Last week I headed to Madrid for the launch of The Monocle Guide to Good Business. I packed lightly, taking just one option for the evening and nothing else that would suit the occasion. Having arrived quite late I headed out for a long lunch. Back at the hotel, just a few hours before the party, I realised my one and only shirt for the evening was ripped – badly.
I panicked for a few moments then quickly phoned the hotel lobby to ask if any shop was open at four in the afternoon – nothing. I then asked the hotel if they had a laundry service or anyone who could repair my shirt but found out the service had closed an hour earlier; seems the Spanish take their siestas very seriously. The concierge did, however, point me in the direction of the toiletries in the bathroom, where I could find a needle and thread. I felt relieved – until I opened the tightly packed little case and it dawned on me that I have never sewn anything in my life.
I know the theory of sewing, I just lack any practical experience. So there I was with a little less than an hour to go until the event, trying to insert a thread through the ridiculously small gap provided by the needle. That took me a good 20 minutes. It was followed by another five minutes trying to tie the thread and the same amount of time deciding on a technique to tackle the rip. Then came the mistakes, unsewing my mistakes and resewing the bits where the mistakes had occurred.
In summary, the process required patience and attentiveness – attributes I have always prided myself on having. But it turns out that I have been lying to myself. And the experience got me wondering: when was it that we stopped learning how to sew? I didn’t go to finishing school and neither did my mum, so no one ever explained the process to me. As much as I think this change in habit is related to the changing role of women role in society, it still seems strange that we have stopped learning how to repair clothes when we continue to wear them every day.
Really, the problem is our consumerist society. My first reaction on seeing that rip was to immediately try to buy a new shirt; it was only because I couldn’t that I had to take on the task of repairing it. And I felt immensely satisfied as I pulled the thread through the last corner of the rip and successfully accomplished my task.
I am extremely grateful that I live in a time where I had the chance and choice to study physics, chemistry and maths rather than sticking to sewing but being an independent person means knowing how to use a needle and thread, too.
Gaia Lutz is a researcher for Monocle 24.