The Darning Stitch

At secondary school, I had the opportunity to choose between home economics and agricultural science. I chose the latter because I couldn’t stand sewing, anymore. For I had lived through the years of our governess’ teachings and passion for mending torn fabrics, by hand. I wanted none of it.

Instead I tended a garden and fiercely made sure no-one trampled on it. I was rather too happy with my success at warding off animal pests that I ignored the tiny weeds as insignificant. And so, it was with the sting of a nettle that I learned friends can simply detest your blooming tomatoes. Those were my youth days.

My father alluded to the fact that, “You don’t just sit in the shade and marvel at your garden. You have to pick up the hoe, and constantly do the work.” So, weeding became my pastime. But what does that have to do with the darning stitch?

In my adult life, I would learn that family too can simply resent your flipping blooming tomatoes. And that it’s still easy to be blindsided, more especially by unconventional conversations around you.

Looking back, it is the governess I owe a debt of gratitude. Because from time to time, I pick up the thread and needle, and mend holes in my heart.

note: This vignette is written for Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero; a Pantry of Prose, and a response to the prompt Stitches.

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. I’m enjoying all the autobiography that has been written for this prompt. I like the way you describe your rebellion against years of your nanny’s ‘teachings and passion for mending torn fabrics, by hand’, and admire your affiliation with nature, Khaya. And your anecdote and my story have something in common – mending holes in hearts.

  2. It doesn’t matter how passionate we are about a thing, eventually it will lead to w-o-r-k, whether it’s weeding (or editing! 😀 ) Heck, you can’t get through living without doing necessary but unglamorous things. If we’re lucky, we’ll have someone like your nanny show us the basics, so we’ll have them to fall back on when life inevitably demands it.

  3. Once you have a garden,you need never go hungry or miss the delight in growing beautiful flowers.

  4. How wonderful that you gained both sewing and agricultural skills at a young age. I think everyone should have to learn these life skills whether they like it or not. Your nanny probably had no idea she was going to help you mend holes in your heart. That is so sweet. 🙂

  5. We need those basics for future use. All grandmothers know this. Love How the piece ends. So touching, Khaya.

  6. This is beautiful, full of life’s lessons learned. Gardening taught me so much! A wonderful read.

  7. The ending gave me chills.

    Life is so good at teaching us the why of this and that, isn’t she? Your story reminds of how many time I’ve looked back at things (and people’s behaviors) that used to drive mad, just to realize how grateful I am for the lessons. Blessings aren’t free–dad is wise–and freedom involves a lot of needling.

  8. I wish I had agricultural sciences, I definitely would have chosen it as one of my main subjects (ie higher grade).

    I enjoy learning about Khaya’s personality., xx

    True. #noteveryone

  9. The surprise ending won my heart. How do we ever learn the hard work of living? By our failures and then, getting up and doing what we must. Love this telling.

  10. A great story wonderfully rendered … I took it as a kind of loose metaphor for: why do we do what we do … and why we think the way we do about what we are doing.

  11. Khaya, a powerful post and you weave in a breathtaking sentence, as if an after-thought, but know it is the actual key to your post. ‘from time to time, I pick up the thread and needle, and mend holes in my heart.’ Wow! All the lessons we’ve learnt come to play an important part in our lives. Beautiful reflections, smiling at your eagerness to get the bugs your forgot to weed! Can be so in writing, concentrating on one element, we forget something else. Hope you’re enjoying the start of August! 😀🌺

  12. Thanks Kim. Autobiography is one of the genres I love to read and write. Like you, I’m enjoying the autobiographical stories written for this prompt. And yes, I saw we have something in common with mending of this powerful yet delicate muscular organ; the heart.

  13. W-o-r-k, exactly! And relations need the same. Caregivers play a huge role in child development. I was lucky indeed, to have adults in my life (other than my parents) who taught me the valuable basics.

