When I originally thought about all the answers to the question Why Mend? I came up with 11 reasons, and I am sure there are many many more.
I had grand plans to write a post about each one of them, but May is whizzing past in a blur of wonderful mendiness, and it might be time to admit to myself that this probably won’t happen.
However, I’m ploughing on, and we’re up to Number 5, and today I want to talk about the new skills that mending teaches us.
Not so very long ago, the basic skills needed for mending would have been commonplace. So commonplace they probably didn’t even warrant a second thought. Girls were taught needlework (along with lessons on how to keep house, but lets leave that debate for another day..!) and boys had woodwork lessons at school. Consequently, when our grandparents left school, they were pretty much guaranteed to be able to sew on a button and/or put up a shelf.
These days, not so much.
I don’t remember ever being taught to sew at school. Certainly at my secondary school, there were no sewing machines, so when I decided I wanted to learn to sew seven or eight years ago, I was genuinely scared and had no actual idea what a bobbin was.
And I can’t be alone.
Perodically, articles hit the mainstream press about how useless ‘young people’ are nowadays at the everyday practical life skills. And although I doubt I qualify as a ‘young person’ anymore, I definitely left school without any formal teaching to enable me to even be able to sew on a button.
The loss of what were once considered everyday skills has more profound impacts than the odd missing button on a shirt cuff.
It shackles us the big retailers and manufacturers.
Without the skills needed to effect simple repairs ourselves, our only options are to pay someone else to do it for us, or to ditch that thing and replace it with a new one. And with fast fashion and cheap clothes taking over our High Streets, it is often (depressingly) cheaper to buy new, than to pay someone to repair something for us.
So we are caught in a cycle of cheaply made, mass produced things, that are designed specifically not to last, and not to be repairable, that then break, and need replacing. And we head straight back out and buy more of the same thing.
Having a few simple skills enables us to break free from this vicious cycle, where the only winner is the shareholders of the retail companies, and where there are so, so many losers.
Since embarking on My Make Do and Mend Year, and embracing all things mending, I’ve had many a chat with friends about the fact that they can’t mend. And that they rely on their mums, or grans, or aunties for simple sewing jobs and textile repairs.
It strikes me that unless we start to make an effort to learn these skills for ourselves, then when these people we rely on for help are no longer around, we really will be a bit stuck. And then when our children turn to us to ask for help…
Choosing to mend my things, rather than constantly replacing them, has forced me to learn new skills. Skills that I am now a little embarrassed that I didn’t have.
One of the first things I learned to do was sew on a button. And then I had a go at darning. And now I am a huge fan of Sashiko style repairs on my jeans.
None of these things are difficult, and none of them have to be done perfectly. I am living proof of that!
Despite the doom and gloom about the demise of mending, and common mending skills, and the fact that these skills are no longer considered important enough to be taught in our schools, it is actually probably easier than ever to learn these skills for ourselves.
The ‘digital age’ means that anyone can learn, even if no-one else close to them knows how.
Whilst it is sad to think that these skills might no longer be passed on within families, from one generation to the next, they can (and are) still be passed on.
There is a whole wealth of information out there, available at the click of a button. And we are no longer restricted to line drawings in black and white books, but have access to glorious techni-colour videos courtesy of sites like You Tube, where we can watch someone doing the very thing we want to learn.
How amazing is that?
And it means that we can learn skills that maybe our mothers and grandmothers didn’t know. I’m pretty sure my Nana would have thought I was going to cook her up something exotic if I’d asked her about Sashiko, and as a skilled seamstress would almost definitely disapproved of my very visibly mended jeans, but thanks to the joys of the world wide web, I am able to seek out my own style, and learn how to adapt it for myself.
The other great way to learn new mending skills that wasn’t around even ten years ago, is to seek out a Repair Cafe, or other similar mending event (I wrote about them here).
These are a brilliant way of enabling the wealth of knowledge and skills that many older people possess, to be passed onto and used again and again.
“Society doesn’t always show much appreciation for the people who still have this practical knowledge, and against their will they are often left standing on the sidelines. Their experience is never used, or hardly ever. The Repair Café changes all that! People who might otherwise be sidelined are getting involved again. Valuable practical knowledge is getting passed on.”
From The Repair Cafe website.
Mending has made me learn new skills. And I keep finding new ways of doing things, and new techniques I want to try.
Without mending, I would never have embraced hand sewing, and all the mendful benefits that come with it.
And my world would be a poorer place for that.
How did you learn to mend?
Were you lucky enough to be taught by your mum, or did you learn at school?
Or were you like me and came to mending later in life, and had to find new ways to learn?
Hop over the the Mend It May Facebook group and share your experiences!
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