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My daughter was sick the other day so I stayed home too, and we spent much of our day together on the couch. I tackled work email and leftover chores, while she watched endless episodes of My Little Pony — a fringe benefit of not having to share the television with her brother. In the afternoon I snuggled up beside her with my sewing kit and her brother’s ripped snow pants. As I tucked and hemmed the fleece back inside, I found myself breathing into the rhythm of each stitch.

Over the past 10 years I have spent hours on the couch sewing, patching and stitching. When my son was three, he came home every day with a new hole in the knees of his pants – I was convinced that he spent his days crawling on sandpaper. So I learned to hand sew the small rips, and add patches to the bigger holes. As spring turned to summer, I sacrificed a few pairs and turned them into shorts.

I have repaired ripped pajamas, T-shirts and doll clothes. I’ve replaced lost buttons and other adornments. Quite often, I’ve performed veterinary surgery on a stuffed animal, usually under the watchful supervision of a tear-stained face. When their repaired friend is returned to their loving arms, the relief is palpable.

Most recently I was tasked with fixing ripped goalie pads.

My repair style is a little Red Green, a little MacGyver: I patched the holes with duct tape and then carefully hand-stitched the tape in place. It worked like a charm and the pads will now protect his knees throughout the end of the season.

I am far from an expert seamstress. My thread colour choices tend to either black or white, if there is a choice at all. I am also constantly pricking myself and could benefit not only from a thimble but perhaps full hand armour. My sewing machine collects dust because it generally takes me longer to remember how to set it up than to complete the project.

My hand sewing starts out fairly straight, but if I’ve misjudged the length of thread, the stitches get stretched further apart. I send the more challenging projects to my mom. She has more time, expertise and patience.

While I sew for practical reasons, there is a familiar comfort in the experience. I remember watching my mom work at her pile of mending, which included my own stuffed friends. My great-grandma would knit us “grandma-mitts” and slippers, until our drawers were overflowing. These repair projects also force me to stop washing dishes, checking email, and putting the ubiquitous trail of toys back in place. It’s a unique opportunity to sit quietly, focus on the item in my hand and contemplate the life that it has led.

I think about the chubby legs that crawled around playing dinosaurs until they ripped a hole in the fabric. I think about the game of Ring-Around-the-Rosie with a stuffed puppy that got so fast and exciting, the puppy’s arm was torn. I think about the favourite shirt that has worn out in three separate areas but simply cannot be thrown in the trash.

And I think about the pucks that have ricocheted off those thick goalie pads. The hand-stitched duct taped goalie pads stopping countless goals from entering the net, stopping my heart in the stand.

In the whirlwind where we find ourselves daily, where tech is so ubiquitous that we don’t notice it, my rudimentary sewing holds the fabric of memories and tradition: stopping time with just one stitch.

Erica Richmond is a Toronto-based blogger who loves words and adventures. 

All photos by Karyn Valino, proprietor of The Workroom.

 

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