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Saturday, April 25, 2009

sewing box

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After posting about the Fauchon coffee tins, I got to thinking about this sewing tin I inherited from my mom.

As a teenager, if I needed to replace a button or repair a hem, I'd go into my parents' cool second floor bedroom to find needle and thread. Shaded by an old maple tree on our Michigan town street, the chair by the window where Mom did her mending was the repository for the sewing tin, or else the floor right next to it. I'd lift the loose lid and dig for the right color thread and a needle from her soft round red pincushion. My eyes were good then, and I could thread the needle with ease. Mom taught me to double the thread and knot the end with a lick and a twist.



When we eight children cleaned out our parents' big three-storey house and judiciously distributed their belongings, the dining table was spread with a miscellany of items that had little or no monetary value, and we each took what was of personal value. What was left got tossed. By then, I was sick and tired of STUFF after spending weeks sorting and digging through 50+ years of accumulation, and I was disinterested in the dining table assortment. But Don, bless him, nabbed a few pieces he thought were cool. As time marches on, I am more and more appreciative of what he took for me that day. Every passing year I turn more often to my parents for guidance and connection, for what it means to be human in this world.



Any number of people would have tossed this tin, rusted and misshapen as it was, and impossible to get the lid on tight.

Maybe it originally came filled with cookies - a gift to my mother, or grandmother. Did Grandma Olive empty cookie crumbs, wipe it out and turn it into a sewing tin, and then Mom took it from her New Jersey house when Grandma died in 1960? Had Mom as a girl gone to her mother Olive's sunny bedroom overlooking the garden by the New York Bay and dug for thread and a needle, or a button?



And did she too find comfort?

I keep my sewing tin on the floor under my dresser, or on the sewing machine in the den. I've seen it this week with new eyes and noticed for the first time that Degas' ballerinas at the bar would need the same color thread to repair their tutus as Bonheur's horse rider's jacket: blue ice.


51 comments:

Sally's World said...

Its a beautiful tin and a great heirloom, and most importantly it seems to bring back great memories for you, i love things like this, I have a couple fo great sentimental items that take me right back to being a little girl again...maybe not worth anything in monetary terms...but priceless to me!!

alice said...

Rhaaaa! I have the same little tomato! And obviously, you made me laugh, associating Fauchon's boxes -so chic!- and your chicken wire!
Have a great weekend, dear Ruth.

Kat said...

What a beautiful story. I was lucky enough to inherit my mothers button tin filled with buttons. I also understand about being tired of going through 50 years of stuff. We had to do that recently for my husband's parents. It can be overwhelming. Thanks for sharing.

Babs-beetle said...

I remember, so well, sorting through my parents home with my sisters. It's a long, sad job. I also have my mothers sewing box. A wooden one with sections that pull up and out. It has seen better days but it's still functional.

CottageGirl said...

God bless Don!

After dealing with the parting of both parents AND their house AND their belongings, it is difficult to deal with final little details.

Yet over time, it is those little, often overlooked items that mean the most.

I wonder what our kids will treasure.

California Girl said...

soft gentle effective memoir piece. love the blue ice color matching between the images on your tin. i know what you mean with the getting rid of "stuff" but everyone has to save a few things.

dutchbaby said...

This is a positively wonderful post! Your Don is a very wise soul to choose some mementos for you. I treasure the biscuits tin box that my mother gave me. It contains the tools she bought when she learned to make silk flowers in London in 1953.

Literary Nut said...

What a beautiful tin to have as a memory! When I was a girl, my grandmother used to have a tin she kept all our crayons in...I can still remember the lovely waxy smell that came with opening the tin. I also have been lucky enough to be given an old recipe box that belonged to my great grandmother and her rolling pin as well. Whenever I touch those two things, I always think of her and wonder what culinary magic she created with them.

Anna said...

Oh Ruth I have articles like that too, one would probably throw it away, but its not the look, its the memories - and you filled us with few beautiful ones. This sewing box looks precious. Anna :)

ds said...

