A Bubble Off Plumb

Mending a futile undertaking

Posted 3/9/21

When the children were little, especially the three oldest girls, I sewed all the time.

As a stay-at-home mom, I was always whipping up cute little outfits for them and making my own clothing …

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A Bubble Off Plumb

Mending a futile undertaking


When the children were little, especially the three oldest girls, I sewed all the time.

As a stay-at-home mom, I was always whipping up cute little outfits for them and making my own clothing while also creating all their costumes for Halloween and anything else they might need, want or desire. The oldest one came home from elementary school one fall day to tell me she had volunteered me to make cheer costumes for the whole squad — 13 girls, as I recall. On top of that, I often did sewing for the public and was a seamstress for a local company that sold costumes for re-enactors. 

Over the years, I made costumes for Snow White, a pumpkin, a Tootsie Roll and multiple poodle skirts. I decked out ladies pretending they were living in the past, going to a ball or simply walking down the boulevard.

By the time the two younger kids came along, I had slowed down a lot. I was no longer staying at home, and had branched out to quilting. Even that was sporadic at best.

When we resettled into this house, my sewing was almost non-existent. The last thing I did was finish a quilt top I’d found at a thrift store, so crooked there was no way to right it. But I completed it and gave it to the corgi, who doesn’t own a tape measure and does not care how crooked his little comforter is.

Then the cold spell hit, like I had been warned it would. By the first afternoon I was out of cleaning projects, except the car, and why would I work on it just to take it out on the snowy highway the next day?

So I dove into the mending bag. Bad mistake. 

I put new buttons on long handles, only to discover they had dry rotted while waiting for the closures. I repaired torn shirts to find they now stopped at the boy’s elbows because he hadn’t worn it since he was 10. That was a lot of years and many, many inches ago. 

There were jeans in need of zippers, belt loops reattached or patches for the barbed wire hickies. They were all summarily repaired, patched or re-zippered, only to find they were relics from the early 2000s.

Once I had realized the futility of the mending bag, I instead harvested the buttons and zippers to put to other uses. Then I started digging into quilting projects that had been set aside. 

Each and every one brought back the time and place they had begun and the inspiration for them. Many of them were in various states of completion while others were still only stacks of fabric, with ideas folded into the middle. 

There was the stack intended to be my youngest daughter’s wedding quilt. She has been married for nearly seven years. I tried to convince myself I wanted to make sure it was going to last, but even I didn’t believe that. 

I found a beautiful linen pillowcase tied shut with a red grosgrain ribbon. Inside it was filled with other bits of ribbon, rick rack, lace and trimmings of all sorts, many of them vintage. The pillowcase goes with a plastic tote full of my and my sibling’s christening gowns, my mother’s wedding dress, and various other hold overs from days long gone. One day it will all go into a crazy quilt with memories in every stitch.

That doesn’t even touch on the patterns I started that I didn’t like after a couple of blocks, or ones the kids or husband disliked the colors or pattern in and firmly vetoed. 

It all made me wonder two things. One, why was I still hauling all this stuff around? Goodness knows my family has complained about the space it takes and how often they have had to move it from one spot to another. 

The other is, what am I waiting for? I’m not getting any younger, and none of the kids will want this stuff, even though they eagerly accept the quilts as they get finished. I’m not so busy I can’t spare a few minutes in the evening to do a little each day. 

That is, until it gets warm and there is gardening to do and hens and rabbits to care for. That kind of work is always hard on clothing. And I can’t forget that we will need to lay in a winter’s worth of wood before fall returns. That really takes its toll on garments. Those clothes will get set aside in the summer and fall, accumulated in a sack in the back of the closet until cold weather traps us inside again.

Then it will get pulled out and repaired or recycled, only for me to move on to quilts or other projects, wondering why I didn’t complete those tasks last year, right after I finished the mending.


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