There is such pleasure in looking after good clothes well.
One of the reasons shoes are my favourite piece of clothing is they actually get better with age: the upper shapes to your foot; perhaps more importantly, the insole does too; and the leather rewards hours of polishing with a deep and unique patina.
With most other clothes, maintenance merely delays an inevitable decline. Sure the canvas of a good suit moulds to man’s chest, improving the fit, and both cashmere sweaters and quality shirts soften with age. But none of them improve in every direction and never look back – that is the distinct gratification of a shoe.
However, there is still much pleasure to be had in maintaining tailoring and knitwear. It is the particular pleasure of taking the time to repair something that you know others would simply throw away. It is also a way of appreciating expensive clothing that has had a lot of time and effort put into it by others.
I had this pleasure recently with a black cashmere sweater I’ve had for a couple of years. It’s a Ralph Lauren Purple Label cable knit, with that lovely spongy softness that distinguish hand knits. When I bought the sweater I faithfully squirreled away the little sachet it came with containing spare thread, assuming I would never use it.
But during a particularly active game of forts with my daughter (rearranging our sofa cushions in order to hide behind them and repel invaders with scatter cushions) I tore the arm of the sweater on a stray spring. A jagged tear, two inches long.
That evening I got the spare thread out, threaded a needle and turned the sweater inside out, to attempt some kind of repair. It turned out to be remarkably easy. The cashmere thread was so thick and soft that it bound into the existing weave almost invisibly, though that was doubtless helped by the dark colour of the knit and the cable pattern.
There are many videos online that show you how to sew such a tear, so I won’t explain it step-by-step here (eHow is particularly good – though remember this is not darning, as there was no hole). But I will pass on a few points of advice:
- Always sew the garment inside-out
- Make sure you secure the start and end point, otherwise it will unravel
- Secure it by looping in the same place three times. Don’t use a knot, as it can stick out and with a loose weave will just pull through
- Sew slightly more stitches and slightly looser than you would instinctively
- Cashmere, particularly in a thick knit, is easier to repair, not harder
- Make sure you retain any spare thread that comes with the sweater: even a small difference in shade can stand out. If in doubt, use a shade darker not lighter
- Take the time and effort to actually do it. It’s very satisfying, makes you feel less like a useless modern man and makes the sweater more personal