Oh, your Don is a wise man indeed. That is a beautiful tin; even more so are the memories & tracings of memories that go with it. Thank you for sharing them.

shoreacres said...

My tin is round and red, with great, multi-colored cabbage roses painted on the lid. It was my grandmother's before my mother's, and held embroidery floss, each tiny skein wrapped with others of its kind and banded with tiny rubber bands.

My mother was ready some years ago to toss it out, before I stopped her. "Why do you want that old thing?", she asked. "Because", was all I could say. I was too young then to know the answer, but I'm learning.

And I see you have the tomato pincushion, too! The needles always worked their way into them and were the very dickens to get out.

rauf said...

i have only seen the sketch of the horse rider Ruth, is she known for the horse fair ? Most of Rembrandts have the same tone like Degas

good that Don picked up interesting things Ruth, Lot of things were thrown after my mother's death. She had a hand sewing machine, 'singer' was the brand. No more buttons for me and no stiching toos, i wear dem torn tings, shoulders or sleeves mostly, stylish and fashionable tings for me, but nobody cares actually if you are wearing torn sleeves, Sisters and friends object sometimes and i avoid going to places where dress you wear is more important than you are.
Very pretty precious boxes they bees Ruth, Difficult to preserve dem in coastal areas like mine.

Deslilas said...

Tradition and modernity, so fine sewing box (and memories) with a Fiskar scissor I think.
The Fiskar factories in Finland are nowadays an artistic center for exhibition.
We have a lot of disabled hosiery factories in Troyes.

alek said...

coffee please and cake? or perhaps a cigarette, i'll talk [hm thats a joke] you sew, hope you are well...

Delphine said...

You hit the button everytime Ruth, if you'll excuse the pun. As I get older the smaller things in life become much more important than the big ambitions that I once had. My Mum died a few years back and I have just a suitcase left of things which remind me most of her, like a little china pekinese, a white fluffy cardigan, photos and lots of knick-knacks. One item sits in my cupboard which is her sewing box, with little trays all neatly stocked with buttons, ribbons and cottons. Ah memories!

J.G. said...

So pretty and sentimental. So-called valueless things can be the most meaningful. Lucky you, to still have it.

Susan said...

These small things that our mothers and fathers and grandparents touched and used on a regular basis hold their fingerprints and their essence. I have my mother's sewing basket and my own little yellow plastic sewing basket that she gave me when I was 7 or 8. They're just things, but so much more when they hold our memories, too.

Peter said...

Good that Don was there! He obvioulsy knows you quite well!

Yes, I can imagine it full of coockies once, a century ago? Those tins were saved those days - fortunately. What do we do with today's tins? They would probably leave in a dust-bin, but of course, they mostly don't have the same decorative value and would never have the time to get a sentimental value.

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, such a comforting post. I too, have been thinking of my parents and their subtle wisdom. My mom made all of her own clothes,having grown up in New Mexico during the depression,there wasn't a lot to work with.Her dresses were simple, usually the same pattern. When she passed on,I kept one,she never wore pants. I wish I would have kept her sewing box, funny you never know what has value when you say good bye to loved ones.

Montag said...

I think it is great that you write about Michigan. I have become so used to ovverwhelming negatives about Michigan, that your posts are the only reminders of our Michigan pleasures.

There are many positive things plastered all over the media, promoting Michigan, but they have a pitiful and desperate tone.

You capture the real beauty...which we are all in danger of losing and forgettting.

Montag said...

...and the photos using the beautiful oriental rugs is very, very Vermeer!

Ruth said...

Sally, I realized I hadn't even really seen the box before, hadn't looked at it closely. I couldn't have told you what paintings were there.

I think this shows familiarity, not lack of affection. Like recognizing a face without parsing out nose, mouth, eyes.

Ruth said...

Merci again, sweet Alice, for helping me with Avenue Montaigne.

We must combine the things we love in our own unique ways.

Ruth said...

