BY HAND

Take a few stitches, learn to mend

Posted July 18, 2011, at 1:35 p.m.

Mending by hand with needle and thread is probably a skill that has faded quietly away never to be revived by future generations, but it ought to be, because simple mending of clothing or other items made of cloth is a way to save money in hard economic times, prolongs the life of favorite garments that otherwise might be consigned to thrift shops, landfills or yard sales, and gives the mender a measure of pride and satisfaction for a job well done.

Mending requires only a needle and a spool of thread at a cost of under $3 — less than that if you have relatives who might lend those items. The mender doesn’t have to be highly skilled. The stitches the mender will need to know are the running stitch, back stitch, hem stitch and blind stitch. To learn basic hand sewing stitches go to www.coatsandclark.comor search YouTube to find video demonstrations of various mending stitches and techniques.

Recently, I discovered that a favorite skirt with an elastic waistband was too tight around my middle. Here’s how I mended it: With a pair of sharp pointed sewing scissors, I snipped a few stitches of the waistband casing to reveal the elastic. I pulled the elastic through the opening until about 3 inches were visible, which I cut in two. I cut a 2-inch piece of elastic to place between the two cut ends of the skirt elastic. I sewed the ends of the new elastic to the ends of the old elastic using an “up and down” stitch, as if I were sewing on a button. Once the new elastic was in place, I stitched the casing back together with a blind stitch. I have done a similar operation on waistbands that were too large — after cutting the old elastic in two, I overlapped the pieces by an inch or two and sewed it in place.

If a seam tears out, look at it as an opportunity to to do a bit of mending. First, pin the edges together with straight pins, then using a back stitch and following the line of the old stitching, sew the seam to repair it. It might take five minutes.

Sewing on a missing button also can be construed as mending. Most ready-made garments come with extra buttons sewn to one of its seams or in a tiny plastic bag attached to the paper label that comes with the garment. There’s a reason for this — the manufacturer is confident that if a button falls off and is lost, the garment owner can sew on the extra one provided. It doesn’t matter if the sewing thread is the exact hue of the original thread. No one will notice. But if you want a perfect thread match, take the garment to a fabric shop and find thread that will match.

The hems of sheets and towels sometimes come loose after repeated washings. These can be repaired with a hemstitch, a small task that will add months of life to the items and save the cost of replacing them.

And speaking of hems, when one comes undone, it’s not the end of that garment as you know it. It’s just one more mending mission. If the hem tears at work and no sewing kit is handy, use tape to hold it it place or employ the power of a safety pin or two.

Assembling your own private sewing kit is easy and can be fun. Ask friends or relatives if they have sewing needles, buttons or spools of thread they don’t want. Cut a small square of fabric and push the needles through to make them easy to find. Use a canning jar, old tin or recycled plastic container to store mending supplies in. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be at hand when a mending job needs to be done.

It really is true: A stitch in time saves nine.

Snippets

The Blue Hill Fine Craft Show will be held 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, July 23, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, July 24, at the Blue Hill Consolidated School, located in the village center of Blue Hill at 60 High St.

The show will feature 45 of Maine’s craftsmen, including the furniture of Geoffrey Warner, the weaving for the body and home of Chris Leith, and the jewelry of Lisa Svedberg and Thomas Whiting. In addition, visitors will find home accessories, blown glass, tiles, lamps, woven carpets, pottery, artist books, woodcarvings and more.

The show, organized by lighting craftsman Stuart Loten, is an invitational showcase. Most of the craftsmen are nationally recognized, with some having shown at the most prestigious shows in the country, including the Smithsonian Craft Show and the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show.

Admission is $5, free to children 16 and under.

To see samples of work by the craftsmen with links to their websites and details about the show, visit www.BlueHillFineCraftShow.com.

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or email ahamlin@bangordailynews.com.

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