Pocket Restoration

Holes in your pockets. The very image of lack and loss. But do not despair – the garment and its pockets can be saved. All you need are pins, needle, thread, a bit of fabric and the will to make a difference.

If you’re anything like me, the invalided garment sits in a heap in the mending pile until you either grit your teeth and get on to the job of mending it, or decide you don’t need it that badly after all and out it goes.

Laundry basket full of ferrets!
Signs You Have Left Your Mending Too Long #14: Ferret Infestation

And so it was with my husband’s trousers (except without ferrets). Before anyone objects to me mending my husband’s clothes for him, let me point out that he does my techie ‘mending’ for me. From each according to their ability; to each according to their need, as the apostle Paul said, though admittedly, not in those words.

The problem wasn’t so much finding the time or motivation to mend them, as finding the know-how. Because the problem was one I’d never tackled before. I knew I could put a patch on a patch pocket, but this is the other kind: set-in. Further complicated by discovering that the whole side of the pocket was so worn you could read through it.

Highlighting of hole provided by The Leaky Pen of Yesteryear. And how come we have yesteryear and yesterday but not yestermonth or yesterweek?

Would I need to replace a whole pocket? Did I know how? (Clearly, no.) But that didn’t stop me. The first thing I did was to wash and iron a long thinnish piece of calico (or muslin, depending on where you come from). That was it for a month or so while my eyes recovered.

The next step was to lay the calico (as I shall call it) over the worn side of the pocket and pin along the only straight line the pocket had. I used the selvedge (or selvage) for this. Some people say you should never use the selvedge for anything, but clearly, I am not one of them.

Then it was a matter of pinning, trimming, and pinning some more. Handy hint: if you’re going to tuck an edge under a pre-existing overhang, you can push the whole cloth under and then press down. Pull the fabric out and it’s got a crease showing you where the fold will be. Cut the excess off, a short distance from the fold, and Bob’s your uncle. Example:


In this case, the folded hem will fit under the waistband (the bit marked Domino). Don’t forget to fold the fold the other way to pin in place – raw edge underneath.

Carry on trimming and pinning, until the fabric is fitted all the way around.

To make my life that much easier, instead of shaping the calico to the curve of the pocket at the bottom, I simply pinned a hem and folded it over to the back of the pocket. Like this. (Clicking may result in a bigger image.)


Then I tacked it. Tacking is one of those things, like flossing your teeth and knitting a gauge swatch, that you know you ought to do, but frequently don’t. Maybe it’s my age beginning to show, but I find I am now doing all of those things. I don’t say I necessarily enjoy them, but I enjoy not having the after-effects of not doing them: wiggly seams, dentist’s drills, and outsize socks.

The other important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t tack through too many layers. If you can’t get your hand into the pocket, you’ve gone too far. The same goes for the fold-up seam at the bottom, unless you want a squared-off pocket.


The other good thing about tacking (besides the stability it gives when doing the actual sewing) is that you can have a try-on without the victim wearer having to do the Dance of Extreme Delicacy as pin-points menace their recoiling flesh. This is a chance to make sure that there are no uncomfortable bumps, chafing spots etc; and that the pocket hangs properly.

Then you retrieve the garment, and (at least if you are me) repeat the procedure from the top for the other pocket.


Once it’s all placed, pinned, tacked and tried, you are ready to sew. I sewed by hand, because there are some things that are fiddlier by machine than hand, and sewing through only some of the layers is one of those things. It didn’t take very long, to my surprise.

Once you’ve sewn everywhere that was tacked, you can take out the tacking. Finished? No, not quite. You still have a hole on the inside of your pocket, and unless you want to deal with the anguish of trying to extract something from between the original pocket and the new layer, you had better take the final step.

Simply sew an outline of running stitch around each hole, fastening it to the new layer. (But not all layers, unless you want a donut pocket.) As thus:


Well done! You have rescued a garment from the looming shadow of the rubbish dump and restored it to useful life. And that is what I call practical ethics.

Am I An Addict? In Which I Try Some Amateur Psychological Self-Diagnosis

I asked you all the other day whether you are (or have been) an addict – but it can be hard to tell. I didn’t find out I was addicted to tea until I had to give it up temporarily for health reasons (the tannin in tea lowers the absorption of iron) and found that hot water was not an adequate replacement. I went cold turkey, and these days I can get along just fine without tea if life happens that way – providing I drink a sufficient quantity of other liquids.

Female drinking tea

So how do you tell? Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot did the sensible thing when accused of being a knitting addict and consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fourth edition) a.k.a. DSM-IV.

“I flip through the pages looking for addiction, substance abuse, dependency, all the keywords. I find out that “substance dependence” (which seems about right for someone who wigged when she couldn’t get her yarn) is defined as an individual showing any three or more specific criteria within a year.”

Knitting Perfection

While I have been known to knit obsessively under stress (I knit so I don’t stab people – it’s too hard to get blood out of the yarn), I don’t think I’m addicted to knitting. But I have a sneaking feeling that I may be addicted to reading. It’s how I relax, especially when times are rough. (Escapism?)

