Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red, Blue, Make-do and Mend (if you've a fancy to)

Red, Blue
Make-do and Mend
(if you’ve a fancy to)

     The Lady-of-the-House confesses to keeping at least two ankle-length jean skirts in her wardrobe. Fellow wearers of the jean skirt know how it stands up to the rigors of house cleaning, endures frequent washings, even on the hottest setting. One of her jean skirts is new. The other has had a long life.

     During the winter months she had only worn “the other” for stay-at-home. The Man-of-the-House decided she had worn it out. It cannot be said how long he kept his opinion to himself but his patience finally came to a halt. It startled the Lady-of-the-House. She was peacefully going about her business in the kitchen wearing a pretty pink apron, whiping breakfast crumbs from the counter, when he was frank with her. He said calmly but firmly, “I can’t stand seeing you in that skirt.”

     “Why?” she asked, with eyes wide and a voice as sweet as pie, as if she were hurt and had no idea he could be so mean, all the while knowing precisely what he was referring to.
     “It’s ripped and shredded, that’s why.” After the truth was out he reiterated, “I can’t stand seeing you in it.” This drove the point home. No husband wants to see his wife in rags.
     “I’ll mend it,” was his wife’s stubborn reply disguised as a bright idea. She didn’t wish to part with the one dependable everyday skirt that fit her perfectly. But she was half-confident she could mend it. Perhaps she was only forestalling the inevitable.

     “Hmm,” he answered unconvinced. He sighed deeply and stepped into his office to start his workday. It was unmistakably a sigh of exasperation. Without showing you the back of the skirt in this post it will suffice to say that it was so vertically ripped at the back and horizontally frayed at the hem that even when mended would never pass for a 1930’s dignified simplicity - a standard respectful of both civility and economy.

A New Skirt (Sort of)
     Mindful of her husband’s words (he was right) more drastic measures than mending were necessary to save her skirt and give it a new lease on life. She set about reconstruction. She dug into her tub of quilting cotton and found a half-yard of a blue that might do. “I can cut the hem high up – just above the nasty rip,” she ventured, “and with this cotton add a flounce for length.” This she did with happy success. While she was cutting and ironing the fabric she read its title: "Aged Elegance." As she fancied this description to be applicable to her project, it gave a lift to her work. 

     The moment of truth came when she put the skirt on. The Lady-of-the-House opened the door of her husband’s office and interrupted his concentration with a brief fashion show, twirling ‘round what little floor space the room has to offer, humming a tune for accompaniment. The Man-of-the-House took off his reading glasses and said, “Where’d you get that?” It wasn’t the response she had hoped for. Experience told her, however, that translated into the feminine it meant, “Oh, you’re wearing a new skirt. It’s nice.”

     “Do you like it?”
     “Yes, I do.” She thought she spied one eyebrow go up and was pleased. 
     “Oh goodie, because it’s the skirt you wanted me to throw away.” She couldn’t resist the jab. A smidgen of playful banter in marriage keeps communication open. He smiled and was duly and pleasantly impressed.

A New Purse (Sort of)
     That same week the adult son of the Lady-of-the-House told her, “Mom, don’t you think it’s time for a new purse.” She was surprised.
     “Do I detect a theme going around the house? I’ll have you know this is a Vera Bradley.”
     “A Vera what?”
     “Never mind.”
     She had grown fond of her posh purse – a gift from her mother almost a decade ago (who calls a purse a “pocket book” while others call it a handbag.) The purse had seen continual wear and certainly had been around. For this reason the Lady-of-the-House likes how washable these purses are. Yet hers was in a sorry state.  

     “This red goes with my red sandals – the only shoe-purse match I have in the house for the upcoming season,” she realized. She fretted alone with her thoughts, knowing her menfolk couldn’t possible sympathize to the degree she would find satisfactory. Although she hadn’t been known in the past for living up to the gentility of matching accessories, at least she might accomplish it now - with the red purse.

     “I’ll mend it,” she decided. Visiting the variety store in town, which sells cotton remnants, she settled on a calico to cover the threadbare handles. Patches will make-do for shopping. At the grocery store and the farm stand no one will notice the tampered-with handles that could mar Vera Bradley’s fine reputation – not in my little town,” she consoled herself. 

     When her married daughter stopped by, the Lady-of-the-House pointed to the red purse hanging on the corner cupboard. She asked her daughter what she thought of it. Her daughter's face looked puzzled. "Isn’t that the same purse you’ve always had?” 
     “No, it’s had surgery. I patched it up and gave it a new row of quilting.”
     “Really?” She gave it a second glance and said, “Oh, I see” with a giggle, “I didn’t notice.”  
     The Lady-of-the-House should have been happy with this but she had to admit that her home school graduate’s observation skills were a bit weak. On the other hand, to receive approval for the funny but neatly mended handles – from a female – was encouraging.  

