The Stitch Rebellion

As our governor began to list the dead yesterday evening, chants from the protestors outside drowned him out. He sighed, explained that this wasn’t about popularity. He would save as many lives as he could save, despite the protestors campaigning for him to let people die by reopening our economy.

It reminded me of a parable I read in the Bible ages ago. There was a shepherd who left his flock of 99 sheep in order to search for the single lamb who had wandered off. Preachers tend to use that parable to illustrate how the Christian God cares so much that they don’t want to lose anyone. Considering that our governor is trying to save lives, is deliberately challenging a society that says money is more important than human life, that parable seems to match this situation.

What would the shepherd in that parable do if his flock were in danger of dying from coronavirus? I pondered that for a long while last night. I do believe that that shepherd from the tale of old would do whatever he could to save as many sheep as he could – even if the sheep weren’t happy with his choices, especially if the wolves were whispering that they needed to endanger themselves, even endanger others rather than obey the shepherd.

To me, this is about so much more than Coronavirus now as I think upon the situation. We have corporate CEOs and other rich people who are upset because the economic shutdown is endangering their yachts and their summers in the Hamptons. They don’t like the thought of losing money so they are campaigning to eliminate restrictions, even at the cost of human lives.

Even now, as medical workers die, essential workers are falling ill and dying as well, and neither their employers nor the organization who was formed to protect them give a shit. They are expendable; we are all considered expendable in the money-making machine that is our current society.

At least it’s out in the open now; at least we know what the major corporations think about us. We are just fodder for their money machine. We need to work their jobs and buy their stuff even if it kills us because they need money to quarantine on their yachts.

These were my thoughts as I continued to rearrange my living room to make a home for the sewing machine. As I tidied, I stumbled upon a ripped sheet that I’d intended to reuse as scrap along with a pillowcase with failed seams. Rather than continue to use them, I was going to recycle them and replace them with new. I wadded them up to place them in my scrap bag.

But then I paused. What if, instead of scrapping them and buying replacements, I patched them instead? I’ve got quite a bit of random fabric scraps here. Both kids have given me their discards and I’ve quite a few mask scraps as well; what if I used the true scrap to repair these items and keep them in service?

I grabbed a leftover piece of tee shirt from the scrap bag, pinned it beneath the tear on my sheet, and started stitching. I initially began to stitch by hand but as I worked I grew angry. We have been programmed to believe that it is wrong to repair items; if something isn’t shiny and new and perfect, if it doesn’t match the decor in some fancy magazine, it is wrong. It is wrong and we are wrong if we don’t do what the corporations want us to do. We should toss our old crap and buy their new stuff, even if we can repair it because that’s what keeps them rich.

I grabbed a colorful spool of thread from my box, a spool of thread my kids picked from a clearance pile when they were small. Deliberately selecting a random, mismatched bobbin, I stuck that sheet upon my machine and went to work.

I vented my rage upon that patch, deliberately experimenting with random stitches as I sewed. When one bobbin ran out, I grabbed another and kept sewing until that patch ended up being a statement of rebellion.

Because fuck the system that says everything must be picture perfect. Forget the system that says we must toss our old stuff and replace it with new. Why not go back in time, to how the Japanese would continue to layer new fabrics upon old items for years in a method called Boro?

This is what the patch looked like after I vented my rage:

The backside of the patch. This won’t show when the sheet is on the bed.
The top side that will show. I went wild playing with the stitches as I vented my frustration upon the patch.
The patched sheet back in action. To my surprise, my patch gave Katie a giggle. She thinks it’s a great idea.

I know it’s not perfect but you know what; it works. It works, and it’s one less sheet I have to purchase from some stupid corporation who thinks money is more important than people. This sheet was purchased at a thrift shop at least 15 years ago and if I have my way, I’ll patch it from now until Hell freezes over, just because I can.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe that we need to toss things that aren’t perfect, but why not embrace the imperfection instead? Why don’t we go back to the ways of our ancestors who used to repair things instead of throwing them away? We can not only help our environment by keeping things out of landfills and reducing consumption, we can save money and quietly protest the corporations who want us to toss our old and buy their crap instead.

So instead of tossing that shirt or that sheet or whatever it is into the rag pile or even into the trash, take a good long look at it instead. Can you repair it and keep it in service instead?

And remember: this isn’t just about sheets. You can keep your car running, like my friend who ordered the mechanic to replace the motor in her truck instead of taking his advice to purchase another vehicle. You can keep your old computers in use instead of buying a new one. You can take old stuff and make it into something different when you get bored. You can even recycle leftovers into a completely different meal. You can do this in so many different ways, and each time you do that you make this world a better place.

If you happen to have something that you’ve somehow patched, repaired, or recycled around your home, please share your story in the comments below. Let’s show the world that this is a good thing.


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

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10 thoughts on “The Stitch Rebellion”

  1. Great post! I love your repair job. I love to sew and enjoy repairing clothing and other items. I hate wasting things and throwing away things that are still usable.

    1. Thank you, Tina! I’m a bit out of practice but to my surprise, it’s coming back rather quickly. I’m using this machine so much these days that the kid has went from “here, you can use my machine” to telling me that the machine is a gift since I’ve used it so much since she revealed that she possessed it.

      Who would have imagined that we would reach an age where clothing would be a challenge to come by? Even my local fabric store is saying that she can’t obtain certain solids from her suppliers, so the art of reusing fabric might become even more of a necessity.

      As for me, I’m enjoying the challenge. I’m looking at this as my personal rebellion against consumerism. It’s either that or watch my head explode at the sudden shift in circumstances.

