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News / Life / Clark County Life

A Stitch in Time: “Textiles tell a story”

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 26, 2023, 6:03am

I recently took a mending class with Miki Landis, owner of The Enchanted Rose Emporium. My stitchery skills are remedial at best. I can darn a sock and mend a small tear, but the results are serviceable rather than, if you’ll pardon my pun, seamless. Landis said that makes me an ideal student. She loves teaching beginners because even learning a few basic skills will enable people to get more use out of their garments.

Landis asked me to bring my own clothing to repair. I brought two sentimental items that are too damaged to wear but that I can’t stand to throw out: the sweatshirt I wore to the hospital the day my daughter was born and the dress that was my going-away outfit on my wedding day. Both have been worn and washed so many times that the material was disintegrating. I couldn’t see how to proceed without ruining them even more but Landis was unperturbed.

“My philosophy is kind of like a doctor,” Landis said. “First, do no harm. What can we do to support this in place to prevent further damage?”

The light cotton dress had holes in the delicate fabric of the sleeve. Instead of just closing the holes, which would leave a visible line of stitching and change the drape of the sleeve, Landis suggested supporting it with an additional layer of fabric underneath. The holes in the sleeve could then be stitched or embroidered onto the underlying fabric, making it sturdier and less likely to rip in the future. I chose a spring green cotton that complimented the garment’s rose-and-leaf pattern, leaving a half-inch of cotton poking out beyond the sleeve. It changed the look of the dress slightly, but I loved it.

“When you mend something, you either fix what’s wrong with it or you look at how to embellish, change or add to it that will support the fix,” Landis explained. “Another thing is repairing something special with something else special, to tie memories together.”

My sweatshirt was fraying at the neckline and had sleeve edges that needed doctoring. Landis suggested sewing pretty vintage ribbon over those parts to cover the damage and create visual interest. She picked thread that matched the ribbon, taught me a basic stitch, and set me to work under a bright task lamp.

As I stitched, my thoughts drifted back to the morning I pulled on the sweatshirt to go to the hospital, full of hope and trepidation. I wore the sweatshirt often during the early, hazy days of motherhood, and then I kept wearing it simply because it was comfortable. When, after many years, holes appeared in the cuffs and collar, I put it away in a drawer. Now my daughter is 20 and we’re both entering a new phase of life. I want this sweatshirt to come with me and perhaps last another 20 years.

“Textiles tell a story, just like photographs but with a kinetic memory,” Landis said.

We move around in our clothes and they move with us, carrying part of our story in their fibers. In a bygone era, Landis said, that story would have been told over many iterations. One piece of fabric would begin as a dress or a shirt, then be cut down to make children’s clothing, then cut into squares for a quilt. When the quilt wore out, it would be cut up again for housecleaning rags. The fabric held a record of family memories as vivid as any photo album.

Hand-repaired items develop a life of their own, said Landis, because they become doubly cherished, things to be handed down rather than thrown away. That’s the heart of the modern make-do-and-mend movement: The idea that our resources are valuable and so we should treat them with respect.

More in This Series

Miki Landis repairs a frayed section of quilt at her sewing store, The Enchanted Rose Emporium. She teaches a variety of workshops to help people get comfortable with basic repairs.Mend & Make Marvelous: Two Clark County businesses help customers get the most out of their clothes
Maybe you’ve got a bundle of clothes taking up space in your closet or drawers, stuck in waiting-to-be-mended limbo. Maybe it’s your favorite sweater from…
Miki Landis, owner of Enchanted Rose Emporium, helped me to artfully repair a very special piece of clothing.A Stitch in Time: “Textiles tell a story”
I recently took a mending class with Miki Landis, owner of The Enchanted Rose Emporium. My stitchery skills are remedial at best. I can darn…


The Enchanted Rose Emporium

Where: 400 E. Evergreen Blvd., Suite 120, Vancouver

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays

Next in-person workshop: “Victorian Crazy Quilt” (beginner-friendly), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 1; $50

Contact:  360-228-2241; enchantedroseemporium@gmail.com, theenchantedroseemporium.com, facebook.com/theEnchantedRoseEmporium or instagram.com/enchantedroseemporium/

Okie Jo

Where: 606 Main St., Vancouver (in the basement of Kindred Homestead Supply)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays

Next in-person workshop: “Learn Your Sewing Machine,” 1-2:30 p.m. March 29 at Kindred Homestead Supply, 606 Main St., Vancouver; $85

Contact: okiejo.com or instagram.com/okie.jo/

Mending circle

To work on a mending project with others, attend the monthly mending circle at Kindred Homestead Supply. Get details by clicking on “workshops and events” at kindredhomesteadsupply.com or call 360-719-2745.

Repair Clark County

Skilled volunteers will do simple sewing repairs for free at this recurring event, hosted by Columbia Springs in locations all over Clark County. The next in-person event is 4-6 p.m. May 4 at the Battle Ground Community Center, 912 E. Main St., Battle Ground. Check columbiasprings.org/repair-clark-county for more information and a complete schedule of events.