A New Book Bag (Sort of)

     When a toddler the Lady-of-the-House (she has been told) had never clung to a security blanket. Looking at the good half-yard of denim that was cut off the bottom of her favorite jean skirt . . .  well  . . . she felt like Charles M. Schulz’s Linus. “How can I recycle this lovely soft, naturally aged fabric,” she wondered. “I know. I’ll make that book bag for myself that I’ve been meaning to make. I can use the remainder of the calico for the lining and add a bit of lace,” she daydreamed.

     It was only when she finished the project that she realized the reason for her mysterious attachment. It was nostalgia. The bag is made from the jean skirt that she wore during her final years of home teaching.

     This pile of snippets is all that is left of the red and blue make-do and mend. This, she can throw away.

Post Script
     I hope these stories bring a quiet spot of gaiety into your day.

     Going through google’s new “awaiting moderation” I find that I’ve somehow missed some of your kind comments on back posts. I’m sorry. I wonder how this could be. Both Dean, alias Man-of-the-House, and myself read them - he often before I do. I welcome his protection. I welcome your comments, too.

In Between Posts

     I’ve been writing articles for magazines. I was asked to be a columnist for “The Old Schoolhouse” on line magazine to write about Miss Charlotte Mason’s principles and am endeavoring to do so under the heading “Gentle Art of Learning.” We had the family of Paul and Gena Suarez (editors) in our home for a meal and found that we never ran out of things to talk about. I was also asked to be a guest writer for “HomeEducating Family.” Editor Kathleen Warren is a homeschool mom I met while living in Nashville twenty years ago. She was a subscriber to my “Parents’ Review” in the 1990s. 

Best Wishes,
(so says the ornate tea cup I purchased in the house of my great great grandmother Emma Cook which is now an antique shop painted pink.)

Karen Andreola


  1. How NEAT, Karen!!! Thank you for sharing your lovely "new" skirt and bag!!!! :)

  2. Good Morning, Karen!

    What a refreshing post. Your skirt and purse make-overs are a great success.

    Translating masculine language to feminine often requires calm thought, doesn't it. My husband rarely comments about clothing. In fact, I purchased a new blouse about a month ago, and had worn it two times before my husband said, "Hey, I like that. When did you get that?" I'm not much better myself. I think I would have been content to live in a world where one Sunday outfit and a couple of daily outfits would have been considered an adequate wardrobe.

    We often joke that if we ever need to give a description to the police we'll have to check the closet and the laundry room to figure out what the missing one is wearing!

    Your cup and saucer from your great-great grandmother's house is a delight. I like the way you've chosen to use it as well.

    I have enjoyed the morning visit!


  3. Karen,
    I meant to add that I am just finishing up my first school year with no home teaching. I'm finding things here and there that I don't wish to part with either. My children are away for college. I'm enjoying the "nest for two" that our home has become again, but I do miss the joys of home teaching. I'm glad that you will be carrying books in a bag made from fabric that houses such happy memories.


  4. Very nice post!

    I had a great aunt also named Emma Cook in Kentucky.

    Thank you for the skirt re-purposing inspiration!

    Have a most blessed week!


  5. LOL - I enjoyed this post and can totally relate! I had a very soft, black leather purse that I carried for years, and the handles were frayed, along with parts of it being really worn. One day my husband said, "I think it's time for a new purse!" I was devastated ~ that purse was ME! It was hard to let go, but I found a replacement, which took a lot of getting use to.:-) I was told the same thing about a jumper too. :-)
    I love what you did with the skirt ~ so cute! And the purse and bag! Now you don't really have to "part" with them, only dress them up a little. :-)
    Blessings to you and have a great week!
    P.S. - I loved the Parents Review.

  6. I loved reading your stories Karen and read them aloud to my daughter who is working with me in our home office today...what smiles you brought to our faces!


  7. Karen,

    I love this post. We are doing a little mending and repurposing ourselves.

    I just finished reading Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn - again. I find when I am in need of home school encouragement, a little escape to Appleton lifts my spirit.

    We will be coming your way this fall. We are taking a family vacation and plan to visit family in Maine and then see some living history through Boston, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    Thank you for refreshing my spirit.


  8. You made me laugh - so funny. First, no need to apologize for wearing a denim skirt. They are practical and comfortable. I love how you mended and fixed and ended up with new (sort of). Just as exciting as new, and much wiser. Good to re-use still useful things. My family gets tired of some of my same-old-things, too, but I love them. Funny to think of some of those things as Linus security blankets, but I can think of several things of my own that are closely tied to memories and times of comfort and closeness, which would explain why I don't want to let them go. Good insights. Fun post- thanks.

  9. Karen
    What a fun post!

    Great job on the skirt, repairing your red Vera and your new book bag!



  10. what a lovely post. I enjoyed the story as much as the beautiful outcome. My grown daughter read it with me; we both smiled.

