Mend It Better

I first heard about Mend It better via a Bath based Tweeter, mender, and contributor Eirlys Penn, which is interesting as the book itself is American and written by Kristin M. Roach of It’s not the usual type of book that I review but it is self help. It just happens to be about self help of the mending, fixin’ and patching variety! And I loved it so am sharing it with you now.

The book itself is collection of ‘how to’ chapters, such as how to deal with a broken zip or something as basic as sew up a hem. It’s also full of ideas for never wasting anything and ‘re-purposing’ items; its philosphy is very green:

Make a rule for yourself, as you venture from thrift shop to yard sales, to never pass up a fine fabric just because it’s not useful any longer for the purpose that it was intended. Good cloth is good cloth and often its next life is more exciting than its original.

But the chapter I was particularly drawn to was the one celebrating the evolution of sewing and the traditions of crafts being passed down through the generations, usually mother or matriarchal figure onto younger girls in the family. The author herself references her grandmother often and has dedicated this book to her, Phyllis Powell:

It has been a long road from running around my grandma’s sewing table to writing my own book. I went through a pretty punk phase of rejecting all things feminine when I was a teenager. Regrettably, during the years when I could have gained the most from my grandmother’s lifetime of sewing experience, I was not the least bit interested. Duct tape was the only mending tool I would go near….After my grandparents passed away I was left with a void that was open and painful. I refused to let my grandma’s sewing supplies be sold. My mom, seeing my pain, let me hold onto the bins and bins of my grandma’s fabric and yarn, her serger and sewing machine, and many of her crafting notions that I had no idea how to use…

The other thing to mention is the sheer physical pleasure in holding the book. I suspect with the advent of eBooks that publishers are playing to the tactile sensibilities of real book buyers. The book has a thick padded cover and is full of beautiful coloured illustrations and photographs, something Kindle can’t yet compete with! I loved holding it and riffling through it’s pages.

This book will remain a fixture on my bookcase and may get loaned from time to time to craft minded friends and family. It is full of inspiration for new ideas and ‘re-purposing’ and somehow this book does more for me than just tell me how to do things. It is a comforting, enjoyable book and reading it I feel I am joining and connecting with a long line of venerable, thrifty women from the past.

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Posted on May 30th, 2012 by

5 Responses to “Mend It Better”

  1. Karen Pine says:

    Great review Jane – and so refreshing to read about the preservation of something ‘crafty’ that is at risk of becoming a dying art. When we mend something we give it new life and it also symbolises our respect for the things we have and for their heritage. A good antidote to the ‘buy it and throw it away’ attitude that pervades modern living. Thank you.

  2. Heather says:

    This book I have only seen briefly, but am so wanting my own copy now! The layout is brilliant and all you want to do is dive straight in and see what you can do. Great review Jane!

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Heather and Karen for your comments. It is a really lovely book and such a departure for me from my normal reviews. I hope it does well.

  3. Scrapiana says:

    Hi Jane,

    Delighted that you enjoyed the book. I was really happy to be picked as a contributor (my fix was a tattered apron), and must confess to being that Bath-based tweeter you mentioned!

    You might be interested in a new group that has kicked off in Bath called the Big Mend. We meet monthly on the last Wednesday of the month for a 2-hour session of social button-sewing, sock-darning and jeans repair, amongst other things. It’s a real tonic to sew in a large group, and I’m sure this experience harks back to something extremely old in our human experience, scrawled in our DNA.

    The venue hasn’t been confirmed for the next session on 27th June but do go to the Big Mend page on my blog and you should find latest details posted there. Thanks again for featuring the book.

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Eirys, I have given you due credit and a link to your review which is far more comprehensive than mine.
      I’ve been looking at your mending classes and may just join you! I have a huge fur (fake obviously) coat which makes me look like I’ve just failed an audition for Cats the Musical, but I love it. The lining is torn and that’s so difficult to mend without decreasing the size of it. If you see a woman turn up trailing something big and furry behind her it’ll probably be me!

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