Mending as Mitzvah

I wasn’t raised Jewish, but mitzvah is a term I heard growing up in New Jersey, meaning doing a good deed. I googled it, of course, and saw it was related to a state of being connected to others. Perfect.

I have started volunteering with a new local organization called Mobile Menders.

Mobile Menders is a volunteer group who is dedicated to providing free sewing and mending services around the Twin Cities area. Our goal is to provide clothing repair to those in need. We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to have clothes that fit and are in good shape.

Now I have to confess that I don’t enjoy mending. And alterations?  I go to the tailor near my office. My mother always said she liked to sew, but not to mend. Nevertheless, in a family with seven children, there was always mending to do.

My mother was raised during the depression, and never threw away buttons or zippers. If something was heading to the rag basket, the zippers and buttons were cut out and saved. She taught me (among many other depression-era skills) how to fix zippers. This skill came in handy with my Mobile Menders adventure.

The event starts out with residents at a local shelter bringing items in need of mending. This night, there were 29 people, each limited to three items. That is a lot of mending for five menders. There were greeters, who welcome guests as they enter the event, find out what items they have and what repair is requested, then make labels for each item, ranking them in order of priority. If there is time, they bring the guest to meet their mender. I only took one photo, but there are lots from other events on the Mobile Menders Facebook page.

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I knew only one of the women, so getting to know the others was fun. When I called a recalcitrant zipper a ‘rat bastard’ without thinking, I apologized sheepishly. A fellow mender looked over and said “I like you more now.”

The most common items were zippers on winter coats and jeans. As I hunched over my machine, I kept wishing my mother could see me using those long-ago lessons.

It was sort of overwhelming. I wanted to work quickly, but not in a way that was dismissive of people’s needs. The guideline I adopted was fixing something for my husband. Would he care if the thread didn’t match exactly? Is the zipper the wrong color? Is the triangular tear on the pocket of the AC DC hoodie too mended-looking?

The requests were often touching. A formerly homeless vet had dress pants that needed hemming so he could go on job interviews. A woman brought in a sad looking bra that had already been mended once. One request for mending jeans asked that that we try not to make them look mended or patched. Take that, visible mending.

After three hours of non-stop work we called it a night. More menders will come next month, and I’ll be heading to another location.  When I got home my husband glanced up and said “You look really tired.” I was beat, and a little sore the next day from bad sewing posture. I think I need a new sewing machine. And better posture.


6 responses to “Mending as Mitzvah

  1. Wow. What an experience. Mitzvah, indeed! You are making me, for the first time, wish I had mending skills myself, to put them to such good use.

  2. Thank you for doing this and thank you for telling us about it. What a beautiful gift you all gave those guests.

  3. I am happy that that room full of menders had the chance to meet YOU. A mending party with Mary Lou would be wonderful. I am deep into the tricky zipper season of kindergarten. I will keep you in mind when I have one that needs desperate repair.

  4. That is very cool. I’m not a very good mender, and I tend to hold on to the mending until I eventually discard it. You are definitely doing a mitzvah!

  5. what an absolutely amazing experience….I had no idea such a group exists. It’s all the right things…..using/reusing/repairing what we have, doing good for others, comaraderie among fellow crafter/stitchers. Wow. Kudos to you and your (new) friends.

  6. I’m sorry I missed seeing this post until now — but I’m glad that such a group exists, and that there are people like you who are willing to be a part of it, in this messed-up world.

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