Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Fascination with the Mundane

There. I said it. I'm fascinated by things many people take for granted. Mundane objects, preferably small fucntional ones. I've known this for some time. Not spoken about it much. Thought it might make good 'blog-fodder'. Now my secret is out. My recent recognition of this anomaly was witnessed last night in the studio. I nearly drove my husband Jon crazy. I was removing from 2 bags 200 wooden sewing thread spools I scored on Craigslist for $5.00. In all fairness, I found the listing and Jon picked them up in town.

I opened the bags with great enthusiasm. I'd saved this moment till later in the day after getting some work done. A 'treat' if you will. My overhead task light provided warm illumination of my tactile find. A myriad of assorted shapes and sizes of spools tumbled onto my paint encrusted work table. I carefully examined each spool and my mind began reeling.
How old were they?
Who owned them?
What did they sew with them?
Were they a quilter, a mom, a seamstress?
About half of them had worn paper labels affixed to each end. These were the kind I remember from childhood. The paper on these so brittle, it crumbled beneath my fingers. I set them gently aside.
The remaining ones were much older and had the product information colorfully embossed into each end. Many once held silk thread. Many costing 15 cents. Each had a factory name, location, color number and price designated. Emblazoned into the wood, these were not likely to be changed often. The mere fact they committed the price to this process, was interesting. Not much can be bought for 15 cents these days.
Am I showing my age?

I was mesmerized by the careful skill it took to align the spools to make sure however these spools were embossed, it aligned correctly.
Was this process mechanized?
Done by hand?
Two of the spools had advertisements on the core that would only be seen after all the thread was used. Ads saying that for 2 cents you could be mailed a catalog of the additional products the company sold. Two cents. What could that buy now? Back then, it covered the cost of the stamp and the printing of the literature. Two cents. I remember 5 cent stamps.
Am I showing my age?

My pre-occupation continued as my mind ran faster. There were no needle holes through the labels. My Mom would use the label as a way to hold her needle sticking it carefully through with a tail of thread attached to see it better. I still do this. Some sewers use a pin cushion. Whoever owned these used a pin cushion. After wood, styrofoam was used for spool thread. Pins could stick into this. Now hard plastic is the material of choice. So now sewers use the labels or a pin cushion for their needle.

Spools of thread have been a part of my life for as long as I recall. I had a Grandmother and a Mom who fixed rips in clothes, hemmed dresses and did alterations. A sewing box was as much a part of growing up in my house as were a picnic thermos, a heating pad and tv trays that nested in a corner of our living room. Reserved for eating tv dinners on the couch only on occasion. My Mom was not formal, but set tight parameters over what was 'acceptable'.
She sewed too! My brother routinly skid through the knees of his Catholic school navy blue uniform pants. The tedious art of knee patching was my Mothers weekly chore. She perfected it making patches out of fabric from pants too far gone to fix. My other Grandmother was blind, but my Grandfather would sew by hand despite his very thick eyeglasses, often spattered with paint from a fix up project he'd undertaken or from juicing oranges and tangelos from his yard.

These were people from the depression. I learned so much from them. Their voices and spirit are a part of me. I treasure their wisdom despite my love of things current. They called hand sewing back then - 'darning'. You darned a sock to fix a worn spot using what looked like a small moracca to reach inside. A tool just for that job. Today, little 'fixing' is done, instead the item is tossed.
I fix.
It's in my nature to get additional life out of objects rather than frivolously replace them.
I can't afford to do this and wouldn't if I had the money. The depression stories are imbedded too deep within and my appreciation for these stories and the people that took the time to gift them to me, mean too much to me to be frivolous. Some call this being "Dutch".
I'm Irish- it's all the same.
Am I showing my age?

'Not having the time' is not an option to me.
Making the time is.

So my fascination with the utilitarian mundane continues. I will appreciate these small spools that came my way. Some will get new life born into them being used on my TattooDream projects and others will get used in my sewing room. Their overlooked appeal will be cherished as will the process of how they were made, who used them and the circle of their usefulness continues.
If I'm showing my age, that's okay!
I'm proud of all that I am and who I've become. It didn't happen overnight. It's taken 49 years of laughter and tears and trials and tribulations to become me. I value the wisdom of the people who have helped craft my appreciations of the past and look with optimism to what lies ahead.

I am grateful for time and the small things in life.



Loretta said...

And you can't forget the " button box " .. I still have my moms with many of it's treasures. Age is a fine thing !!

Flight Fancy said...

Age has nothing to do with seeing the beauty in practical items! Lovely, thanks for sharing :) oh and what a glorious treasure!

The Point said...

Great post! I enjoyed reading this very much

PonderandStitch said...

Wonderful post!! I am just like you and would have found all those spools just as fascinating. I LOVE finding vintage items like that and imagining the life of those who used to own them and use them. Thanks for posting this!

Sharon said...

Your enjoyable post made me think of an image long forgotten--a baby cousin teething on a necklace of old wooden spools that my Grandmother had strung for her.

Sharon said...

I'm back just to say that if you have the time and the inclination, I have tagged you on my blog to share some information about yourself with us readers.

Patricia Hecker said...

Sure! What do I do?


paintandink said...

What a lovely post! It's funny that I should have found it today, after my husband and I spent 20 minutes this morning searching for a specific spool of yellow thread so he could fix his uniform.

I fix things too, and I sew a lot, and I still can't figure out how to use a sewing machine, so I almost always sew by hand.