Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mending in French

One of my favorite things about early French life is how the women would repair a textile over and over again, giving it a whole new life...




The French would mend or patch a cloth until there was more mending than original piece. A really well-mended quilt might end up looking like a haphazard patchwork quilt. No more of the original fabric to mend the quilt? - no problem, just use Pierre's butcher apron. No thread to match the original weave? - don't worry about it, just use what happens to be threaded in the needle. The more primitive the better, if you ask me. Now when I find myself digging through old textiles, I am looking for a patch or a repair, something that shows me that the piece was used to death - a small clue into the past life of the cloth. If it is a beautiful, fine reweaving of the original cloth, I think maybe the woman went to convent schools and was taught by the nuns. If the repair is rough and simple, I wonder if it was a young girl in charge of the textile repairs for her home. The amount of time and energy they put in to salvaging their household textiles is staggering - but if you figure they may have only had one quilt, two torchons and a single sheet (for life) - I guess they had no other option than to live by the golden rule, make do and mend.


11 comments:

Jillayne said...

Great Post!
I'm with you - it's all about pieces from the past that had enough meaning to someone to take the time to mend it. And to be able to lay my own hands on that... a truly wonderful thing!

Nancy said...

What a lovely post and such beautiful pictures.

Nancy said...

What a lovely way to look at vintage linens and appreciate the repairs. Now I want to run out and find some!

The French Bear said...

I always think the about the person who took the time to make the delicate little stitches when I see them.....what did they think of when they were doing this, what kind of life did they have and what did they use the linen for....it makes me think of how hard women worked way back then...and usually by candle light too!
Margaret B

Mandy said...

What a lovely post. I too appreciate the effort and time spent saving pieces of linen. While fabric hunting in France last year I spent ages searching through a cupboard just to find such pieces when I showed the owner my choice he tried to sell me the perfect ones and looked at me as if I were crazy when I refused his offer!

becky up the hill said...

Lovely story. The vtg Edwardian undies I shared about in a previous post, well the pantaloons have patches. 'Pantaloos with a Patch'..I'm gonna write a book. Okay, I'm not, but it has a catchy title.

Jill@northstarquilting said...

What a beautiful idea. I can see the little girls get watched over by the nuns as they repair their linens

Vicki K. said...

The texture and pattern improves those pieces practically and aesthetically!

Robin Thomas said...

Oh yes, Kaari, so very dear.

XO!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Very thoughtful and thought-provoking. I learned to mend in middle school home ec class and it definitely requires attention and maybe finesse. I think your post contrasts well with today's consumer society. I collect my fabric stash from used clothing bought in flea markets and I've never run across anything mended.
Thanks for an excellent post.
best, nadia

Gilding the Lily said...

Lovely post and lovely thoughts, Kaari. I have fond memories of my grandmother darning, and have her old sewing cabinet...