Even after a few months, it's still pretty busy around here with 'the house'. Building shelves, painting and sorting things out like the central heating, now that the chillier days are here. I made curtains for my sewing room and it's kinda cosy in there now.
One evening last week, I escaped into my sewing den to work on some hand embroidery, but I couldn't find my packet of little stick on thimbles anywhere. I thought I was pretty organised in here, but obviously these had somehow fallen through the cracks. I began searching. After looking in every plausible space, I sat down on the floor in frustration and as I turned by head, my gaze landed on my grandmother's sewing table that sits up against the wall between the two windows. It is one of those things that just makes me smile and I sat back and stared at it. In truth, in all the chaos of moving, when it arrived out of a long time in storage, I just popped it in the space that was perfectly orchestrated for it and there it has stayed. I wondered what on earth was in it and for the first time, I was conscious of the piece in the middle that sort of hangs down underneath the drawers...what was it????
This piece of furniture sat in my grandmother's bungalow in Seaford, Sussex. It was part of a glorious existence that to me, as a little girl, was in a home that was always sunny and conjures up memories of windy coastal walks, chalky cliffs, blackberry picking and picnics on the long wooden groynes that stretched down shingle beaches into icy seas. As a late grandchild in the family dynamics, my grandmother's sewing days were mostly over by the time I came along, but she was an accomplished needlewoman in her time. The Seaford days ended abruptly when I was 21 and my mum took the sewing table back to our home in Yorkshire, where it sat and brooded. I do remember that in the top left hand drawer were knitting needles, because my Mum would take them out to make baby things for my little ones when they came along. But I wasn't living there by then and this was just a piece of furniture really.
When my Mum passed away, it was one of the things that I chose to have, but I had to put it in storage as we were living abroad. Now finally it was in it's new home, my sewing room, but actually, I had no idea what exactly might me inside. I edged over to it and pulled open the first drawer - it was stacked full of knitting needles as I had expected. When I began to open the other drawers though, I had a sense that actually they hadn't been opened for a very long time. All of a sudden I felt quite strange about it - this had been sitting in front of me for the last few months and honestly, I had never thought to look inside. A waft of seaford scent swirled around me as I opened the first drawer - it was full of treasure.... well, a stitcher's treasure anyhow.
This was stuff from another age.... an age when women had to sew and repair and mend things... an age when cotton reels were made of wood and darning thread cost just one penny.....an age when you made the clothes that filled your wardrobe, changed buttons, replaced zippers. This was a whole different thing to most of the stuff in my sewing room, which is creative frippery really!!!
It took me a moment to work out how to open the middle section, but inside were a pile of vintage dressmaking paper patterns from another era - how cool is that?
and there were some useful little tools too...
I took everything out little by little, cleaned, sorted and reorganised it. It was fascinating and wonderful and humbling and precious. I felt thrilled to have something that is such a link with the past, my family's past and the women who 'made do and mended', who recycled and unpicked, who bought a paper pattern and adapted it for the whole family and most of all, who had no pretentions or expectations about fashion. So I lost my thimble, but I found something amazing that was right under my nose and I didn't even know it...... Ruby x