Friday, 19 July 2013

A Fine Point

Hand-sewing has become a marginal activity in recent decades, which is why I usually keep quiet about my fondness for it. Marginal activities can easily be mistaken for subversive activities, and I don't want trouble.

All I actually want is an excuse to watch television. I love television but I was brought up to believe that the 'goggle box' is 'mindrotting'. Unable to give it up completely, my solution to having my mind rotted was to reach a compromise: watching television would not rot my mind - or would at least rot it less effectively -  I decided, provided I did something constructive at the same time.

In stepped hand-sewing - or, more particularly, patchworking. And, by patchworking, I mean, of course, not buying brand new bits of material and using a sewing machine but stitching together bedspreads out of the worn scraps of your old clothes.

As a result then of my depraved passion for second-rate television I have spent many hours of my life sewing rags together by hand. Among the several not entirely useful things I've made in the process there is a patchwork I made from the clothes I wore before my children were born:

and another put together from the clothes they wore when they were little:
and another I'm still finishing, made from my husband's office shirts (once their collars have worn out rather than while he still needs them):

Thus have I squared with my conscience the many hours of my life lost to Lewis and Thirty Something and The Killing and Eternal Law (was I the only person in the world to like that - I thought Samuel West and the actor who played the devil were especially good) and Damages and The Lakes and Foyle's War.

In the process I have also learnt the true meaning of the phrase 'a bad workman blames his tools', which is not, as I'd first thought that people who do really bad work should accept responsibility, rather than saying, 'I didn't have a good hammer'. Instead, I think what the phrase actually means is that it is only after the years of experience and hours of practice that eventually transform you into a good - or at least reasonably okay - workman that you finally recognise the difference between bad tools and good tools.

Thus it took me an eternity to discover that there is only one brand of needle worth using and that brand is John James (prince among needlemakers, as someone somewhere claims). John James Needles are sold only through the most discriminating outlets - I found mine originally in a shop hidden away off Oxford Street in London - and once you have tried them, you will never be happy with any other variety of needle again.

It is because John James needles are so good that I haven't needed to buy a new packet of them for several years now. The other day I finally ordered some though, and I was pleased, when they arrived, to find that they were still as good as ever. However, when I looked on the back of the packet, I did feel a pang of disappointment - not to mention anxiety:
Exhibit A: packet bought some years ago

Exhibit B: Packet bought last week
What is to become of us when we aren't capable of manufacturing even the tiniest things ourselves, in our own countries? Surely, we can't just offload our entire capacity for making things to the populations of Asia? Apart from anything else, how on earth are we - particularly the majority of us who are not daft enough to fill up their spare hours sewing old clothes together into new patterns - going to spend all our newfound spare time?

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