Pam’s Pictorama:  Picking back up to the strange land of notions – a word I love and one you don’t hear much any more. In fact, notions, the sewing kind are actually hard to find these days. Even in my adult life we have gone from a sprinkling of such stores, I remember at least one on 86th Street near here, to none. Needles and thread can at best be located in back corners of drugstores and supermarkets in large multipacks of thread and needles. Gone are the days when you might go to a store that sells fabric and thread – and buttons – and match colors and get exactly what you need. This being Manhattan we have the fabric district and I suppose can take ourselves to that part of town and trying to find a place that would sell us our paltry and pedestrian sewing wares. It’s a little like getting into a race car when all you needed was a scooter however. I can’t speak for smaller towns – do you still have your notion and fabric stores? It is one of the few things that seems utterly impossible to purchase online – you can’t match thread that way and who the heck knows what size needles you need? I always just look at them and know.

I bought this needle package – that’s what it is – years ago at a flea market. It came complete with almost all of the needles still in place, in that lovely bright foil lining. It still has a needle threader – I did love figuring out how to use one of those! So simple, yet so useful – and not entirely self-evident I might add. These needles are indeed rust-proof, and what is the difference between hand sewing needles and sewing needles I wonder?

I do love that there was a time when putting space ships on packages of needles seemed appropriate – clearly a more entertaining time. Those two women sewing and smiling while that space ship shoots off of the earth and heavenward. We were all careening toward the future I guess. Who knew though, that it would be hard to buy a needle and thread when we got there?



Pins and Needles

Pam’s Pictorama: A discussion of somewhat disparate topics continues with this absolutely splendid item which was given to me the other day. I know this nice couple via the Met and had not seen them in quite a while. Evidently they remembered my passion for all things cats and put aside this wonderful little item for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

As it happens, one of the first black cat items I acquired was a soft tape measure and pin cushion kitty. (For those of you who have been following in recent weeks you will understand that this cat, and most of the others, is packed away for the duration of our building’s HVAC work which required the dusty dirty demise of our ceiling. I am sorry not to be able to share a photo of him.) I was in an antiques market Kim and I frequent in Red Bank, NJ – not far from the Butler family ancestral home – when I happened on it. Like this fellow, he has a tape measure tongue you can pull out and was entirely soft so you could stick pins in him, I suppose.

This guy would have sat proudly on your sewing stand, at attention, waiting for the sewing to commence, never lost or misplaced, as I constantly loose both my stashes of needles and tape measures – not to mention thread. I especially like his red felt tongue which is the pull on the tape measure and matches his red bow and of course the nice velvet pincushion on his back. He is a tad too fragile to resume his responsibilities keeping my needles, but he will have a proud safe shelf to perch on in his retirement as soon as the dust, quite literally, clears here.

While I admit I always wished to be a gifted seamstress, nothing could be further from the truth I am afraid. Thanks to the efforts of a roommate in London during a stint in college, I can sew a button on with great confidence it will stay. However, aside from that there has never been a sewing machine bobbin I didn’t destroy on sight and, beyond buttons, my hand stitching tends toward the lopsided and, shall we say, organic. I appear to come from a long line of barely functional sewers. My maternal grandmother could do a hem under duress, but neither grandmothers or my mother were churning out daily wear. My sister showed promise in this area and made a number of garments before drifting away from it. (She also made bread well which is another skill I can’t master. Of course, she was also a PhD in Math – need I say more? I can barely balance a checkbook.)

I am the first to say, one can’t be good at everything so I long ago ceded to my ineptness in this, and other areas. However, that is not to say I don’t enjoy the related accoutrements for these activities – especially if a cat is involved.