Sunday, January 27, 2013
Stitching up a memory . . . .
You might remember that a few posts ago I mentioned having to sew on one last button for a baby sweater I'd knit. The project had stalled because I lost one of the 5 buttons bought to complement it, and then having bought a replacement button, I realized I had no more matching thread to stitch it on with. So yet another shopping trip before the sweater was completed. (You may be relieved to know that all buttons have now been bought, stitched, and the garment in question has even been worn by the baby giftee, who managed to stop growing for a few days so he could fit into it.)
Once upon a time, I could have opened the narrow drawer of my vintage oak sewing machine cabinet, releasing the rich fragrance of decades, and rolled through a rainbow of colours in a wealth of hues, all good quality threads, all ready for whatever task presented itself. The drawer above held out my pincushion, always dotted with several already-threaded needles as well as a few empty sharps and a hedgehog's worth of pins. Various sizes of scissors were ready to snip or slice through fabric, and a few stitch-rippers were handy should a seam need to be opened. Tape measures both metric and Imperial were ready to count the centimetres or inches.
I thought of those drawers and their useful, reassuring contents the other day when, after buying a spool of Gutermann's beige to sew on that wooden button, I realized I couldn't find a needle to pull it through the button band. We gave away that old cabinet when we had a new shelving unit built in our kitchen/dining area, and the contents got shifted. Remembering, finally, that Paul had moved them all to a drawer out in the guest cottage, I hurried out to find a needle and finish the sweater. And sure enough, there was my old pincushion, handmade 25 or so years ago from fabric leftover from a dress I'd made one of my daughters. But while it was still stuffed with pins, there wasn't a single threaded needle to be found. Surely I wasn't going to have to make yet another shopping trip before I could cross the project off my list.
But no. There was a tiny pack of needles, 9 sharps all in a row, piercing a narrow plastic bar glued against a small rectangle of cardboard. Probably purchased at Eaton's or Woodward's back when department stores meant you could pick up a few sewing odds and ends while replacing your toddler's shoes, meeting a girlfriend for lunch, and grabbing the pork chops for dinner, all while your car was safely ensconced in free parking.
Threading the needle, I made quick work of that last button. Snipping the thread, holding the needle with its truncated tail, I sensed the stirring of a long-neglected kinaesthetic memory. . . my hand was ready to thread that needle into a nearby kitchen curtain where it would easily be found next time someone needed a hem caught up or a button stitched back on. Was mine the only family that did this? We haven't had kitchen curtains for 15 or so years now, not since we moved to this house, but before that, I always followed the practice of my mother, and my grandmother before her, of keeping two or three needles handily stashed in the fold of a curtain's flounce. I'm quite sure that practice hasn't made it to the next generation. I'm not even sure any of my sisters copied my Mom in using window coverings as pincushion. But that memory stitched me instantly to my early adulthood and then wove me right back into my childhood.
And I thought I'd share the memory and ask you where the threaded needles were kept in your homes through the years. Do you keep one at the ready even now? Or, like me, have you come to rely on outsourcing most of the mending to the point where even having to sew on a button means searching for supplies. I must say, this most recent experience has me restocking and reorganizing. . . . what about you? Thread that needle for me, would you, and sew me a wee memory?