Lockdown has taught me three things about clothes. First, I now wear a tiny fraction of my wardrobe. Second, not unrelated, buying new things seems a frivolous use of time and money. Third, also not unrelated, when you wear a few things on high rotation, before long they'll need mending.
Of course things have always needed mending. But before lockdown, they tended to sit on the huge pile of good intentions, along with all the other holey jumpers and threadbare socks, before moving to the big recycling bag in the sky. Now, things have barely begun to fray before I've whipped out a needle and thread.
And I am not alone. Rachel Hart, owner of heavenly London sewing store Ray Stitch (raystitch.co.uk) tells me she's been working 12-hour days since lockdown in order to fulfil a huge swell in online orders. "We've been selling so much darning wool and lots of haberdashery items," she says.
Your mending skills may be a little rusty (or non-existent) but the huge enthusiasm for sewing in recent years means there are excellent tutorials online to help with basic stitches, the button that needs replacing, or hem that needs sewing back into place. Neatness is less important than practicality - if you've solved the problem, you've done a good job.
Once you've started fixing the stuff with obvious issues, you can also look at tweaking those not-quite-perfect wardrobe items: the skirt that is slightly too long; the shirt that always shows your bra. "Usually there's one little thing wrong with something, and most of these things you can change," says Hart. (A press-stud works wonders on a gaping shirt.)
Along with orders for bias binding and elastic to make face masks and gowns (the sewing community has really got to work), sewers are also keen to start new projects tailored to lockdown. "A lot of people are making nice silky pyjama bottoms or scarves for themselves," Hart says. With their long, straight seams, pyjama bottoms are a quick, straightforward project. Trace round an existing pair if you don't have a pattern. If you don't have a machine, it will just take you a bit longer to sew your running stitch by hand.
For those with less patience for adult-sized seams, children's clothes are excellent hand-sewing projects. Try clothkits.co.uk for an excellent range of patterns; the site also has sewing kits for your kids to try themselves.
I've been sewing by hand a lot during lockdown. There is a meditative quality to moving the needle through fabric, and after a day in front of a laptop, sitting at my machine holds little appeal. Small, decorative projects you can hold while perched on the sofa are ideal - cottonclara.com has modern embroidery kits which require no previous experience and look brilliant on your wall; I've just finished my second.
But sometimes, the pleasure comes from bringing something back to life. Last week I sat down with an ancient pair of jeans and patched them using a Japanese technique called boro. I learned the basics at a class, but you can find tutorials on YouTube. Essentially you place a piece of fabric behind the rip, pin it into place and, using a thick embroidery thread, sew a basic running stitch over the front of your fabric, creating a visible mend that gives new character to your garment.
Sewing seems an excellent activity for lockdown: useful, decorative, and, I think, hopeful. Taking time to make a garment beautiful speaks of future use. Of a time when it's worth mending a rip in your jeans, because you won't be visible only from the waist up.
Five things for your sewing kit
© EVENING STANDARD