Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good deeds

Every now and then I like to do a good deed or two for my loved ones, and this week's deeds both had to do with mending.  The last time Zoe came over, wearing her hand-me-down warm winter coat, it looked a little bedraggled, with a sleeve strap hanging loose and buttons missing.  I was too busy fixing Christmas dinner to deal with it, but when she came over yesterday the time was right!

I cannibalized places inside the coat to find a few replacement buttons, but finally had to root through the button box for almost-matches.  Nobody will ever notice the non-matching button holding the hood to the neckline, and probably nobody will notice the non-matching sleeves unless it's a fashion-conscious cop handcuffing her behind her back.

That left the front, where we needed one semi-functional and one cosmetic button to complete the double-breasted look.  (Semi-functional in that the top button on the right side of the coat secured a functional button on the inside.)  I put an almost-matching button on the top, where it will be visible only when the collar is turned up.

What about that last cosmetic-only button?  If it were my own coat I would have moved the second button down to the bottom, and filled the second space with an ultrasuede heart or a bright orange button.  But Zoe voted to leave well enough alone.  I reminded her to hold her purse over the blank spot if she's being photographed.

In doing this repair job I was reminded of the sheer volume of work required to properly attach a button that has to go through a heavy layer.  You need a little button on the back side to relieve the tension and keep the thread from cutting through the fabric.  You need to hold the button up from the surface as you sew, to give yourself enough slack to clear the thickness of the coat.  You have to wrap those slack threads into a firm shank, and secure it firmly underneath.  And even on this particular half-length little girl's coat, you have to do it 13 times, plus three buttons that can simply be sewed on without shanks.  Tailoring doesn't happen in a minute.

By contrast, my good deed earlier this week was to mend a big tear in my husband's work shorts, which had been sitting in the studio since summer. 

What do guys do to their shorts to put symmetrical rips just above the cuffs?  Because there was an earlier mend on the other leg in exactly the same place.  This rip gave me the opportunity to do my favorite kind of repair: one that doesn't have to be really neat, just sturdy; that involves the sewing machine, not handstitching; that gets finished in minutes; and that uses whatever nice strong fabric happens to be out on the work table, as you can see from the back side view below.  I thought the most recent repair (at right in the photo above) was nicer than the earlier one, and briefly considered putting some more stitching into the old one, but stopped myself.  It's mending, not art.

So, two jobs done.  That should fill my good deed quota for the rest of the year!


  1. LOL well done...the shorts are indeed, artistic

  2. My husband's shorts get the same rips and almost the same patches!

  3. I always use hand quilting thread when sewing buttons on a coat. It is super strong and the coat will rip before that button comes off. I have been doing a lot of alterations and repairs lately from hemming, taking in waistbands, to replacing coat zippers. It really can be a pain in the tush, but since I have done it so much over my life I have gotten pretty fast at it.

  4. Patty - I have always used coat and button thread. I have never done a side-by-side comparison with hand quilting thread, but now that you mention it, I have hand quilting thread in lots of colors and the fact that it's waxed might make it easier to use. Thanks for a good idea!