Ben came to me the other morning, distressed, showing me his favorite pair of pants with a rip in the knee. He said, with desperation, “You’ve GOT to fix these! What are we going to DO?” (Have I mentioned he’s a tad theatrical?)
Once we realized all of his other pants were in the hamper and that the bus was coming in thirty minutes, I agreed that we did kind of have a situation on our hands. I excused myself, went to my room, and returned with a little sewing kit I picked up at CVS about a year ago. When I bought it, I was thinking about how lame it looked compared to what my mother had when I was a child. She had an actual sewing box, floral and quilted, with a brass latch on front and bins with different levels inside. There were mismatched plastic and tortoise-shell buttons that clicked together in your hand when you held them, and spools of thread in ink and candy colors. And the needles, with different sized eyes, a threader, and a thimble I knew she never used. She wasn’t darning socks by gaslight or anything, but she might stitch a hem, refasten a fallen button, or move one to bring in or let out the waist just a touch.
I settled for the kit made in China, a compact plastic see-through zipped bag, in the sale bin by the register. The hotels don’t even give out those little mending kits anymore, so forget about tucking those in your suitcase and counting on having its single needle and twelve inches of thread on hand.
Ben looked at the kit, and said, “But what are you going to DO with it? You don’t know how to USE those things!” (Again, the drama this kid brings is just incredible).
He watched as I threaded the needle with navy blue thread, doubled it, knotted the end. I folded the sides of the rip, tucked the frayed ends inside, and pressing the straight edges together, pushed the needle through the cotton, catching the fabric inside the fold, muttering, “I think I can do an inside stitch where you won’t even see it”.
You would’ve thought he discovered I was running a spa for hamsters in the attic by the look on his face. “Wow. Will you teach me how to do that?” he asked.
“Sure. It’s not a bad thing to know, how to sew a button back on yourself. Remind me. I’ll show you.”
He wanted to know how I learned. It’s not that I’m crafty like all those women stitching up tea cozies or fingerless gloves or felted bird crib mobiles on Etsy, but I know enough to know that a needle and thread and a little know-how puts you in a pretty good position. There is something quite satisfying about sewing a button back on in line with his pearly brothers and sisters. The way you leave just a hair of slack in the thread so that there’s not too much pressure when you push the button through its hole. Over time that thing will just pop off if you sew it too tight.
I told him about how my mother had gotten me sewing lessons with our neighbor, Mrs. Liddle. She had two young boys and a girl around my age, who just happened to be the cutest, most petite little thing, and I could never get over that her name was Kim Liddle and that she was so little. Kim and I took these lessons together and I don’t remember most of it, but I do remember that we made these lunch sacks out of a coated cotton calico and sewed a channel for the thick rope that cinched it closed. And of course we made pillows, which is where I learned that little invisible-inside-seam stitch. You need it to close up the little spot in a corner where you pushed in the stuffing. Mrs. Liddle was quiet and patient.
Ben was wide-eyed.
“Yes, Ben. My dirty little secret. I actually do know my way around a needle and thread. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone”.
He was startled, almost. Who isn’t when realizing you have no idea who your mother really is after all? She can do things you didn’t know she could do. All along, she was like this sorceress carrying spells and you never even suspected.
Image found on Pinterest