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A Common Thread

Julia M.L.Whitehead has used writing as life’s therapy ever since she popped her first pimple and didn’t make cuts for the junior high cheer squad. She joined journalism instead! High school English from a poetry pusher helped sprout a hobby that still sees the occasional blossom. With college came a degree in ELED and a love for children’s literature, which has broadened and deepened over ten years of raising four kids on weekly story time. Besides visiting the local library, she enjoys light mountain biking, singing in the ward choir, and foot rubs from her husband. She thanks Segullah for the encouragement to keep her brain in writer’s mode.

“An understanding of our history inspires us to be the women of God we need to be.”1 Sister Beck’s words from the January 2011 visiting teaching message seeped into my thoughts and stayed long after I had shared them. I wondered how studying the lives of righteous women before me could help me improve as a thirty-something mom of four in the year 2011.

A desire to discover led me to some papers given to me by my grandmother several years earlier. They had been skimmed over and tucked away somewhere behind the demands of housework, homework, cub scouts, and piano practice. Today, they possessed an unavoidable draw.

I wanted to connect with a time when people worked on the land rather than walking on treadmills, and when media screens didn’t prevail in the battle of literature versus lights. Prioritizing my task list would hopefully be easier with some wisdom from a much less distracted generation.

As I reviewed the documents, a seemingly mundane tidbit from the life of my grandmother, Villiemine Deem Larkin, caught me. “She patched Pa’s gloves.”

I’ve often heard recited the pioneer adage “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” and consider myself a woman of thrift, to a certain extent. I recycle; I love hand-me-down clothes, and have even clipped a coupon or two. But when my daughter came home with holes in the fingertips of her snow gloves, I was ready to drive all over town hoping to find some replacements (on clearance, of course) rather than break out the needle and thread for this pesky repair job.

My pile of mending grows weekly at my house, and doesn’t go away. I tackle it periodically and find satisfaction in having the skills to do so, but often lack the motivation. When I finally get a chance to sit down, sometimes Facebook just sounds so much more fun!

I imagined my great-grandmother stitching her husband’s gloves, and recalled that my maternal great-grandmother had once made reference to a similar practice. In the six short paragraphs she gave me about her life was mentioned… you guessed it… mending. She said that her mother would help her by picking up a stack weekly and returning it as good as new.

Needless to say, the red snow gloves are fully functioning today. I even had my daughter help with the repair.

“…our history teaches that the same principles that existed in the early church are our foundational principles today.” So, Sister Beck’s words were right on. Provident Living. Mending. Grandma Villie did it, so did Grandma Agnes, and we will do it too. It is a common thread.

1. “The History and Heritage of Relief Society”, Ensign, Jan. 2011, 7

Why do you/ or do you not take the time to mend?

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25 thoughts on “A Common Thread”

  1. I mend clothes when I need to, though thankfully that's not very often for some reason. I do like seeing the small stitches in whatever I've patched, though, evenly placed and quietly secure. I wish life was as easily mended!

    Lovely post, thank you for sharing your family, thoughts and gloves.

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  2. I do mend things sometimes, though I usually feel like it's a needle in the dark. I don't know much about hand sewing, so my repairs are not exactly invisible. It does feel like an old-fashioned thing do to, which is fun.

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  3. I remember seeing among my Grandmothers things small cards with threads carefully wound around them, in varied shades:grey, taupe, ecru and other fleshy tones. Silk thread designed for mending pantyhose.
    The closest I have come to mending pantyhose is dabbing clear nail varnish on a hole to slow down a ladder.
    My Mother sometimes saves me from my mending basket too.

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  4. I love that "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" philosophy a lot. Except when it stresses me out. 😉 I do draw the line at mending boy socks that have HUGE holes in them. I used to fix them but now I just chuck them in the garbage and go buy some more. (I have found though that if you charge a nominal fee to the boys who wear them outside without shoes, that pretty much covers the cost!)

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  5. My MIL is an amazing seamstress, she can make or repair almost anything, so other than buttons, which I can take care of, it all goes over to her house. Even the cub/boy scout patches. But I agree with Ana, boy socks are the worst. I wouldn't even pretend I wanted to mend those holes.

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  6. Great story! Heading back to roots would make the world a much better place. Taking the time to slow down and do the things that really matter in life. Thanks for the reminder

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  7. I have patched pants but the patches just end up ripping more of the fabric what with my children's rough and tumble abuse of clothing. I do wish I knew how to darn socks though.

