The Cluttered Sewing Basket
Connected by a Single Thread
The sewing basket is one of the last holdouts in my many months/years of uncluttering and simplifying. In fact, even owning a sewing basket sounds decidedly un-minimalist, doesn’t it? But I do, and I’ve owned it since I was around twelve years old–I think. It’s been so long I no longer know if I was twelve or fifteen, but it was somewhere in there, around the same time I acquired my own sewing machine, which I also still have.
Not only do I own a sewing basket, but it is probably the single most cluttered and disorganized collection of related items in my house, all in the space of a lidded basket roughly 12 inches deep, 16 inches wide, and 10 inches high. It has spools of thread, different sorts of needles, and various small parts for my sewing machine–bobbins, zig-zag feet, little screwdrivers, etc. There are also pins, seam rippers, pattern tracing papers and wheel, bits of ribbons, random spare buttons, a tomato-shaped pin cushion, thimbles, and many more items, all in a complex tangle.
The basket itself is a girly thing, white-painted wicker with a top of black cut-velvet over a floral print in the white, orange, yellow, and green combination that was popular from 1967-1970. It has a plastic liftout tray to hold the small things and a fair amount of room under the tray for spools of thread and larger items. It’s been cleaned out many times over the years, but I can’t remember the last time I cleaned it out because I haven’t done much sewing in the past ten years. Looking through it now, I am amazed at just how old some of the things are–there are actually wooden spools of thread in there, and some of the package labels feature women wearing bouffant hairdos and full-skirted dresses with torpedo bosoms. Dates me, much?
I still remember learning to sew with a needle and thread, at around four or five years old. By the time I was in my twenties, I’d made everything from a bikini to a tailored three-piece suit and reupholstered more than one set of living room furniture, along with countless throw pillows, tablecloths, curtains, etc. I even altered patterns, copied ready-made clothes, and designed my own. Later, I had great fun copying a pair of my baby son’s rompers and making new ones as he grew. It was creative and thrifty at the same time.
Then fabric suddenly became very expensive, so much so that it was far more economical to buy clothes–all made outside the U.S.A., of course–than to make them. The sewing machine only came out for recovering a pillow or making a new set of napkins, or mending a seam. Three different times it came out for making new slipcovers for the sofa, and the last time it came out, last week, was for mending a rip in my duvet cover. It has a nifty mending stitch.
On the top tray in the sewing basket there are some novelty buttons, still attached to their cards. Most of them were for rompers I planned to sew for my son, but he outgrew the romper stage before I could use them. There are also some I had intended to turn into earrings for a garden club fundraiser, but never got around to that, either. One is a pair of green watering cans. I don’t garden much anymore and I can’t be bothered with garden clubs. My daughter-in-law gardens. Maybe I’ll do something with them for her. See how this goes?
Do I save the romper-intended buttons in case there is a grandchild in my near future? Will I have the time or inclination to sew rompers? Am I that person anymore? Or am I just the person who will call on the more basic skills to repair a favorite duvet cover on occasion (the fabric is oh-my-god soft and broken in) or to fix a hem? These thoughts and many more will be coursing through my head when I clean out my sewing basket this evening, tossing out bits of my history and keeping only what I hope for the future.