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Laura Freeman

How to mend (almost) anything

How to mend (almost) anything
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‘Sides to middle’, that’s the cry. When your foot goes through the flat sheet in the night, there’s only one thing for it: scissors down the centre, then sew it edge to edge. Good as new – for as long as your stitches hold up. If you’ve paid for Egyptian cotton, you cannot cut your linen into dusters the minute the thread count wears thin.

Besides, call it eco-activism, call it penny--pinching, mending things is fun. From time to time, when my husband is washing up, a plate will crumble like a biscuit in his hands. Seeing his ‘it wasn’t me’ expression, I’ll tell him that the plate, glued and glued again, was beyond salvation. Then I’ll glue it together again. My mum saves her shards believing I have some magic Bostik touch. I don’t. But I’m patient and I’ve always liked jigsaws. (Top tip: keep a bottle of nail-polish remover handy. Best thing for ungluing fingers from thumbs.)

Japanese potters practice kintsugi, repairing broken pots with gold dust and lacquer. Then there’s sashiko – visible mending – dodgy needlework raised to an art. I’m a lousy seamstress (buttons stay on if you don’t tug too hard) so I take trickier tears to Moses, who works at the local dry cleaners. A man aptly named: he parts the seams and draws them together again. Find your own Moses. They’re worth their weight in lacquered gold.

Shoes go to Distinctive Shoe Repairs on Norfolk Street near Paddington station, open since 1951. Boots are re-soled, kittens re-heeled, belts punched with new holes. Jokes are on offer: ‘I’m no vicar, but I can certainly heal your sole.’ When I took a vintage Louis Vuitton bag, bought by my mum in the power--dressing 1980s, to the LV concession in Selfridges, the manageress looked at me like a cat that had brought in a uniquely mangled mouse. Yes, they did repairs, but this… I took it to Norfolk Street, where, bang, bang, stitch, the strap was repaired. Saddlers are good for clasps, buckles and battered suitcases.

There’s a man called Graham in West Lothian who fixes GHD products. When my hairdryer started smoking last summer – I love the smell of burnt hair in the morning – I put it in a Jiffy bag and sent it first-class to Graham, who fixed it in a day and sent it back. All for £33.95. A new GHD blower is £119.99 and the old one would have gone to landfill. I’ve just dispatched my Roberts Revival radio, transmitting only Static FM, to the Roberts repair shop. There are, however, limits. I will not sit darning M&S multi-pack socks by the fire.

‘Right to repair’ is a serious issue. I hate having to give up on yet another pair of headphones/blender/all-in-one-printer-scanner-pain-in-the-neck. Earlier this year, I tried to get my warhorse printer repaired. The call-out charge was £69 +VAT, more than the cost of the thing in the first place. The replacement part would have cost some hundred pounds more. I bought a new model and took the old one to the electrical recycling bin. Somewhere, a fairy died. It was the same with the washing machine. Two engineers, two ruinous credit-card payments and the advice: ‘Better get a new one, love.’ When this one blows, I’m buying a copper and an old-fashioned mangle.