Sewing as Kintsugi

You know what I like to do when I’m on the Metra? I like to sew.

Twenty year old gloves

I repair gloves. I’ve had these gloves since college, making them at least twenty years old. My Aunt Grace and Uncle Jerry gave them to me. Since I’ve had them for so long, I don’t want to get rid of them. Sure, they are starting to rip, but they get sewed up really nicely.

Every winter season I plan on sewing a different color thread.

  • Winter 2017-2018: Blue
  • Winter 2018-2019: Red
  • Winter 2019-2020: ???
Kintsugi sewing repair on gloves

The first year I did blue thread, because I wanted it to match my blue gloves. But then this year red seemed so much more fun. The red is really visible against the blue of my glove. This red thread adds an extra beauty to my gloves. They are well tended.

The red thread is like the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold.

Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.


Today I fixed a stuffed animal. My daughter’s monkey started to lose his leg.

Plush monkey with ripped leg

My sister and brother-in-law gave her this monkey, so I really wanted to repair it. Plus, what a good lesson to my daughter that we can repair things.

Now he’s a happy monkey

Happy monkey with sewed leg

However, it seems people don’t like to sit next to someone sewing on the train.

On the Metra most mornings going to work, I get a window seat. The train always gets full, so someone sits next to me. When the train arrives in Chicago, I really don’t care when the person next to me gets up. I just sit and wait until the train is nearly empty.

Whenever I’m sewing, my seat partner always gets up early.

I guess people don’t like to sit next to someone sewing. They always get up early to stand in the aisle. Maybe it’s the sharp needle?

Sitting next to a stranger with a sharp needle can be unsettling. But this is the Metra—people fall asleep with laptops and smartphones on their lap. Monthly train tickets worth $200 are clipped on the seats.

With such an expensive daily ride, perhaps people don’t expect their fellow riders to be doing weird things like sewing. Not that sewing is weird. But in this context it’s weird, because nobody sews on the Metra during rush hour. People don’t do much of anything on the rush hour Metra. So that’s why I sew.

I always make sure my sewing hand (my right hand) is on the side of the window. That way, my sewing needle is not next to the person. If I’m sitting in a seat where my right hand is facing my seat partner, I won’t sew during that ride.

Perhaps I needle the help I can get. Sewing is pretty relaxing. I don’t know what else to say. Maybe it’s time for another thread.

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