This spring, when I fixed this jacket for my dad, I got an unexpected bonus. Every time I saw him wearing it (which was quite often, it’s his favorite for cool windy days) my heart would warm with a soft fuzzy glow. Here was my dad, who I love dearly, so pleased with his jacket and so obviously getting good use out of it, both of those all the more so since I had fixed the zipper and the tearing pockets. It’s hard to describe actually— it seems at the same time obvious and silly— but I’m telling you, every single time I saw him in the jacket I would get a moment of happiness.
So, the obvious thing to do was to mend something else of his, and the standout candidate was this backpack. He’s had it since, I don’t know, around the time I was born maybe? And he still takes it out into the field on weekly basis. (Maybe I should explain that Dad is a fairly recently retired wildlife biologist, who now gets to spend more time outside with his pet projects than he did while he was working. Objects, which are part of his field gear and/or live in his pickup truck, do not lead an easy life.) And I have a serious soft spot for things that have far outlasted their expected usefulness—this clearly qualified.
Another (non-sentimental) reason I was all up for fixing rather than replacing this pack is that the zippers still work! I asked Dad if they did, and he said “kind of,” which turned out to mean that the only thing holding them back was the amount of frayed nylon threads stuck in the teeth. Amazing. The first thing I did was to turn under and sew down the raw edge of the flap covering the zipper, which had pulled out of its original stitching long ago and was the main source of the zipper-clogging threads. I pulled the threads from the zipper using my fingers, a tweezers, and a scissors for stubborn parts, alternately zipping and unzipping it until they were just about all gone. I also went kind of nuts zigzagging over any and all seam allowances and raw edges I could reach inside the pack with my machine, trying to keep future fraying and loose threads to an absolute minimum, since after all, this backpack has to be ready for another 30-odd years of use.
The bigger holes I patched inside and out, to reinforce them, and again to keep all raw edges inside so they wouldn’t unravel any further. The worst hole was where one strap had pulled out of the body of the pack. That one had allowed Dad’s not-so-small camera to fall out of the pack—that was the last straw for him to hand it over so I could fix it. After patching that hole on both sides, I sewed a big X through the strap webbing and the new fabric, which ought to hold it. I also reinforced the other strap with similar stitching.
The only part I have a doubt about, is where one strap had pulled off at the point where it’s anchored to the top of the pack. I added new fabric on both sides of the whole area where the straps attach (the one you see on the outside is black faux suede), and stitched around the whole thing as best I could. But, there is an old rivet in there that had pulled out. I couldn’t stitch as close to it as I would like, and I thought pulling it off completely would weaken the strap too much. At least I will be around to see how it holds up, and make future repairs if necessary!
Hopefully you don’t need any more encouragement than the above story to get out there and fix something for someone you love. It doesn’t have to be sewing, use whatever skills you have. And if you have any questions about needle-and-thread mending, let me know, I’ll be happy to help if I can.