  14. I had a “privileged” childhood, which means we had to TVs or mobile phones growing up. 😀 So, there was always plenty to do and learn. And yes, maybe my nanny didn’t know that darning stitch would become handy in my life.

  15. Life is the greatest teacher. I think it’s somewhat common for the youth to dismiss the elders as old-fashioned. But life challenges (and joys) prove those lessons very handy. Say that again, there’s a lot of needling that comes with those blessings and freedom!

  16. Thanks Viv. I’m glad you perceived the nestled metaphor. 🙂 And I fully agree, we are shaped by our experiences.

  17. The syllabus was different in those days. The remnants of Bantu Education were still there, if though I started schooling after it was abolished. But I enjoyed agricultural studies, and believe they’d be still useful even today in teaching youth how to grow their vegetables and healthy eating.

    I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying these glimpses of my life. 🙂 And yes #noteveryone but we have to keep growing those tomatoes, regardless!

  18. Aww, thank you Susan for reading on your break time. I guess we learn through both our failures and successes. One thing for sure, it’s a never-ending kind of education. 🙂

  19. You are so spot on, the quoted line is the actual key to the post. As with writing, a writer has to cover all bases. 😀 And I’m telling you, these lessons come in handy.

    Thank you, dear Annika for reading. My August has started well, I’m slowly picking up my new routine. As you can see, I still have time to linger around the blogs using every time I have at the moment before madness starts. 🙂

  20. we learn a lot of things through life but perhaps the ones that count are the basics. 🙂

  21. Khaya, I really dislike analogies because they’re usually (excuse my judgment) lazy ways to express meaning, BUT what you’ve done here is brilliant. I want to read more <3

  22. Aww Kathy! I’m super pleased to hear that you liked this piece despite your dislike for analogy. 🙂 Thank you for this constructive feedback, it’s always good to hear what works and what doesn’t. <3

  23. I’m scrolling down my followed sites when I realize something. Your followers are very, how do I say.

    You have six likes on this post but more than 15 comments from your followers. Excluding your replies of course, otherwise that would have been 33 comments.

    This tells me that, when your followers like a blog post, they show their appreciation either with a comment or a ‘star/like’.

    It shows me their following is not driven by a chase/hunt for likes. Its refreshing.

    Maybe I’m projecting.

  24. You are correct Pale. Regular readers of my blog always comment than just clicking a “Like” button, which I also appreciate.

    For a long time, I didn’t activate a like button on my blog. Because there are some (few) people who simply click a like, without necessary reading the post. How do I know this? My posts take at least more than one minute to read. 🙂

    So, I appreciate comments and interaction a lot. Because it takes time to read someone’s post and write a comment in response. And I always try to reciprocate the gesture.

  25. Makes sense “removing the button”. I’m new to blogging and was confused a few months ago when the same person followed my blog multiple times and liked a different blog each time. Later I realized, there is a system of chasing likes.

    Its refreshing to know there are people who don’t care about such.


  26. Life is amazing, isn’t it? You never know, when you look back, the “lessons” that were taught. Your Nanny is smiling! Big Hugs!

  27. It is, indeed! Sometimes it takes long to appreciate those life lessons. But it’s a wonderful feeling to finally connect and be able to apply them in one’s life. Thanks my friend for reading. Big Hugs!

  28. Sewing, craft work and me just don’t get on! Although I do appreciate the wonderful work and creations that many make.
    For me spending time outside is so relaxing …

    Good to read your words.

    All the best Jan

  29. I hear you, Jan. That kind of craft work is not for everyone, perhaps because it needs lots of patience. Depending on the activity, it’s probably much easier to be outdoors. 😀

  30. Cool… I like it! The photo had me wondering if you were somehow going to make a quilt resembling the patchwork… interesting! 😉

  31. Glad you like it, AJ. About the photo, it’s how I do “stitching” mostly with nature photographer. See the formation of patterns on the fields and forest. 😀

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