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  8. I love to mend something well, such simple wholesome satisfaction, I also enjoy tree pruning, weed pulling, dirt digging, jam making, sewing, building and making things with my hands, child nurturing and faith finding, those loved threads I'm sure stretch back generations. Thanks grandmas and grandpas.

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  9. Amy Dacyczyn has what she calls the "whole knee patch" for pants. It really works–you have to rip the seams out of the pants to put the patch on (a piece of denim from an unsalvagable pair of pants)then you sew them back up. I used this a bunch of times when my boys were smaller.

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing, what a great story! With my new life of working, I'm admittedly the opposite of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,”. But I didn't grow up that way. I remember my mom salvaging three pair of nylons to make one good one. As well as used and re-used bath water!! Your story really makes me think about my own grandmothers and makes me want to go back to my roots of thriftiness. You are now as much of an inspiration as your grandmothers. (However, I'll start small, perhaps have my nanny mend a few things first 🙂 :), you know just to get the threads moving in the right direction)

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  11. I can't say that I have mended much. I have stictched a patch or two on some jeans and then realized that the iron on patches were so much easier.

    This article was a reminder to me that I can do a little better. I need to continue to use what skills I do have (though limited) to beautify those things torn, worn out, or just plain forgotten. Not only things that are material but those spiritual things that we are faced with every day.

    I don't want the threads of my ancesters lost with me.

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  12. My new idea for summer mending is to do it with my kids while listening to audio books. Wish me luck!

    This blog reminded me of special time with my grandmother. Thanks for writing!

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  13. I am so proud of the author of this inspiring acticle. I am so glad that family stories and lifes are not forgotten with the craziness of time. Feels good to be contacted together as families, reminds me how great my family is. Thanks have a great day and to Julia Keep writing, you're awesome!

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  14. I grew up in a thrifty home, but have strayed a bit. It embarrasses me that my first thought is often to replace rather than repair–not just clothes but pricey electronics and appliances. I also worry about passing this on to my kids; I too often hear, "This is broken, better throw it away and buy a new one." But it's hard to teach them to value quality when half the toys are cheap junk in the first place!

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  15. This is awesome Julia!! Thank you. It really is a common thread. Maybe not the actual thread… but the idea behind it!

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  16. @ Melissa- I can't say my repairs are invisible either. But hopefully durable.

    @Ana- what a suggestion to charge for items not properly cared for!! I may have to try it. We go through socks so quickly here. As a result, I am never short on rags. Maybe I will have to summon some more ambition and try the whole knee patch sometime.

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

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  17. So proud of you, Juls, and that M.L.! 🙂 You are an inspiring mother, friend… and now published author! How wonderful!! Love you.

    also- Julia is the real deal when it comes to thriftyness. Loved this perspective!!

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  18. I like to mend. My husband loves the fact that he married someone that will sew on a button. After I had carpal tunnel surgery, a few weeks into recovery, I mended one of his shirts and sewed on a button for him. I got a kick out of him telling his brother – it's a win – win situation!

    Recently I had a good lesson in thrift. We are trying O so hard, not to buy anything that we do not need together, for the house, or for his job. I am reducing my wardrobe drastically and ran across one of my favorite turtlenecks. It is "christmas green" and goes so well w/ everything holiday. I have mended and remended and it was looking pretty scragly. I thot – o I need to get a new one, and they are so hard to find. Then it dawned on me. I can do without. I don't have to have a christmas green turtlneck. I will live. Liberation!

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  19. Lovely little piece. I just listened to the conversation with Barbara Thompson and she quotes an early journal. That sound byte has been in my head all week too. Thanks for a nod to history. Perhaps I'll read some of my own today (when I'm done on facebook)

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  20. Beautifully put and preserved, Julia. A tribute to your grandmothers and one of their many admirable traits. Thank you for your care and time writing this.

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  21. Awesome job Julia! I mend all the time, and I think I have passed it on. I mended jeans for Brit last week. I have great memories and pictures of Grandma E showing Brit how to sew. I wonder how many mom's are teaching their children to sew, boy's and girls! I'm proud to say that my son made his own window treatment for his "Man Cave". Mending what we have allows us to share more with those who have not.

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  22. Sometimes I darn socks…
    I have found the synthetic blends too hard to mend comfortably, the patched bit causes blisters, so I just say "darnit" as I drop it in the bin.

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