Feel free to substitute your own substance of preference and tally along.
Here are the criteria:

(1) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect. (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

Not guilty, m’lud. Reading is reading, and the effect is constant and unvariable, providing the material is of sufficient quality.

(2) Withdrawal, as defined by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance. (b) The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Pieter Huys - Woman Enraged

Well, I don’t know what “the characteristic withdrawal syndrome” is for reading, but the one time I abstained from reading the difference was *cough* noticeable. Strike One: I

(3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

Yes, yes, all right! Books do not come with clocks attached. Possibly this is part of their appeal. Strike Two: II

(4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

Ha! That’ll be the day.

(5) A great deal of time is spent in activities to obtain the substance (e.g. visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (e.g. chain smoking), or recover from its effects.

Carl Spitzweg 021

Reading doesn’t really have the sort of effects you need to recover from, but I will admit to a weekly library visit, and a fairish amount of time spent reading (obviously; otherwise the library visit would be wasted time).

(6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

Define “important”. I don’t get out much, it is true, but I don’t think I’d get out much more if there were no books. (Hideous thought.) As far as occupational activities go, reading is mandatory for writers. So there.

(7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g. current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

Alfred Stevens La myope 1903

Reports vary as to whether bad eyes are caused (or exacerbated) by reading, but since my optometrist says my eyes have been stable for the last couple of years – and I definitely haven’t given up reading – I’m going to count that as a win. Reading is not bad for me.

Final score (by my count, anyway!): II: Not An Addict.

As to whether Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is indeed a knitting addict, you’ll just have to read the chapter entitled “Knit Junkie” in her book All Wound Up – a hilarious read for anyone, but especially for those of us who knit.

Just as I was congratulating myself on my official non-addict status, I came across this simpler (albeit less scientific) diagnostic test from Gail Carriger: “I suspect it may be like the difference between a drinker and an alcoholic; the one merely reads books, the other needs books to make it through the day.”

Woman reading a book (3588551767)

That one lands a little too close to home. A wise man once wrote: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?”
I mastered reading long ago; it shall not master me.

Look Both Ways Before You Cross

Looking forward to the new year, but also looking back over the year just passed. Coincidentally, it has been exactly a year since I started this blog.

During that time I have written all of eighty-eight posts (although about 25 are simple quote-and-picture posts). Over the course of the year I have gone through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, reviewed various books on writing, and asked for advice on a myriad of subjects (moving house, staying sane…) which I mostly didn’t get.

I also set goals for myself (see here and here) which I mostly failed to meet, in that I did not finish my WIP by December 31st. But I did make some strides in taking myself more seriously as a writer and doing a bit of would-like-to-be-professional development. As with so many things, Work In Progress.

Among the questions which I have mulled over during the year are whether to keep using my nom de plume (my parents, by some oversight, failed to name me Sinistra at birth) and what precisely it is I am trying to achieve here.

This blog was originally intended as a form of accountability against procrastination, but since no-one is actually holding me accountable but me anyway, that purpose has taken a bit of a back seat.
Procrastination is apparently one of the mysteries of the human condition, as articulated by Paul back in the 50s AD: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” (Romans 7:15, New Living Translation).

Motivation is perhaps key, but I struggle to find a motivation strong enough to overcome tiredness and self-doubt. Duty doesn’t cut it (unlike Frederic, I am not the Slave of Duty); ambition is by no means my strong suit – perhaps I just need to develop more character. Or a means of reminding myself of what it is I stand to lose.

In any case, over the coming year I hope to look more at subjects of interest to more than myself – that is to say, less of the writing, and more of the whatever-I-happen-to-be-obsessed-with-at-the-moment – steampunk, knitting, millinery, sustainability, odd bits of history, or any combination of the above.

Looking back, my most popular post by far (inasmuch as I can tell, since the majority of views are recorded as “homepage/archive”) is Great Wizards of Literature. I blush a little every time I see another hit on it, as it was originally titled Favourite Wizards of Literature, only some were more great than favourite. It wasn’t until after I had clicked ‘publish’ that I realised I had listed one of my own creations as a Great Wizard of Literature.

He isn’t great, really, but he’s doing his best. (If he’s very lucky, he may one day be published.) An excellent example of how not to blow your own trumpet.

You’re doing it wrong.

The gong for Most Under-Appreciated Post (from my point of view, anyway) goes to Mid-Week Quote: Reading, for the play on word(s) if nothing else.

On an entirely unrelated tangent, if your New Year’s Resolution includes being more generous, giving to charity, doing something good for someone else or even (aim high!) saving someone’s life, consider this from Throwim Way Leg, one of the blogs I follow.
Getting an ultrasound machine really will make a life-or-death difference to people in Papua New Guinea. Imagine if your local hospital had no ultrasound, no x-ray, no lab for tests… you get the idea.
And do please feel free to pass the link on to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanking you all for your company in 2013, and looking forward to your company in 2014, I remain,
Sinistra Inksteyne hand250