Sunday, March 22, 2009

Well known Phrases and Sayings No 4

In which A Stitch in Time Saves 9. A morality tale for credit crunched times.

There's been a little red button knocking around my desk for - what, 6 months? I know where it belongs but can I be bothered to reunite it with its buttonhole? Can I heck. It's making me feel guilty the more I think about it. I imagine it bleating at me now: 'Sew me on, sew me on...'But who mends any more? A 'stitch in time' for something special, much loved or even (an old-fashioned phrase coming up...) serviceable. Alan uses old tee- shirts for polishing stuff in his shed but otherwise I'm afraid the likelihood is that the holey, split or worn item is binned. Should I be ashamed to admit that in the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan darning has died out?

Well, contrary to what the above portrait of idleness might suggest - and surprising even myself - I have this evening put a restorative stitch or two into H's jacket. (It is Mother's Day after all and no mother likes to see her son coming adrift at the seams.) Should be good for another season or two now.

I'm not exactly a stranger to the sewing box. I look at it occasionally, confident that should the need arise I shall find needles and thread, scissors and pins. Yep, they're all there. There's a length of elastic or two, scraps of lace and some pretty bits of ribbon rescued or left over from some project or other as well. A handful of buttons have migrated to the bottom of the box - quite a miscellany - and probably utterly useless now their original garments are long gone.

On close examination its contents always come as something of a surprise. Just why did I keep that ghastly yellow zip? That piece of ribbon on too short to tie into even the smallest bow? It satisfies my sense of history too - there are spools of thread which date back to my early married life, spools of thread which sewed seams in long departed curtains, cushions and unlikely frocks. An ancient reel of brown cotton recalls the duvet cover I made in 1975. How hip and trendy that was, back in the day.

I seem to have accumulated quite a collection of yellows and greens - why, I wonder? I've never worn yellow or green and I can only recall ever sewing one length of yellow fabric to make a tablecloth. There is a rich seam of unlikely pinks, reds and mauves too. The pink on the left - of which there is very little left - sewed the last-but-one set of curtains in the spare room of our previous house. The deep plum, 2 spools along, took up the hem of a gorgeous velvet dress I wore one Christmas and one red......ahem....was the unused remains of an abandoned fancy dress project which we will gloss over..But why it that, in all probability if I needed to mend something tomorrow I would have to go out and buy a reel of colour specially? Luckily these days the wonderful Annie takes care of my turning-ups, letting outs and takings in and she is queen of the colourful cottons - her little work room is a corncopia of all things sewing and craft related.

Back in my sewing box there are needles in abundance - darning, embroidery, tapestry and a savage looking jobbie used for pricking out lace patterns. Pretty glass beads nestle in a folded length of broderie anglaise. It dawns on me that this box is a reliquary of past enthusiasms too.

What it lacks though - and will never therefore be a proper sewing box in the way my mother's was - are the bits and pieces which were necessities in the days when mending wasn't an option.

I am lacking:
Well, a proper sewing basket for a start - generally woven wicker and lined with padded silk. Failing that an old biscuit tin.
The darning 'mushroom' and accompanying darning wool to be persuaded through big eyed blunt nosed needles.
A proper pin cushion.
Shirring elastic. Who shirrs?
Safety pins. Big and steely and small and brass. Quite cute the little fellas.
Knicker elastic by the card-ful and probably in a disgusting shade of 'flesh' pink. Is it still possible to buy knicker elastic?
A replacement pyjama cord. Is it still possible to buy pjs with cords?
Bra straps and replacement suspenders with rubbery buttons; also 'flesh' pink and gross.
Buttons, hooks and eyes and press-studs, patches for elbows, bias binding.....
And Cash's name tapes by the yard and Cash's name tapes unpicked from some ancient school sock, ready to be prudently re-used. God forbid.
Am I bovvered? Of course I am. I like to do things properly.

19 comments:

Rachel said...

I have some of those things! Well, not a spare pyjama cord, but the wicker sewing basket and a biscuit tin...and several button tins...and bias binding...and enough needles to equip a sewing bee out on the prairies. Some were my mother's, along with the tapestry wool (sadly, maroon and navy) and the safety pins. There might even be a suspender button in there somewhere...

Go on, sew that button on. You'll feel so virtuous!

Nikki-ann said...

Strangely enough, over the weekend I found one of those travelling mending kits from a hotel rom (you know with needle, thread and a button in), so gave it to Mum (my stitching isn't the best) who'd all of a sudden found a use for a button that had been hanging around in the kitchen for months. She doesn't know where the button came from or what item of clothing it belonged to, but it now adornes a pair of trousers!

lampworkbeader said...

oh! Lovely post. I adore sewing baskets, or in my case sewing old biscuit tin.

