I hadn't been to a reweaver since I wrote about (and thus discovered) the trade for a New York newspaper about four years ago. And I missed it. The vanishing trade is so old-world-immigrant, so idiosyncratic, so invisible to everyday view—and, also, so necessary!—I couldn't help but love it. Reweavers are relics of a thriftier, more sensible time, when people actually had their old garments mended and darned. They are a rebuttal to our diseased, disposable lifestyle.
I had a couple beloved sweaters that had a hole or two; it was time. I grabbed them and headed to midtown Manhattan. Last time I checked there were still three or four reweavers around. The oldest, by far, is Alice Zotta. Like all the other reweavers I know, she works out of a cubby hole on a high floor of a highrise. Hers is on W. 45th, near Fifth Avenue.
Last time I visited, little Alice was still on the job, as she had been for 70 years. She has since retired, I was told, but the company continues, run now by her daughter. Otherwise, the "enterprise" is the same. There's a small, anonymous vestibule, and you conduct your business through a doctor's office window, passing your garments through to a woman, pointing our the spots that need repair.
They're a salty group, the reweavers. Dyspeptic, unsmiling, truth-tellers. They'll let you have it in no uncertain terms. "I don't know if we can do this," they'll begin. "This is a big job." "This might be impossible." "This is gonna cost you." "Are you sure you want to do this?" Comments like that. They really do their best to turn you away. You have to pay in advance, because, as the worker told me, "We've been burned to many times." Zotta's office is filled with clothes people have left and never paid for.
I'd go to the reweaver more, but the work does cost a lot. The reweaving of one smallish hole will run you $50, and many jobs start between $70 and $100. So you better goddam love that suit or pair of pants to pay the sort of money that could easily buy you a new garment. I did love these three sweaters. But one had been attacked by moths so viciously I was told it would cost $200 to repair. So, with a sigh, I abandoned it to the trash. The other two, however, I decided to save.
I'm looking forward to picking them up. Zotta always does peerless work in a dying craft.