Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Sewing Box

Well, it's been one of those kind of weeks. Although I don't like to wish my life away, I'm glad the week is over and the weekend is here. Plus, the hubby's band is not playing this weekend so we've got a weekend at home (Woo Hoo!). I did get my column written (I write a monthly column for a little rural newspaper in a neighboring town) and have decided to post it here on the blog. I'm working on a Vacation Dream card tonight and will be mailing some of those out..... probably next week.

So, until we get back to art, we're writing. Here's my latest column:

The Sewing Box

At our house sewing repairs crop up regularly. The hubby is forever tearing holes in his pants pockets or has a shirt that needs a button sewing on. Such tasks bring my old sewing box off the shelf and into service.

When you’ve owned and used an item for almost forty years you’ve seen it so many times that you really don’t see it anymore. Last week, I settled down at the kitchen table with my sewing box to repair a pair of work pants. Bright sunlight streaming in through double windows make the kitchen a favorite spot for hand sewing. Needle threaded, I started the repair. As I stitched in and out, working in a smooth rhythm, I could feel myself relaxing. I glanced over at my sewing box. The light made the faded colors seem a little livelier. Around the edges of the box the fabric folded over from the outside to the inside and here the original colors could still be seen. My Mom bought the sewing box for me from Jessop’s, a fine department store in Notttingham, England, before we moved to the U.S. Oval shaped and covered with a yellow/mustard fabric in a stylized floral pattern, it plainly stated "early 1970’s". I remember the thrill of becoming the owning of a "proper" sewing box. It had a lift out top tray with divided sections for the various sewing notions and a roomy bottom layer large enough to store scissors and a quite a few spools of thread. I was a bit ambivalent about the fabric color and bold pattern, but, nevertheless it was mine to use and cherish and I did.

As I continued making stitches, my attention kept returning to the sewing box. I thought of its contents: assorted colors of thread, beeswax to help the thread sew smoothly, a seam ripper, buttons, pins, tailor’s chalk, other odds and ends - and needles. Lots of needles. Fine needles for delicate sewing and sturdy short needles for quilting. Large needles for repairs on tough fabrics. Curved needles for crafts and huge needles with tips smoothly rounded for sewing together the individually knitted pieces of a sweater. And embroidery needles. Who in the world uses embroidery needles these days I wondered? I realized with a start that my sewing box said as much about me as it did about the era in which it was purchased. Mind drifting, I was once again sitting in sewing class. High school. England. In that time, all girls learned to sew. A young lady was not considered to have a well-rounded education without a working knowledge of basic and decorative sewing skills. Of course, girls also took the usual academic subjects, but the "domestic arts" classes of cookery and sewing were a treat. I loved the feel of the fine new fabric under my fingers and the satisfaction of a job well done when a garment turned out nicely. I thought about the variety of stitches we learned: blanket stitch to finish raw edges, hidden French seams for garment strength and neatness, smocking for charming children’s dresses or sundresses, backstitching for strong repairs (what I was doing at that very moment) and embroidery stitches with enticing names like satin stitch, French knot, stem stitch, and chain stitch. In addition to sewing at school, my Mom is, and has been for years, a skilled seamstress. As a youngster it was fun to use scraps from her latest project to make clothes and adornments for my doll. Besides keeping my sewing box all these years, I also kept my doll. "Jane" is now 46 years old, although unlike me, she hasn’t aged a day and looks almost as fresh and pretty as the Christmas morning Santa left her for me. She sits on top of the filing cabinet in my office/studio, wearing a faded dress. Around the hem of the dress is a narrow ribbon trim held there by the clumsy, loving stitches of a young girl learning to sew.

As I sat stitching and reminiscing, I wondered how many of today’s young girls acquired the home skills that my generation did. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a lot. And I guess these days there’s not much incentive to learn to sew.... it’s just easier to discard a garment in need of repair. Do young girls today even own a sewing box?

In some ways I envy today’s generation; especially the ease with which they handle technology. Yet, while I envy them on one hand, I feel sorry for them on the other hand. Kids grow up entirely too fast these days. Slow growth is better. Something is missing. I can’t imagine many of today’s kids playing a game of marbles, enthusiastically constructing their own makeshift club hideaway or knitting a scarf. Things we did as kids. But those kinds of activities bring wonderful benefits. Like time to think. Time to be creative. Time to dream. Time. The quiet, slower activities of my generation and generations past gave the gift of time.

I finished the repair and folded the pants. Once again, they were ready to wear. I saved a few dollars by repairing instead of replacing and felt refreshed by the lull in my day. While my fingers were busy, my mind was relaxed. A most content state. A few minutes with the sewing box had not only restored the pants - it had restored me.

Copyright 2008 by Teresa Houston. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without written consent of the author.
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