  2. When my daughter got too tall for her slacks I cut them crossway about halfway down her calf then sewed a wide embroidered ribbon between the two sides of the cut making them a few inches longer. That was years ago but I’m still proud of finding that solution.

    I have a friend whose husband has a white collar job. When the collars and cuffs on his dress shirts get frayed. She removes them, turns them inside out, and sews them back on making each shirt last twice as long.

    1. Those are brilliant ideas, Linda! When the kids were young, I would build extra-wide hems into the legs. As they grew I would use that extra fabric to “grow” the pants with them. If I ran out of hem before they ran out of legs I would locate a colorful fabric scrap and create a bit of a ruffled hem at the very bottom. I’d not thought about using ribbon. That’s genius!

      I remember my mother converting my father’s long-sleeve button down shirts (he refused to wear pullovers) into short-sleeve shirts when he would wear the elbows out, so that’s an option as well. I like the thought of turning the collars and cuffs inside out, though. I’ve got a few button-down shirts here that I wear as an extra layer when it’s a bit chilly; at least one of those is starting to wear on the collar. You have given me an idea….

  3. Hi Annie, sewing up a storm I see “)

    I’ve been thinking about my garden already…as most of my city is shut down and i am looking forward to planting stuff in about a month from now….
    I was thinking about buying some top soil. Then I did what I blog about…which is upcycle stuff I can find…for cheap or free and use that instead.
    So I went on an epic walk in the park…toting one of my fab homemade handknit bags….and collected pine cones….
    Then I brought them home proudly and stomped them into my garden soil….aeration and biodiversity infusion methinks? 🙂

    Hi five Annie,

    1. I’ve never heard of using pine cones that way. Thank you for the idea! I don’t have a lot of pines in this area but I’ll definitely look for some now! I did see something where you could plant a pine cone to grow your own pine tree a while back – I’ve told myself that I’m going to try that if I stumble upon a pine cone, so now I have a reason to collect several!

      As for sewing, I never realized just how much I did with a sewing machine until well after I eliminated the one I had during the move to this place. While part of me is frustrated at the misstep; I am also immensely thankful at the experience. If I hadn’t eliminated my machine all of those years ago, I may have continued to take my sewing ability for granted. Now I am fully aware of just how useful the skill is!

  4. I have been mending clothing. My biggest project lately is a patchwork quilt cover. We have 3 dogs so I bought quilt cover to protect the couch… well they are all microfiber (hate it) and made in China. The first one we bought has not held up well at all. the print has worn right off. I decided to use my existing fabric stash and make a crazy quilt patchwork and sew it onto the couch cover. Still working on it but I love it! It’s coming together great and will add a nice bohemian look and a pop of color to my living room! 

    I also fixed up an old grapevine wreath. I did buy some dollar Tree flowers for it. and hot glued them on. I feel kind of badly because I know that the flowers, like most things at Dollar Tree were made in China…  

    I just painted and redecorated my room and my DDs room. We used “oops paints”, pain from Freecycle and bought very little paint, but were able to paint the whole rooms with a new color! Then I refinished a free dresser I got last summer off freecycle for myself because up until then I only had one small armoire for my stuff. I got lamps off Freecycle and shades. I found a nice tapestry at a thrift shop to use to make a curtain for over DDs closet (we don’t have closet doors) we got some art work at the thrift shop super cheap…  I had a mirror my dad had given me many years ago and it’s been in my garage all this time. We cleaned it up and fashioned a way to hang it and now it’s in DDs room. I did that and then thought to myself, “this is why I save crap!” LOL! 

    1. Oh wow, I’m impressed!

      Back when I was married, we had several walls in our house that had nothing but the studs showing. My husband brought in a bunch of scrap pieces of plywood one day so I cut those up and pieced them to make walls. Some drywall mud and paint fixed it so that you could not tell that the wall was nothing more than a bunch of random boards pieced together. I was so proud. I don’t even think I had to buy the drywall mud back then – I doubt that I could have afforded it.

      I’ve collected discarded paint, mixed it all together to make a single color, and used that to paint walls in the past as well. It allowed me to use up all of those little drips and drams from a huge collection of paint my husband acquired from somewhere.

      I’ve got an old throw that I’ve tacked up to the front door to use as a curtain. I hate washing it because it’s so old that the fabric (the fuzzy stuff), lints off in the washer to create giant messes, so I stuck it somewhere that I wouldn’t have to wash it very often. I’m thinking of cutting it down a bit to not only make official curtains, but using the leftovers from that project to cover another small window in my house.

      I’ll post about those projects as I do them. Right now I’ve ended up with a backlog of things to sew. The kid has all but ordered a complete new wardrobe these days and the mask orders won’t stop coming lol!

  5. Love love love this post! So glad I was raised by frugal think outside of the box parents. I mended quite a few things over the weekend. My son wanted to get rid of his cargo pants. I decided to ask why. He said he only likes cargo SHORTS not Pants! Well, I can fix that! I used the fabric I cut off to patch my favorite cargo shorts that had sprung a bunch of holes. So son has a new pair of shorts and I can wear my favorite around the house:yard shorts again! I also repaired 6 pair of underwear and sewed new tops for two ottomans in the living room rather than replacing them. I found just enough upholster Fabric in a neutral color in my fabric chest to do the job.

    1. Brilliant solutions, Julia! I am so proud of you!

      I’ve been patching quite a few things around here lately. To my surprise, I’ve enjoyed that more than I enjoy making new stuff. I’m definitely going to explore that.

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