), and even the stupid fact of being the only one with a summer birthday and never having the class recognize it, and therefore me, gave me a solid f*ck-all-ya’ll attitude that the “alternative” culture embraced.  So even though I was shoved and locked in lockers, voted off the lunch table, and hid in the bathroom whenever dodge-ball was assigned, I knew life was better outside of that shithole school and town.  Thrifting was an escape, a way to time-travel, and it felt good to occupy the fabric skins of others who had passed through their shitty youths and were on to something better.

Though once in a while I did think about how the former owners of my duds could have died long lonely deaths, or still be around and be even more miserable than me…

*Conservative only in personal finance, certainly not in politics – many in the area were crazy right-wingers and their children are probably teabagging preppers these days… hopefully they don’t believe in voting.

**Brits call sweaters and pullovers “jumpers” but what do they call the sleeveless dress that you have to wear a shirt underneath?

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