  11. Yes, i have to agree with Elizabeth. What a lovely post. I turn collars on my husbands work shirt ( I think you call them yard shirts) and I also darn socks. I get such a kick out of mending something and making it useful again. We certainly have become a throwaway society, haven't we. When i was working my boss returned from a holiday in the US with a Vera bag. That was about 12 years ago but I still remember that gorgeous bag. I looked through the catalogue she also brought home but alas our budget did not stretch to one of those lovely bags and our exchange rate then was not so good.
    I'm so pleased you were able to mend it and your skirt is very feminine. You've inspired me to do some mending this afternoon. There's always little mending jobs in my work basket, just never seem to get to the bottom of it.
    Blessings Gail

  12. "It had surgery" made me smile! I can completely relate as I don't like it to have too many clothes. But I love the few I have and really have problems to part with them. (I still miss a green lambswool sweater my mother gave away about twenty years ago because it was too frayed and she was ashamed of me running about like that - sounds really strange and silly, but I am still looking for a similar one and cannot find it!) It's great of you to give new life to old things.
    As a lady commenting here noticed: I would also prefer to live in a time where you had one good dress and one ordinary with aprons for everyday. It would save so much time if I wouldn't have to think about what to wear.
    Have fine spring days to enjoy your new flattering skirt!

  13. I enjoyed seeing the transformation of the skirt and bag, and your conversation with the man of the house sounds oh-so-familiar!

    The bookbag would be a fun summer project. Even if there isn't an older item at home, there are plenty of old skirts and jeans at the thrift store, waiting for a new purpose.

    Have a great week,


  14. Karen,

    Vera Bradley is made in our town in Indiana. In April of every year, there is an outlet sale. Thirteen semi-trucks are needed to bring the merchandise in from the factory. Keep it in mind if you ever want to replace your bag!

    I understand how you dont' wish to discard those things that hold such memories. Perhaps that is why I quilt--a lot of things find their way into my quilts. I love your bag!

    Thanks for sharing your story!


  15. I call it a pocket book too. And so did my mama and grandmama:)

    As always another creative story from you. This time, turning something ordinary into something extraordinary.

    You did a fantastic job on that skirt. It looks splendid on you! Now wouldn't have been ashame to throw that away?:)!

  16. Your post made me smile and wish you still lived in Maine. Your new skirt is cute as can be and I'm glad Dean approved :)

  17. Karen,
    I think you and I have the same denim skirt...LOL! I have a few more hanging in the closet--just love how comfortable they are. I also have that Vera bag---we have a Vera outlet not far from me and the prices are half of the stores! Each year daughter #2 gets me a new one for Mother's Day:-) I am quite spoiled with my Vera's, but love them so. Aren't your makeovers clever!

  18. Thank you. I love coming here and getting a visit and inspiration. You look so lovely in your repurposed skirt.

  19. I accidentally commented with my Husbands account. Oh how confusing the wide web can be sometimes.

  20. I have that same Vera bag, although I bought it already "gently used". :)

  21. This was thoroughly enjoyable Karen, it was very reminiscence of my own conversations with my man-of-the-house :-D

    The mend and make do is a motto that should be applied in everything in life. But recycling old things that you have a great fondness for, is one of the best way to live simply and appreciate every blessing.

    The skirt is fun and you wear it well...so is the jean bag - Vera Bradley and all :)

    Thank you so much for sharing...


  22. I love your new book bag,especially the sentiment in it's stitches!

  23. Dear Karen,

    Your posts always leave me feeling hugged by gentility.

    Our family has been enlightened by your books, your family's curriculum and book reviews, and of late, your posts.

    Just wanted to say thank you for answering the call to ministry of homemaking families.

    Your creativity clearly is inspirational and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Kindredly yours, in His Grace,

  24. What friendly readers you are. It's delightful to hear from you and to share "the feminine" side of life - even if electronically.

    I received a surprise in the mail recently that makes for a very different ending to the story. When my mother saw my red purse over Easter holiday she was quiet. "If you have nothing nice to say - say nothing at all," is one of her dictums. Opening the parcel I found a new Vera Bradley. It is the smallest purse I've ever carried. (It's contents are condensed). It is cute and yellow, with two pink roses on the side pocket. I took it out with Dean while wearing my yellow sweater and felt properly coordinated. Then it came back to me how my mother used to dress my baby sister in pink and me in yellow - unswervingly.

    It is good to know that subscribers to Parents' Review are connecting once again. We go back some, don't we?

    Welcome one and all,
    Karen A.

  25. What a fine job you did with recycling and updating -- three projects! I do like the skirt, and as a jean skirt gal, I could feel your pain over giving up on an old favorite. I, too, have one that is growing more and more thread-bare, yet I just can't seem to give it up. I've kept it, like you, for housework and gardening; thankfully, my dear husband has not asked me to give it up (yet).

    Best wishes to you in your new writing assignments!

  26. What a thoughtful mother you have, Karen. My mom notices things too. Now that my children are living on their own, I find that they need me to notice things as much as they did when they lived at here at home. It is so much fun to surprise them with unexpected extras.


  27. Karen, I love what you did with your skirt--it looks lovely on you! I have a denim skirt just like yours, and I would find it sad to part with it.

    I also love your idea to make a bag out of the leftover fabric. I always feel happy when I'm able to give an item new life by re-making it into another item.

  28. I have the same Vera Bradley bag. It was a gift from 5 years ago. But I wish I had your skirt. It is super cute. Great ensemble!