It was a good shirt

I turned my closet over today, a little semi-annual task that I enjoy enough it feels more like a seasonal ritual than a chore. I pulled my linen, along with my summer skirts and most of my short-sleeved shirts, and packed them away in the off-season side of my closet. At the same time, I revisited the stash of long johns, long-sleeved t-shirts, and wool sweaters that had been tucked out of the way since spring. As I sorted, I did a quick cull. There are always a couple things for the thrift store, items I thought I might wear six months ago but I haven’t even considered doing so since. And this time, there were a few old gems that I couldn’t put away for next year, it was just time to bid farewell.


First up, the best flannel shirt I have ever owned, purchased circa 2008 at the Senior Citizens’ thrift store in Beulah, ND for $1. It was perfectly soft and worn when it came to me, all brown plaid and pearl snaps. I never “wore” this shirt, I just threw it on over whatever I was wearing when there was any bit of chill – pretty much every morning and evening of every summer day for the last decade.

I patched the elbows last summer, but it was obvious then the situation was less a hole than the generally disintegrating state of the fabric. I managed to squeeze another year out it, but I’m afraid it’s time to love this one fondly from the rag pile.

Next up is a very close relative of the house flannel, the brown house sweater. This one came to me as a hand-me-down from my brother-in-law in roughly the same timeframe, maybe 2010.

It, too, has seen it’s fair share of shoddy mending jobs over the years. The left elbow went first, of course. (It’s a bad habit of leaning my left arm on my desk while the right operates a mouse for endless work hours.) But I needle-felted an orange elbow patch and liked it better for the character. Then the seams started to give in the armpit, but that’s easy to hide so it got a quick stitch back together. By the end, the left elbow was two patches deep, the right had a matching one, the armpits were hopelessly ripped out, and I loved it.

There simply isn’t enough fabric that isn’t falling apart to hold any more mending, so it will get felted and recycled into some future sewing project. Maybe my next hot water bottle cozy.

And finally, an unlikely addition, a pair of gray hiking shorts. A pair of shorts I bought just before leaving for New Zealand in December 2005. I wore them every day for more than four months on that trip; they were the only option I had except for a questionable skirt I wore while doing laundry. And for most of the years since, they have been the only pair of shorts I own. A bit like magic, the nylon seemed impervious to wear and they fit perfectly regardless if I gained fifteen pounds or lost it.

The thread was always the weak spot, I made the first hem repairs in a backcountry hut on that initial trip. There have been many more, and these days it all seems to be breaking and falling out. And it turns out that even nylon does wear, and these days it’s a bit… translucent. So another relic of another life, made by a company that no longer exists, is retired.

In summary, it was a good shirt (and sweater and pair of shorts).

If you’ve actually read this far, you deserve some sort of prize. Unfortunately, all I’ve got for you today is the satisfaction that there are people in the world who are moved to eulogize ordinary articles of clothing, but you’re not one of them.

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