INVISIBLE MEND • by Sarah Hilary

It works into me, the thread I’m using, fine as the hair from a baby’s head. I never notice as I stitch, concerned with the promise I’ve made. I advertise in the corner shop and the post office: ‘All reasonable repairs undertaken.’

I’d a woman bring me a camisole once. It can’t have been much when it was new. A frothy thing, I could fit the whole of it in one hand. The silk was coming away from the lace. That’s where things give, at the stitches and along seams. I said as much to the woman who brought it. She was snooty except for the way the skin was going under her eyes in ruches. That made me sorry for her.

“I don’t promise miracles,” I said. It was like a handful of cobweb.

“It was a present from my husband. He’s only seen me wear it once or twice. Can you fix it?”

“I don’t promise miracles but the mend will be invisible if at all possible.”

That’s what I tell Mr Dane when he brings me his trousers. Cavalry twill, lovely strong stuff. A faint ring of boot polish if you look really hard, just below each knee. Proper button fly, flat-fronted, neat line at the back.

“What d’you think, Miss Cready?” he says.

I find the damage by touch. My eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be but my fingers never miss a trick. It’s the usual culprit, the stitches in the seam have weakened the twill and it’s fraying right through at the thigh.

“I can make this as good as new,” I promise.

I don’t ask why his wife couldn’t fix it. I don’t ask questions of that kind. Anyway I can tell from looking at him that Mr Dane doesn’t have a wife. He’s very spruce but you can tell, can’t you?

To make an invisible mend you’ve to steal a little cloth from a hem, say, and work it into the spot where the damage is, but you’ve to do it so it looks like nothing was added or taken away.

One of the buttons is coming loose at the fly so I fix that first. I sew under the lamp, bringing the trousers into my lap.

I snip a good length from the hem of an inside leg so I’ve plenty to play with. I use a fine needle, separating the fibres to thread it. I spend an hour on it. Fairy stitches.

“There,” I say when I’m done.

You can’t see the mend. I run my fingers over the seam. You can’t feel it.

I’ll press the trousers for a nice finish.

Only when I stand and shake out the legs I find the trousers stay in my lap.

I’ve sewn through the seam and into my skirt, my stockings too. I’ve stitched the hairs on my thighs into the mix of twill and tweed and twenty-denier nylon.

This has never happened to me before. I am mortified.

“Mr Dane!” I wail, as if it’s somehow that poor man’s fault. “Oh, Mr Dane!”

Sarah Hilary is an award-winning writer whose fiction appears in Smokelong Quarterly, The Fish Anthology 2008, WigleaF, LITnIMAGE, Word Riot, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008, and in the Crime Writers’ Association anthology, MO: Crimes of Practice. A column about the wartime experiences of her mother, who was a child internee of the Japanese, was published in the Spring 09 edition of Foto8 Magazine.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah, as usual, your story touched me. I can’t say exactly why, but as she was stitching, and before you revealed what she’d done, I had a growing catch in my chest that ticked and ticked like a needle against a thimble. Like a baby bird of love wanting to hatch. 🙂

    Thank you.

  • jennifer walmsley

    Another lovely story. A wonderful mental picture and so gentle.

  • Arthur

    A gentle, wistful tale; can’t put my finger on why it’s so good.

  • Margie

    So sweet! I could see my granny in my minds eye. Thank you! 🙂

  • Jen

    Wonderful story. What the main charachter does is interesting, it’s almost magical. I really would like to know how she got out of that one.

  • Amy Corbin


    I really like your economical style of writing. Lovely.

  • Sarah you have a way with touching people and this story does it too. What I especially like is the gentle way you set us up for a bit of humor from the heart. Love it. 5 from me.

  • Great as always Sarah

  • A very warm story with a lovely central character, well portrayed 🙂

  • J.C. Towler

    Really liked this up until the last which, can’t put a finger on why exactly, didn’t work for me.

    One thing that I did bother me was this passage:

    “I don’t ask why his wife couldn’t fix it. I don’t ask questions of that kind. Anyway I can tell from looking at him that Mr Dane doesn’t have a wife.”

    Why would she say, “I don’t ask why his wife…I don’t ask questions of that kind.” if in the next sentence she reveals”…Mr. Dane doesn’t have a wife.”? It’s like saying “I didn’t ride my bike today. I don’t like to ride bikes. Oh, and I don’t have a bike.”

    No? Yes? Pre-caffeinated commentary. Forgive me.

    But bottom line, the seamstress was compelling as a character and I really liked her. Almost magical in a way. Would have liked to have seen more.


  • I agree with some of the above comments – this story touched me but I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the sweet gentleness of it. Also, I want to know more about the woman who brought the camisole – why did her husband only see her in it once or twice? What’s her story? 🙂

  • Somehow, when I got to the end, the story seemed rather pointless. Why was she calling out the customer’s name? I just don’t get it.

  • Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

    It’s the intimacy and the self-effacement which touch me here, and the implied dedication and skill. This is a like a Vermeer painting, the seamstress focused on her task, the shadow of a world outside crossing the daylight in which she works. So beautiful.

  • Thanks, all, for your comments. Anne-Elisabeth, that has to rate as one of the all-time loveliest things anyone has ever said about my writing. I wish I was less inarticulate but it’s been a long day, so I will just say thank you.

  • Brilliant – beautifully written, touching, terrific ending. Five stars.

  • Mickey

    I liked it a lot. There is an economy of words here that strikes a great balance between story and description. I don’t believe all stories really need a point. Sometimes the read is the point.

    Nicely done.

  • Thank you, Mickey.

  • Lamia Van Marle

    I really liked that. Poignant and funny.

  • timejumper

    I disagree w Mr. Towler above on the paragraph that includes: “I don’t ask why his wife couldn’t fix it.”

    To me, that made perfect sense.

    Aside from that, I admit you lost me the first time through. For some reason, I got hung up on the woman you start talking about and kept thinking the story was heading back to her. Once I read it again, I could see that was just a flashback before the story.

  • Thanks, Lamia and timejumper!

  • Thank you, Cathryn!

  • Debra

    Cute, but the part about the parasol has no bearing on the story, and could be eliminated all together.

  • Hi Debra, I’m confused. Parasol? Were you commenting on another story?

  • Sarah

    I would like to have found out how the camisole repair went. Otherwise, wonderful!

  • Thanks, Sarah!