Mending Birkenstock Sandals-

One of the many things I am passionate about, and yet never seem to write anything of, is my love of mending. I have always mended my clothing. Not just out of need, but as a sustainable choice. I grew up the youngest of four. Hand me downs were a way of life. Second hand clothes, often in need of repair or alterations, was normal for me. My mother taught me to sew and embroider when I was very young, while an aunt taught me to cross stitch. I frequently used those techniques to repair or alter clothes I inherited from siblings, and cousins or bought from yard sales or thrift stores. My childhood friend’s mother worked for a veteran’s charity that ran a thrift store, so I was in and out of there all the time.

One of the things I have noticed in a lifetime of mending holes and tears is that clothing quality is in sharp decline. Bad peicing, open seams, poorly secured buttons… the disappearing women’s pockets; the list goes on. By sticking with second hand, I can look for better quality vintage items than the mass produced and poorly constructed fast fashion currently sold in retail.

Mending is usually something I do to repair worn areas, snags from foraging, yard work, being careless, or ripped buttons, etc. in CLOTHES. I was recently challenged to mend something entirely new. Shoes.

Why shoes? Well, last October when we came home from vacation, as we were unloading the car, I heard a faint “meow” and looked down just in time to see a tiny, sickly kitten collapse. We scooped it up, it was soaking wet, cold, filthy, looked like it only had one eye, and was just a skeleton with patchy fur stretched over it. It was a challenge to keep it alive during the night. The next morning he was taken to the vet’s office where he spent nearly a week on an IV drip recovering from what was essentially the kitty version of dysentery.

We gave him an appropriately obnoxiously arrogant name to balance out his rough start in life. I won’t give it, but he has a stated profession after his first three names, of which he is the third of his name (not really, but we wanted him to have some dignity).

It turned out that he had both eyes, despite weighing a paltry 11 ounces, was two months old, and he came home a curious, intelligent, loving kitten. We doted on him, and to get him back to where he should have been developmentally at that age he was fed a ridiculous diet of home made, organic, free range chicken paté with lysine and vitamin supplements. He went from being in the bottom 5% of growth charts to the top 5% in a few short months. Grew into the name, too. He needs a monocle.

Yeah. I ate your shoe. What are you going to do about it? Nothing. That’s what.

As he got older, he decided that while teething, it would be a great idea to chew on my Birkenstock sandals. To death. Well only one of them, he was merciful in that regard. Since he so nearly died, and was feral in the first place, I tend to cut him a lot of (too much) slack for his bad behavior. Also, how does one punish a cat? No matter what you do, you look like a raving lunatic so you suck it up and learn to keep yours shoes in the closet. You don’t train the cat. The cat trains you.

So there I was, with a pair of not even broken in Birks… chewed up. I spent a few days thinking it out, before I finally came up with a plan of action to mend them. Turns out you really can mend just about anything if you put your creative mind to it.

Needle teeth damage. Makes me happy he loves me. There is clear tape on the back side holding it together.

First I used some tape to put the bits back to where they belonged. Then I stitched the pieces back together, admittedly in a pretty crude fashion. The idea was to hold it together in the correct shape, but the stitches would not be load bearing.

I cut some leather patches for the top and bottom that matched the shape of the chewed up bit. I covered the chewed up bits with glue. I put the leather patches onto the glue, matching the edges up, and used binder clips to hold it together while it dried over night.

Once dried, I removed the binder clips and used an awl to punch holes through the layers along the edge. To stitch it, I used a long length of waxed black linen thread with a needle on both ends. I stitched it together passing the two ends of the thread though the same hole from opposite directions.

Black thread stitches on black leather. It’s there. I promise. A little flash wouldn’t have killed this photo.

This is how it looked when finished. I think it looks ok, but the important part is that I can’t feel it when they are on. Now to just keep them away from sharp little needle teeth…

Mended Birkenstock sandal on left. Again, I guess flash would have been a good thing.

Mending is a good skill to hone while riding out COVID19.  Repair what you have, update your wardrobe,  socially distance and still be productive!


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