I won’t lie; it took me a good long while to puzzle out an attitudinal shift over the last seven years when looking around at the work required to revitalize 21 acres, maintain a house, eleven outbuildings and tumble successfully through all four seasons. In the process of attaching one’s self to various projects, it’s just a natural course of events for your jeans to wear out; the knees go first – a testament to prostration before the alter of hard work, and sometimes the baling wire twisted in a hurry doesn’t get tucked back in on itself, so when you go to open a gate you hear the ripping sound that congratulates you for tearing a hole in the side of your jeans. Or, like the time the wind blew off several sheets of composite roofing and I found myself twenty feet up scooching around on my arse while holding a rope, applying mastic to tack on new roofing and later discovered a rather large hole worn through and through in the seat of my pants. Should have worn my coveralls. Oh well.

When money is tight, and the winter months settle into a yin flow of minimal ‘to do’ lists, the mind wanders down the necessary paths of questioning; what can I repair for nearly free, what could I upcycle, what can I recycle? A subtle magic happens when you’re sitting by the wood stove, holding a cup of coffee, and gazing out the kitchen window at the white and frozen world outside – and that is how my patched work pants came into being. I don’t know how to sew, or at least, don’t know my way around a sewing machine – Yet. I do know that I love color and I love my jeans so I started digging around for patching material, ordered a suite of colored thread, asked where the needles are kept, and put together a sewing kit in the kitchen drawer. Since we were living in the middle-of-nowhere it really didn’t matter to me what my first attempts looked like as long as the patches held.

In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. Rather than overthink it, I lapsed into a meditational state by the wood stove. I allowed my fingers to connect with the thread and materials on my lap. Over time, through seasons, and several pairs of repaired jeans; a stitch emerged that felt right.

In so many ways this process reflects the notion contained in permaculture. I’m engaged in my 7th year of deep relationship to place and Nature. I have integrated the themes and concepts of permaculture and land restoration into every fiber of my being. Drudgery has shape-shifted to Reverence and chores have transformed themselves into Rituals. Gratitude pervades as many breaths as I can manage in a day. It wasn’t like this in the early years. I remember feeling poor. I worried how I would ever make a day’s wage from a degraded property mired in so much desperation, miles from the nearest town.

And then it started to happen. It began with the land first. Lifeless moon dust became soil. Mushrooms sprouted in eight inches of mulch (in the desert), over 500 tiny sticks morphed into trees and shrubs rising like ghosts from the ground, and every spring yielded a new topography. Wildlife began moving into this tiny oasis – a drop in the sea of dry wheat monocrop that surrounds her. Flowers, fruit, and biomass emerged – all on their own – and it slowly entered my consciousness that all this effort was working! Give back to Nature and she will respond one hundred fold.

From this …
To this!
Sparse
Thriving!

She gave me the permission and inspiration to wear my patched jeans out in public. And that’s when the compliments and conversations with complete strangers started; in bakeries, in airports, waiting in line in a store or any other random place a person of the land finds themselves when moving through urban environs over the course of a year.

Recently I met a guardian angel while visiting family in Ithaca and she suggested I share my exquisite creation with others by starting to sell them and offer commissioned work. While I’ve reflected over the years various ways I can provide an income for myself without stepping away from my beloved surroundings (and I have managed to incept a comprehensive list of income potentials) I guess I really had no idea that patched jeans would be the most successful item on that list! Life is funny that way – the right person comes along at exactly the right time and tells you what you need to hear. I am honoring her suggestion so I am now offering hand stitched patched jeans to love as much as I love mine.

I know not everyone can, or even has the means (or desire) to live way out in the middle of nowhere or go traipsing off to start a farm but what if that burning desire is within you? Let me be the inspiration for your ‘someday’ dreams about this way of life – and I’ll take all the bumps, cuts, sore muscles and bruises (Happily!) in the mean time. Let your hand stitched jeans remind you of the awesome things that are possible; that we can work in concert with the land and do no harm.

Each patch does take a little under two hours (I’ve timed it). Everyone deserves to benefit from beauty no matter what your budget; adding a patch at a time or asking for a complete set of jeans with 5 or 6 patches allows space for what you can afford at the time. We can always add more patches later. In this way we can build an organic relationship with one another. If you have a favorite fabric we can work together to bestow personalized beauty that belongs to you.

If you have a special pair of jeans that you love and just can’t let go of, then send them to me at the farm and I’ll get your patches started. Maybe you have a favorite fabric that belonged to your grandmother or a piece from a vintage store you’ve got stashed. The patch designs I’m most drawn to reflect the environment I surround myself with: flowers, animals, beneficial insects, patterns found in Nature and I strive to make sure the patching materials are 100% cotton, old jeans, flannels, corduroy. I stay away from synthetics as much as possible. I cruise the shops for vintage sturdy brand name jeans occasionally, so you can also send your measurements and I’ll keep my eye out for your perfectly sized jeans.

I’ll get going with setting up pricing, the online store and all that associated ‘stuff’ that makes for an online business these days. In the next blog I’ll be sure to post updated pictures of the latest patched jeans I’m working on now, as I tell you about an interesting foray my friend invited me to last week. Wow. It blew my mind. Hint: it’s all about upcycling, waste, globalization, and how clothing and jeans make their way around the world.

Cheers,
Sheila