Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Biography of a stitcher/dressmaker

I made a great buy at the thriftie yesterday, after unloading a carload of items for other people (!) thinking I should be rewarded for that effort, cough, cough. Click to see better.

Two clear toolbox dealies full of stitchers' and dressmakers'  items, all the way from seam rippers to tailor's chalk, zippers, bias binding, many reels of thread, including silk, and darning thread (!) machine needles, handsewing needles of all kinds, huge to very tiny, pins, a collection of thimbles, elastic of all kinds, hemming iron-on stuff, an awl, tiny German made scissors, other small tools I have to figure out probably related to sewing machines.

And among them little items like a book of matches from 1955, an ancient ruler with an ad from a long defunct local company, and a Jewish prayer for travelers, in a tiny scroll inside a glass tube hung on a leather lace, I suppose to wear in transit. I will handle that with great reverence.  I'm guessing that these boxes are from an old lady's house, and I decided then and there to pass them on to good homes, including my own. 

So I sorted one toolbox, filled it with threads, machine spools, everything that was duplicated, all the zippers, ribbons, and so on, and put it on freecycle.  In less than an hour it was gone.  And a waiting list in case it ever happens again!  who said home stitching and sewing were defunct?  not around here, anyway, I'm happy to report.

It occurred to me that these boxes were a kind of biography of the owner, her faith, her general age group, her thriftiness, her skills, and her respect for the materials. No tangles, knots, all were clean if old, all the thread properly wound onto the bobbins. I bet she made underwear, since the fine silk twist was in peach and pink colors. Which would make her pretty skilled at her work.  I hope she knows, wherever she is, that her stuff continues to live.

A long time ago I did a series of drawings, biographies of friends as seen on their desks, all the touches that made them them, and it was surprising how much it revealed.  You could do the same for car trunks, too.  Amazing what shows up in there!  my own car has long been a traveling art studio, so there's no knowing what you'll find.  And when I lived in a smaller space with a fireplace and no storage for wood, my car trunk carried my supply about.  Useful for anchoring my light car on ice, and for keeping up my supply.

So here's another index to who we are, in our stitching supplies.


  1. Very thought provoking post. The things we gather around us speaks volumes about our character.

  2. Here is your Traveller's Prayer, if the scroll should be in Hebrew:

    "May it be Your will, Lord, My God and God of my ancestors, to lead me, to direct my steps, and to support me in peace. Lead me in life, tranquil and serene, until I arrive at where I am going. Deliver me from every enemy, ambush and hurt that I might encounter on the way and from all afflictions that visit and trouble the world. Bless the work of my hands. Let me receive divine grace and those loving acts of kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all those I encounter. Listen to the voice of my appeal, for you are a God who responds to prayerful supplication. Praised are you, Lord, who responds to prayer."

    How lovely you should find such a thing.

  3. Wonderful find and I love how you have treated the things with such reverence and passed some on to another loving home. I'm sure the original owner would be delighted. I was reminded (when I read about the car trunks) about a project that someone was doing awhile ago picking up lists that people had made and either lost or discarded. What stories those lists told!

  4. So true, that a collection of tools can be biographical! And you are very generous to share out your newfound treasures.
    I also have three wooden rulers from long-ago businesses (and one church), and I use them often. Likewise many of my uncle's tools, carried from MA to TX by my uncle, and from TX to CO and eventually back to MA by me. I like to think Uncle Frank would be pleased I have kept some of his tools in action, but in my heart I know the truth: he would give me a piece of his mind for not keeping the rust off his old handsaws.

  5. What a great stash to be able to continue using as well as pass on to others.


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