My lovely purple cardigan is beginning to show its age. I know how it feels. Mum and I bought one each years ago – hers is red- at a time when you expected clothes that you bought to last.
So have been sewing up a couple of holes and enjoying the practicality of mending. My grandfather was a tailor and I spent many happy hours as a child threading needles, getting the bobbins sorted, making pincushions. It was fun and touching to remember him and my grandmother who was a great story teller and one of the kindest, funniest people I ever met. One of my earliest memories is lying on her lap in her tiny garden while she stroke my hair and told me stories.
As I was sewing I also thought of my French great-grandmother Pauline who was thrift personified and would have approved of my mending, though probably would have made a better job of it – she was famous in the family for her invisible mending skills. When she got over the shock of my Mum marrying an Englishman and living abroad, one of her first questions was, ‘qui est-ce qui te racommode?‘ – who’s doing your mending? Mum was the intellectual of the family, but every family also had someone who did mending and dressmaking, my cousin Odette’s neighbour Ginette was a marvel with her needle, could adjust, let out, design anything in an afternoon. Grandmere Pauline nearly died of shock when Mum said she’d just throw Dad’s socks away and buy new ones if they developed holes.
But here we are years later and they’re all smiling at me, peering over my shoulder and giving me the inevitable advice as to how I could improve my mending skills.