I have just finished sewing a gym badge onto a leotard, mending a slit in a school jumper and fixing a hole in one of my tops. But instead of feeling a sense of satisfaction I am left with neck ache and a realisation that I am not a natural when it comes to this sort of thing.
My generation was brought up with the philosophy that if something is broken then go out and buy a new one. But at some point during my adult life the ‘make do and mend’ mentality has returned and I feel as though I am supposed to be able to suddenly start making dresses out of an old pair of curtains and similar such things.
During my school days we were taught how to sew, but from what I remember it was more of a token effort, one that meant a box could be ticked somewhere (I also did woodwork but I wouldn’t claim to be able to know what to do if you gave me a piece of wood and a saw). My mum, on the other hand, came from the generation where girls were taught how to be good wives and sewing and cooking featured high on the agenda. If ever I needed anything mended I would ask her and she would do it with ease. I’m ashamed to admit that I went straight to my mum to sew up a hem or stitch on a button even when I was well into my adult life.
It wasn’t until I moved away from home and had children of my own that I needed to call upon those long lost sewing skills; sewing elastic on to ballet shoes, stitching up hems on school trousers and now attaching badges to leotards etc. It is too embarrassing to ask mum to do it and it is frowned upon to throw out perfectly good items of clothing these days, so I’ve forced myself to comply with the trend.
I even got a sewing machine last year thinking that it would inspire me, but all I have managed to do is sew a bunting flag for the Jubilee party and rearrange two old shirts into art aprons. We pretended the wavy stitching line on the flag was done on purpose and I believe the art aprons have never come out of the girls’ lockers due to sheer embarrassment. I haven’t used the sewing machine since because the thread ran out and I don’t know how to change it. I think it’s called a bobbin and the only knowledge I have of bobbins is from a popular childrens song I know. It goes ‘wind the bobbin up, wind the bobbin up, pull, pull, clap, clap, clap’ but I don’t think that is going to help me somehow.
I envy those people who can take an old rag and make something beautiful from it, or turn their old clothes into something new, I really do. But I just don’t think that’s me. I don’t have the vision or the skill, so I’m not going to pretend anymore or feel embarrassed about it. I will keep on with the hems and the buttons and the odd split here and there, and oh, there will no doubt be more badges, but that’s as far as it will go.
My daughter asked me how to knit the other day . . .