Wednesday 2 December 2015

Made to Last

I was reading a post in Hopalong Hollow Gazette  where the blogger was describing her collection of threads and wooden spools and it made me think back to the little front sewing room in my grandmother's house. She had a treadle Singer sewing machine in a wooden cabinet. There were some small drawers in the sewing machine cabinet as well as in a desk with sewing items in them. I used to love looking through them with their collection of threads, yarns, thimbles, bobbins... I used to watch my grandmother and sometimes my mother darn socks. My uncle wore what we referred to as barn socks which would have been thick work socks. If a hole developed in the heel, it would be darned. This meant that a glass light bulb was put into the sock where the hole developed so that a rounded shape could be achieved, like a person's heel. Then a darning needle and some yarn was used to weave and repair the hole. The sock was then able to be worn until a new hole developed.

Now if I get a hole in one of my socks, that sock is no longer worn. I WILL NOT be darning socks. Why? Well, because people just don't. Things aren't made to last anymore, anyway. Things get purchased, used for a short period of time, then they break or wear out, and they get trashed. And it is ridiculous. Actually, I don't throw out my son's socks that have holes in them. He likes the ankle height socks and I have a collection of them in a basket that get used as dusting rags. They fit perfectly over my hand and I spray them with something like Pledge and then when they get dirty with dust, I throw them in the wash with my towels. But, apart from my son's holey socks, many things get thrown away.

We have had fairly new items break on us over the years. Often this happens soon after the year's warranty is up. We purchased a washer and dryer set: stacking and high efficiency. My husband enjoys researching what to buy by reading Consumer's Reports. Regardless of good reports, the washing machine stopped going through the cycles. It wouldn't fill up properly. My husband thought perhaps it was the "Mother Board", i.e. the brains of the thing, so he ordered a new one. That wasn't it. Luckily I am married to a rather handy guy and he was actually able to figure out it was all down to one flimsy cheap little piece of tubing which got a tiny hole in it due to the action of the machine and he was able to replace it. Most people do not have the patience, skills, or tools to fix their own appliances. Do you think the manufacturers count on that?

We bought new kitchen appliances when we finally renovated our tired, old kitchen. Sure enough, the nifty little digital read out on our stainless steel dishwasher stopped reading out. Well, it shows some things, but doesn't show everything anymore. I really liked the words that let you know the load was clean and not just rinsed. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Likely this is a part that costs less than a dollar. Yes, our appliances are still under warranty. No, I can't be home between 10:00 and 2:00 for someone to come and fix it. No, there isn't someone who can hang out in our house and wait for you.

My parents had things for years. I mean YEARS. There was a refrigerator in the basement. It was called the milk fridge. (That's another story). Anyway, this was a small fridge that wasn't always in the basement. At one time it was the fridge in the kitchen. It was old. It likely wasn't very energy efficient. But that fridge still worked after all of us had grown up and moved out of the house! That fridge put our appliances to shame. I'm not kidding when I say that we have gone through three dishwashers in the course of maybe 15 years. My son wants a new gaming system for Christmas because the one that he had for, hmmmm, maybe two years??? doesn't work anymore. Prior to that gaming system, the one we had when the kids were younger also "gave up the ghost" and we had to replace that as well.

These are expensive things to replace. These aren't socks. But even little, inexpensive things break easily, long before they should. I was cutting a delicious gourmet  frozen pizza with a circular pizza cutter and the round blade broke off of the handle. I honestly wasn't leaning into it or anything. Can I survive without a pizza cutter? Yes, but that's not the point. (And actually handy dandy husband went out to the shop with the broken cutter and replaced a part and now it's useable again... but most people would toss it in the garbage).

And don't even get me started on vacuums. We have gone through A LOT in the course of our marriage. Granted, my husband sometimes has been known to use a house vacuum more like a shop vac and suck up various home renovation chunks and particles with it... but I recall my mother using an old long canister Electrolux for what seemed like my entire childhood. (Come to think of it, we've gone through a few shop vacs as well!!!)

How 'bout you? Tired of things not lasting? Or do you have a good old tried and true item that has lasted for years?


  1. My downstairs vacuum cleaner makes the most dreadful noise but, according to my husband it 'still works' so what;s the worry! My cleaner and I spend our coffee time hatching plots for it to give up the ghost, but it never does.
    On the subject of darning, my mother had a wooden 'mushroom' which she popped into the sock - I loved to watch her, but never think of darning these days.

  2. I could not agree with you more. It makes me crazy that we live in such a throw-away society. I hang on to things until they are beyond repair. I had an iron that lasted 27 years - it blew up just a few months ago, the new replacement iron does not feel anything like as sturdy and I just know it wont last 27 years like the last one.

    I've just started knitting socks and fully intend to darn them as and when the need arises because of the time and effort that goes in to making them (and I have got a wooden darning mushroom in readiness!). But, no, I have never darned shop bought socks either.

  3. I think today's motto is no longer "made to last" but rather, made to break down within 2 yrs". It is SO aggravating! The best washing machine I ever owned was one I purchased off the sidewalk for $15, it was a 2o yr old MAYTAG and it lasted ME another 10 years. We gave up on buying new vacuums and went on Craigslist to find an old Kirby. It is just great and built to last. What really kills me is that you have to purchase a warranty, no one stands beyond their product for more than a month....and don't even get me started on "Auto Mechanics" !!!!