a stitch in time

A stitch in time may save nine

This saying, first recorded in Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British, (1732), came to mind this week while trying to remedy a clothing problem.  The lining of my beloved 21 year old Hein Gericke leather jacket has begun to fall apart.  I have had it patched several times but the fabric has developed a general weakness that tears at the smallest provocation.

I don’t know if you have ever had to get this kind of work done but it is a real bit of craftsmanship that cannot be accomplished by just anybody with needle and thread.  I asked around my circle of friends to find that no one knew of a business that catered to this need.  The name of a large Dry Cleaner here in town finally was offered and I gave them a call.  “No, we don’t do that kind of work.  Call this number and leave a message and the gentleman will call you back.”  Without much faith I dialed the number and left a message.

In a few hours I received a call from the owner of the small alterations business.  His voice betrayed his somewhat advanced age and he spoke with a slight stutter.  “Sh-sure. I’ll t-take a look at it.  Bring it on by.”  He gave me the street address and in a few minutes I rolled up in front of a narrow rented space on the south side of town.  The door was locked but there was a call button to push.  I was greeted by a weathered but pleasant face that smiled convincingly.  He invited me into his shop and we passed by a room filled with industrial-looking sewing machines and related paraphernalia.  “Let’s look at it in the light.” he said as he lovingly laid the old jacket on his work bench and examined it.

I glanced around the room to see that he did a good bit of business, if the rows of coats and such were any indication.  I was given a choice of fabrics that could be used for the job.  I had no idea what would be best so I asked him to choose.  “Satin” he said.  “No more expensive, very durable, and will match just fine.”  I agreed to his choice and we made a deal for the price of his work.  It was, frankly, a lot less than I thought it would be. “How did you learn your trade?” I asked absently as I was starting to leave.  “Well” he sighed, remembering.  “I lived in Spain for five years when I was young and an old man who did this kind of work taught me.”  I acknowledged this with a nod, took my claim ticket, and went back to my truck.

Later I began to reflect upon my visit with the old gentleman and how it felt to be enfolded in the presence of such competency.  He was clearly the master of the subject matter and yet its willing servant.  He had found his place in this world and it seemed to bring blessing to him and, no doubt, to all who entered his door.  I suspect I will have a well-done piece of work when I pick up the jacket.  This person clearly thought that reputation was made or lost upon such things.

I cannot help but believe men and women, like my new alterations guy, have played a preserving role in society.  A renewed interest by our young people to learn what the old ones know might keep alive a vital ingredient in culture. A real stitch in time.

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3 Responses to a stitch in time

  1. Kathy Ashdown says:

    I enjoyed this blog so much because I have such an appreciation for skills that are passed down from generation to generation. Not the ones you learn from a book sitting at a desk where your hands rarely touch the product, but the ones lovingly taught with hands on training – skills that can’t be “short-cutted” or “easy-wayed”. I was a seamstress for many years and it’s not a simple task to line a leather jacket but it sounds like you found the right guy!

  2. very nice. I like the narrative development of this post. Entertaining and meaningful.

  3. Mark Colvin says:

    Got the jacket back yesterday – magnificent!

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