Do you remember the days when virtually every household had a sewing basket? How many of you out there still have one in your house? Not a travel-size sewing kit with itsy scissors, three or four colors of thread, replacement buttons and a small pack of needles. A basket. It could be the capacious, old-fashioned kind that stands on four legs like an end table. Or the more portable plastic kind with a handle, plus compartmented storage for sewing notions and a lid that’s padded on the underside so you can pincushion the needles you’ve used.
That’s the kind I have.
And boy, am I a fraud.
At least three times in my life I’ve tried to learn the art of sewing. The mother of a childhood friend (“Long thread, lazy girl,” she’d tell me with a meaningful smile). A professional seamstress holding classes at a local department store. My first mother-in-law. All of them tried to teach me. Each time, with a lot of hands-on guidance, I managed to make some article of clothing. I also learned I have no patience for sewing. You can’t Wite-Out, cross through, type over, or delete your mistakes. You can’t decide they taste flat and punch them up with a splash of lemon juice or a spoonful of pesto. You have to painstakingly cut and pull out the threads of your mistakes and then resew them. Hopefully, this time in the right place. I have enormous admiration for people who can sew. But I’d rather suck on old pennies.
Nevertheless, I own a sewing basket.
I have no idea when I bought this thing. I’m not even sure I did. I’ve had it so many decades that its origins are sunk in the cold, turbid bog of time. It’s possible my mother gave it to me in my late teens, when I first set up housekeeping on my own.
My mother knew a few basics, like sewing on buttons, simple hem repair, or even how to darn socks. Her mother had tried to teach her more, but crafting a garment with zippers or buttonholes or darts remained forever beyond her skills. When I was a little girl, my mother made me two capes: one to wear when I pretended to be a spy (it doubled as a witch cape), one for playing fairytale prince. (I never wanted to be a fairytale princess. Their lives seemed boring: just a lot of sitting around—doubtless passing the time by sewing—and waiting for the prince to show up.) It was so far outside her comfort zone to make these things that I treasured them deeply, and still have them . . . somewhere . . . packed in a moving box in the garage.
Nowadays, since virtually any kind of repair to our clothing can be taken care of cheaply (button replacement is free!) at our cleaners’, I don’t pull out the sewing basket more than two or three times a year. Today, though, I needed it for the first time since moving into our forever home in late February. I had to search in several places before I finally found it.
And it was like opening a time capsule.
It’s been ages since I last looked through the contents. I was kind of shocked to see how old many of the buttons are—at least 60 to 70 years. Once upon a time they probably lived in my grandmother’s sewing basket. The St. Peter’s patch is from a school my big brothers attended when they were little boys. (I think. I’m not sure I was even born yet.) The ornate-looking crown patch is a leftover from the fairytale prince cape.
I can’t foresee a need for those weensy pearl buttons in the last photo. (And good lord, that man’s got a cigarette too!) I don’t do any sort of craftwork, and at this point in my life, can’t really spare the time to learn. In fact, I can’t foresee a need—ever—for nearly all the basket holds. So why do I still box it up and lug it from house to house? What does this basket do for me that a travel-sized sewing kit can’t? Is twice a year enough use to justify keeping it?
Probably not. But I’m not ready to let it go, especially after picking through it today. The upside is, since we’re living in what’s meant to be our last home, at least I shouldn’t have to move it again.
Sometimes we leave a keepsake to our children so they’ll have a cherished item to remember us by. And sometimes we do it so that it’ll be the child’s job to throw the damn thing out.
Lucky Katie. You’ll get a sewing basket some day!
On another note, I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July! I want to say a huge thank-you to all who’ve downloaded Chapter One of The Space Between! If you haven’t yet, but you’d like to, you’ll find the option to download on the Novels page (go to the Works tab in the Menu bar at the top of the page and choose Novels). Publication is just a little over two months away!