It had life in it still; yet precariously threadbare at the same time. Mrs Morgan caressed the coarse lambswool sweatshirt, finding the little hole in the chest that she’d been asked to repair. As she carefully turned the garment inside-out, a wonderful smell of pipe-tobacco and peppermint exuded. A legacy, she surmised, that was worked into the microfibres over many years. The fabric itself was dishevelled and aged, and the once-rich chestnut colour had become time-worn and weathered. As her fingers skimmed the tortuous wool once worked by intricate hand-knitting, her own hands reminded her of the texture itself: creased and corrugated with maturity and old age. Lifting the sweatshirt slightly, she noticed another patch on the upper arm of the jumper that had been poorly mended with non-woollen material. Then, another on the lower back, and one on the sleeve. One on each sleeve. The thing was full of holes! And each had been attentively, albeit slightly incompetently, rectified with cuts of cotton and leather.
She reached for the square of foam from her sewing box, placing it under the hole with meticulous care as not to damage it further. It would only take a few minutes to repair. Working the felting needles in her fingers, she carefully started to lever the new piece of wool together with the frayed edges, prising the foam away every now again. A unison of decrepit and neoteric becoming one whole segment, perfect in its own, strange way. She had always loved the task of mending clothes, cherishing a kind of comfort in the magnificent durability of fabric. Many of the items brought to her were old tired, just like this sweatshirt; enriched with the life of each one’s owner.
Mrs Morgan became deeply immersed in the needlework, the sound of the radio wilting into the cracked wallpaper of the studio. As the sound of her felting needle pricked the fibres of the wool, she was soothed by the familiar, repetitive muffle between metal and material; the marriage of elements knotting together permanently. In between her warm breath punctuating the needle in the foam, the methodical rhythmic sound was like a soft heartbeat. Like she was giving life back to it. She then contemplated that the piece of wool she was merging with the frayed edges was directly on top of where the heart would be; right on the chest of the sweatshirt. And suddenly, she felt incredibly intimate with the wool itself, almost as if the warmth of its owner body was surging through it to meet her.
Just at that moment, the man who had brought it to her returned to the studio. Mrs Morgan told him she was just finishing the repair, and asked if he would he like to try it on before he left the shop.
‘Oh, no. This was my father’s favourite sweatshirt,’ he said dejectedly. ‘He died just last week. In fact, this jumper was the only item of clothing he had on his back when he emigrated to this country seeking asylum. It had been knitted by his own grandmother, and he wore it almost every day. I begged him loads of times to get it replaced, to throw it away, rather than sew those silly little patches into the holes.’
The gentlemen’s eyes glazed over, and he became immersed in nostalgia.
‘I told him, I could afford a new sweatshirt for him, as many as he wanted, I said. We weren’t poor anymore, and he had done well to look after us and educate us so we could get good jobs in the city. And he had paused a moment and turned to me and said: just because something is broken, it does not mean it needs to be replaced. Clothing, just like family, should be cared for, and not forgotten about. If the fabric splits, it should be attended to, and not discarded. That has been the legacy of so many generations before us, when things that seem insignificant and valueless, were, in fact, our most valuable treasures.’
As the gentlemen’s words washed over her, the hairs rose on the back of her neck, and the radio suddenly too loud to bear. Such harrowing words! A truth that had been mislaid in the decay of over-consumerism and mass-market production, the value for individuality and uniqueness now thawed in oppressive capitalism. Some things, even if they had deteriorated, can nearly always be restored.
She stroked the little woollen patch that was now merged in the fabric of the sweatshirt once again, and an overwhelming sadness rose in her throat. She quietly placed the felting needle and foam back into her sewing-box.
‘I’m so glad you decided to get this last repair for your father. I’m sure he would be very pleased with your initiative.’
‘Thank you’, the gentleman said. ‘I wanted to get this last hole in the sweatshirt mended for him.’
This text on Wool was written and submitted by Emily Lyhne-Gold for Round 2 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Check Emily’s entry for Round 1: What is wrong with Abercrombie and Fitch