I have a weakness for vintage sewing thread. Well, ok, I have a weakness for vintage. I scoop my flour and sugar from 1950s Kromex copper canisters, I cook on a 1953 Moffat Coronation stove, we eat from vintage-style Fiestaware dishes at a 1930s oak kitchen table in a humble 1970s farmhouse and when I started making butter, well of course I had to try a vintage butter press.
My romantic brain is drawn to the ‘good old days’ when life was simpler, even as my logical brain reminds me that no, of course it wasn’t. Humankind has always struggled, and today, for all its troubles, the world where I am blessed to be living my quiet little life is truly a wonderful place. I, along with billions of my fellow humans, face much less struggle, toil and suffering than our forebears faced throughout most of history. Yes, even in a pandemic.
I spent much of yesterday sewing masks. I am onto my third pattern now, waylaying various-sized family members and test fitting as I go, weighing the alternatives of elastic ear loops (good for short stints), shoelace or bias tape ties (best fit but complicated to get on), satin linings (sumptuous) and which cotton print for the outsides? Funnily enough, it is the men in my life who are the most worried about fabric colour and pattern. They prefer the somber, serious look.
Much to my delight, I am finally using the many small bits of fabric that I have held onto over thirty-plus years of sewing projects. I knew they would be good for something some day! Even better, I am finishing up some of the bits and bobs of thread of all colours that I have collected.
I have a particular weakness for vintage thread, and am incapable of leaving behind any small plastic bag of wooden thread spools discovered at the local thrift store. Laboriously sorted, packaged and labelled by intellectually challenged workers sifting though long tables of donations in vast charity warehouses (I imagine), these little dollar-or-two bags often include some real treasures.
Pure silk thread from the late 19th century in a rainbow of colours, my best-ever find. Boil fast depression-era thread from back when boiling laundry was what women did, every toilsome laundry day. Heavy duty cotton, for mending thick coveralls and denim. J. & P. Coats, like Mom had. All on solid wood spools and many with their original, delightful labels.
I can’t help thinking these threads are a cut above what I can buy today. Some are a hundred years old, and still sturdy and brightly coloured. Incredible, beautiful, useful talismans of the past that link me, in a chain reaching back through the mists of time, to who knows how many incredible, beautiful, strong women. Women who like me lived their quiet lives, but with probably much less freedom, much less comfort, much less idle time and much less healthcare than I enjoy today. Woman like me who sat sewing for loved ones, listening to the radio, or the rain pattering on the roof, with hot cup of tea at their elbow, mending basket at their feet. Snug, and for the moment, content.