Kat - BUTTONS! We have some of those too. They don't make them like that now, but there are still some wonders to be found.

renaye said...

those r antiques/vintage! maybe i should get a time capsule for myself!

myDIYweddingday said...

Thanks for the comment! Love your blog too, and this sweet story.

Ruth said...

Babs, I have my mom's jewelry box too, one of the typical ones with the lid that opens and opens out a little top tray. I love having it too.

Jill of All Trades said...

It's funny you post this as last week I was digging through my closet and found my Momma's sewing box. It's not a nifty as your wonderful tin, an old cigar box filled with old buttons, thread and yellow lace. Had to put it up for awhile longer.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, I wonder too. Sometimes I would like to give everything away and live in a houseboat, as Don was just reading about. But I would like our children to have the things from grandparents and great-grandparents that fill our house. I don't know if they're ready for them yet!

Ruth said...

California Girl, thank you so much.

Yes, as humans, things we can touch and hold and look at become little treasures, reminders of what we have lived.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, what a lovely image of your mom!

Ruth said...

Literary Nut, ah, you've got their essence.

Ruth said...

If I'm in doubt, Anna, I don't throw. I don't want to be sorry later.

Ruth said...

DS, for weeks I kept finding things Don had set aside for me, I was surprised and very pleased.

Ruth said...

Linda, at least you knew how to say "Because."

Yes, I had many needles do that ostrich burial. Once I stepped on a pin and the head of it went into my foot. Now that was not fun to get out.

Ruth said...

rauf, my daddy bought me an old black Singer when I was in high school.

I don't know about this Bonheur, I never noticed the painting before this week. I was blind to this box, just saw it like I would see a familiar face - without noticing the particulars of it. First time I heard her name.

I'm glad you don't worry about the tears or dressing in a way that doesn't suit you.

Ruth said...

Bonjour, Daniel, I think "Disabled Hosiery Factories" would be a nice title of a novel. Wow, the stories I see there.

Ruth said...

Knock me down with a feather, Alek - 's dat you?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Delphine. It's the memories, and it's also the textures, smells, muted shades of salmon, pink, brown and green. The frayed edges of a silk covered button. I have always loved old things, my whole life.

Ruth said...

You're right, J.G., there's something about a cast-off thing that is more precious when loved. More precious than something obviously valuable.

Ruth said...

Ah, Susie, the yellow plastic sewing basket your mom gave you - now that's precious.

Ruth said...

Well, Peter, I did keep those Fauchon tins . . . but they are not of quite the same ilk.

Ruth said...

Oh I can picture that, Cathy, your mother's dresses. I kept some of my mom's too, and purses and hats, shoes, gloves. I filled a dress-up trunk with them one year for Lesley for her birthday. We have priceless pictures of her and her cousins all decked out - even in some old glasses.

Ruth said...

Wow, I love what you wrote, Montag. Thank you for that. All of it, piled up in sweet stacks that fill me up.

Ruth said...

Oh that's so nice, Jill! Cigar boxes are favorites of mine too (not that in a preacher's family I ever saw any at home). I'm glad you put it up for longer.

Ruth said...

Renaye, time capsule: BRILLIANT, yes! Maybe something you designed yourself.

Ruth said...

Thank you, myDIYweddingday, and for your visit.

Ginnie said...

I wish I had been there that day at the dining room table, Ruth. I have a feeling I missed a lot! But you have given some of it back to me in posts like this....

Ruth said...

Boots, well that's good at least.

dragonflydreamer said...

Your Mother's sewing tin and your memories of it throughout your childhood are beautiful. It truly is the items like this that have the lasting value. A couple of family member took everything of monetary value and tossed all of the touchstones such as this and our precious family photos when my grandmother died. These are the things I long to see and touch and bring her back to me in memories. Thank you so much for sharing yours.

Ruth said...

Thank you for visiting, Dragonflydreamer. Yes, it's like their energy is still in their things, because they touched them and used them often.