ChrisH said...

God, Cash's name tapes! that brings back memories... actuall, talking of thrift, my daughter didn't know whether to be full of admiration or horror when she spotted two of my towels were my old school ones, complete with full name on a Cash label!

Elizabethd said...

So, quite a normal workbox then.
Mine is similar, maybe minus the knicker elastic and the name tapes.

TIGGYWINKLE said...

I loved this blog mountaineer. I love my sewing basket, and it's contents.It has the essentials, and the overflow is in a big box. Just bought knicker elastic in Australia - better stretch in it. I have an embroidery workbag my mum made, and another pretty one for cross-stitch. Have just bought a yummy bag from Toady for the knitting revival phase I'm going through.As my grand-daughter says "Mama just fixes everything",and I do.There's something homely about a workbasket.

Frances said...

Mountaineer, here is another sewing box devotee checking in.

I have a very large collection of spools of thread ... some are so old that the spools are wooden! I love seeing the threads' colors, because they cause me to venture way, way back down memory lane, trying to remember what dress, skirt, whatever was made with that thread.

A few years ago, I did donate a vast collection of envelopes of paper dress patterns to the design team of my employer. Some of the designer who recognized the treasures being bestowed (1960's through late 1990's) were delighted.

It was hard to give those patterns up, but I think I found them a good home.

Thank you for putting me in touch with dear memories.

xo

elizabethm said...

I have mine in an old biscuit tin and do indeed have numerous cash's nametapes from my children's schooldays. I have never quite been able to bring myself to throw them away. I would love a proper sewing box with a sectioned lid like a toolbox, although I wouldn't want to sully it with knicker elastic and suspender buttons.

Pondside said...

I have a beautiful old wicker basket passed on from an old friend. It is indeed lined with padded silk and has a sectionned tray. I'm missing most of the very interesting things you suggest - but I do have a card of hooks and eyes, a collection of purple and yellow thread (Easter???) and packages of seam binding in lurid colours. I find it touching that my grown children think that I can work miracles with 'mum's sewing basket'. Of course I can, as long as the miracle is a mended seam or a button needing re-attaching.

Wipso said...

Aw thanks. Wonderful? not so sure about that but I certainly do have most of the bits you are lacking in your sewing box but as you well know mine are all sorted in drawers and cupboards so I can put my hand onto everything and thankfully know how to use them all too :-) As my business cards and fliers say...I am the easy answer to all your sewing problems. From Alterations to...Zips. Hope to see you again soon. A x

hand-knitted muesli said...

Hey I have the darning mushroom.... and the threads, buttons, lace, hooks & eyes, press studs,lace pillows, tapestries well you never know they may be of some use some day.....

Twiglet said...

I have a pretty little biscuit tin full of embroidery thread and tapestry wools. I guess I hijacked it from the family home because inside the lid is selotaped a little label that says Ann P 1Z. Yes, that must have been the beginning of her love of sewing - all of 40 years ago!!!!!

Diary Farmer said...

Mrs D F has a sewing box (a wicker oval-shaped basket with a red lining) which she inherited from her Grandmother but alas it gathers dust on a shelf in the dining room. At least I know where to find a needle when I have a splinter to remove!!

Faith said...

Super blog! Have you got safety pins? My grandma had miniature pink and blue ones - when I asked why it was in case you needed to pin your underwear (which obviously came in pretty pink or baby blue).

muddyboots said...

Oh, you have brought back memories, Mum's sewing boxer or rather a fancy biscuit tin, had a blue wooden mushroom thing, as a kid never knew what it was for.

Mopsa said...

I can't believe your desk is so clean! Mine is full of dust bunnies and crumbs and kitten muddy pawprints...I am a slut and must do better.

countrymummy said...

As a stitchy/knitty person myself, I am sometimes given collections of buttons, threads, needles which people just don't know what to do with. There's nothing I like better than examining reels and random bits of haberdashery. Love the photos.

Calico Kate said...

I have a 'nappy pin' belonging to yours truly in my box. I think mum must have passed it along to me to 'keep it the family' not that I have anyones nappy to pin. But I like its movable top, worn white and slides up and down to prevevnt the pin from sticking in to diddums!
I bought a wicker box on eBay - full of contents, many as you describe, suspender and bra attachments, odd buttons bits of ribbon and bias binding even some ric-rac. But I don't have a darning mushroom, and I don't darn. Oh well.

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