Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sewing kit, 1967.

Her name was Marie.

She was an avid seamstress, a careful and resourceful wife, a mother. This was her sewing kit.

Usually, when I pick something up at an antique store, I don't give the previous owners a second thought. The old vase or skirt or lampshade is just old-- significant for its age and beauty, but revealing nothing of its past life. Though so many other people have owned the things in my house, I don't think about them. They existed, I suppose, but now are ignored by me, the neglectful curator of their cherished possessions.

And then I find something like this.
A hundred spools of thread, carefully coiled and stacked on wooden spindles.

Cards of buttons saved for dresses never sewn, some with their Woolworth's price tags still attached.

Clippings saved from the local paper. She was a Binghamtonian, then, like me. The date: December 3rd, 1967.

This isn't a mere antique, this sewing kit. This is an artifact. Every neatly folded piece is another piece of the puzzle, another clue to this woman's life.

Measurements of the windows of her house, for making curtains. I can see her then, tucking this note into her purse and heading to the fabric store, leaving behind the unorganized chaos of her new house to roam the aisles, maybe humming, fingering a bolt of this or that. This is what I do when I go to the fabric store. I get it.

In one pocket, I found a folded envelope containing six black glass dress buttons with a raised gold design. One of them was broken. A mystery. How did it break? Why did she save the broken one?

The return address on the envelope: The New York State Retired Teachers Association, Insurance Divison. More mysteries. Was she a teacher, then, or her husband? What did she teach?
Home economics, perhaps. There she is, in my mind's eye: pacing down between the rows of desks, in cat eye glasses and sensible shoes, lecturing on the importance of tidy buttonholes, or proper interfacing, or bias.

I understand. These things are important. The sweetness of neatly coiled spools, the fastidious perfection of little button-jars.

Packets of bias tape and seam binding standing neatly in rank, like a line of soliders.

And oh, that old and handworn tailor's tape.

How many times did she stretch it at arm's length, pins in her mouth, circling round and round a dressform?

How many projects did she dream and never complete? And how many years has this sewing kit sat, unused but never forgotten, in the attic of her sister or her daughter or her niece?

A perfect time capsule, a window into another woman's life, waiting for me.

And my, how much we have in common.


Gina said...

That is quite a treasure and I am glad you have it now because you can truly appreciate it! What a great find. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

Kristina said...

Thanks Gina! Have a wonderful holiday yourself!

katherine mary said...

incredible!! <3

Kami said...

This is very cool. I love trying to image the lives of others in other times.

cachet said...

oh.my.gosh. I am in LOVE with that sewing kit. What an incredible treasure!! WOW. i'm rather jealous!

also, I do that kind of reminiscing often, in my old house surrounded by my old things. so fun.

Becky said...

Poetry, Kristina - You write poetry!

Earth Girl Knits (Emily) said...

This truly is an artifact. What a find! I'm intruigued by Marie, too. Put her kit to good use!

Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker said...

great post!!! very cool, and where do you do your antiquing/thrifting around here? i have yet to be anywhere besides the salvo in binghamton...

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful treasure, kristina! congrats!

Karen said...

that was me, the anonymous girl. lol

Kristina said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments! I couldn't believe my luck in finding it. Previously, I've been one of those sour people who believes that thrifting/antiquing karma is what happens to other people, and not to me. I guess it was an early birthday present.

Ashley, to answer your question-- get thee to Charlie Brown's! It's about three parts junk, one part thrift, and one part antiques, and is infamous for swallowing Sunday afternoons whole, without remorse. It's on 17C in Endwell. Go!

Hilarie Mae said...

This is such a wonderful find! I loved your post!

Laura Elaine said...

This is amazing!!!

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