Come Undone

And, just like that, May.

I am this tired.

I do not know the last time I did not spend a weekend working (which was not the point of quitting my day job, I’ll have you know. The idea was to shear more on weekdays.)

The phrenetic pace of life, plus the death of someone close to me every single month of this year (save this month, so far, knock on wood), plus caring for a cherished friend with cancer, has pummeled me. How did anyone make it through the AIDS crisis, which was so much worse?

Grossly overfed, obese sheep have pummeled me, too. While shearing some of these miserable, gagging, wheezing beings two weeks ago, I hurt my left shoulder. It felt partially dislocated, my left arm suddenly weak, painful and rather useless.

I asked another shearer to take on one of my scheduled jobs while I healed and, as soon as I felt a bit better about 10 days later, promptly sheared again. Now I’ve really gone and done it. There will be no shearing for me for a few weeks. I want to shear sheep long term, for as much of my life as I’m able, which means I need to heal in the short term.

Because I could not stop for deaths, my body stopped for me.

Today is the first time I have paused in months. And I need to… because I have work to do! A long to-do list has grown since January. It helpfully contains all of the work to do when I’m not working.

This afternoon, I sat down to tackle it. Choices:

  • Stripping the paint off of the front door (and, I suppose, putting up a plywood barrier until that’s through? Is that what one does?) and repainting it;
  • Taking the previous home owner’s poisonous pesticides to God knows where for disposal;
  • Scrubbing out the nauseating compost bin…

I could not face my list. It was too overwhelming and I too depleted.

But the pile of clothes in the sewing room that needs mending… That I could face. And not only could I face it, I could genuinely enjoy it. I love the process of sewing and knitting but, as a self-avowed anti-consumerist, feel incredibly guilty if I make something I don’t need. (I’m great at ruining things for myself.) And, like most Americans, I don’t need anything. I could go years without buying a single new item of clothing or pair of shoes and still not wear out every single thing I already own.

My compromise is to focus on making things my husband and I do need. I knit a lot more socks than I used to, and I’m knitting him a traditional gansey on size 2 needles. That will keep me occupied for a nice long while! I also need clothing for warmer weather. San Francisco is a pretty mild place but we have (like so much of the world) a lot more hot days that feel like L.A. than we used to. That means sewing things like linen tunics and cotton dresses, maybe knitting a linen summer sweater, and taking time with the details: trims, better seams. Jeans require solid sewing effort, too, and those we actually wear through.

But mending, mending requires no excuses. It is not ethically problematic and is almost instantly gratifying, better even than knitting a dishcloth.

I started small, with a hole in a sweater I knit a few years ago:

There’s a hole in my sweater, dear Liza, dear Liza…

Herein lies the problem with Merino: It’s soft. Too soft. So soft that it not only pills easily, but breaks.

I can’t complain too much. I purchased this sweater quantity of yarn for a song (not even $60, if memory serves) because, even at Black Sheep Gathering, folks apparently weren’t interested in undyed, black Merino and the seller wanted the yarn gone. I happily knit it up and it fits great (regardless of what this rip might imply, this sweater fits perfectly in the shoulders). I was quite miffed when I went to put it on and noticed The Hole.

It is fixed:

I then moved on to a hole in my shearing overalls, which I put there when my shearing handpiece went a little bit too far. I sure am glad that sharp metal only got the fabric:


Now, I only wear these shearing and in the garden, so I’ve got no one to impress, but why not apply a little scrap of sock yarn?

I come from a long line of Polish and Czech people who suffered mightily under Stalin and Hitler, so I sincerely hope these stitches don’t look like little swastikas…

By then I was on a role. I hand sewed some separating seams on two summer shirts I sewed last year, and used my trusty dish soap and peroxide combo to remove mud stains from a very old sweater of my husband’s, which also has a few tiny holes in it. I plan to try a trick I heard from a friend, in which she took fusible interfacing, put it behind tiny, moth-made sweater holes, and steamed and stretched a delicate knit fabric together right on top of the interfacing. She swears the tiny holes are now invisible. Clever!

I may attempt visible, or artful, mending too, which I found while searching for mending tips and techniques. I love that, on the Internet, just about anything you find is a trend or a subculture to someone. I found Tom of Holland and his Visible Mending Programme, in which he makes mending visible to encourage more sustainable relationships between our garments and ourselves. I found the The Ardent Thread (I hope to get into her mending class soon), beautiful mending inspiration at Wishi Washi Studio, and The School of Gentle Protest.

And I feel better than I did this morning.

I think I will also try to fix my hair dryer, with its noisy loose ball bearing from clumsy me dropping it. I figure it is a fairly low-risk endeavor since I hardly ever use it anyway.

I cannot cure cancer or raise the dead, but I will fix the few things I can, and hope my shoulder fixes itself.

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