Personal Treasures

Object play – for adults as well as children – engages the heart as well as the mind; it is a source of inner vitality…during all stages of life we continue to search for objects that we can experience as both within and outside of the self. – Sherry Turkle, What makes an object evocative?

A couples of days ago I thought I had lost the pencil case where I keep my sewing and knitting notions. I was very upset at the thought of having lost this item and I began to think about the importance I’ve attached to the case. The unremarkable bag filled with its personally significant articles is of little or no material value to anyone else, but to me it is a repository of imaginative richness that I would be sad to be without. Housed within the practical and utilitarian items in my kit are ideas and associations and the kit is as much a source of inspiration as a practical resource.

I eventually found the pencil case at the very bottom of my wardrobe. I expect it got put there during the disorientating frenzy of making/tidying/moving stuff that happened in the lead-up to Christmas, but I am so relieved to have found it that I’ve decided to itemise its contents here, and to ask if any of you fellow crafters have a similarly intense relationship with the things inside your sewing/knitting kit.

From Left to Right and from Top to Bottom; the button badges on the outside of my sewing case all relate to various sewing/knitting connections. The Greatest Show on Earth button badge came from Kate during this button badge swap, while Lara made the lovely Oxford Bluestockings badge for the I Knit London day in 2007, when both myself and Katie had stalls there. Liz blogged the badges here. The button badge featuring instructive sewing illustrations was purchased during my first ever visit to Prick Your Finger, where I met the lovely Rachael for the first time. The pink button badge was made during a visit that myself and Kirsty made to Mundane Appreciation’s stall at the Affordable Art Fair in 2007. So the button badges all relate to important friendships and remind me of women whose input into my life and my crafting is immeasurably valuable.

I always keep a couple of woven Made by Missability tapes in my case at all times in case I should need to whip up a DIY equipment customisation, and because the tapes embody for me the craft/empowerment ethos of that project.

The tiny, blue, glass-eye style stitch marker is the very first stitch marker I ever made. The bead was purchased randomly for 15p at a Car Boot Sale which I visited after dropping a very dear friend off at the airport once when she needed to urgently return to Ireland. It reminds me of many things; mostly of the wonky, odd, broken nature of that day and of the sense of something incredibly tiny being salvaged from a painful time. I went to the Car Boot Sale because I had nothing better to do and I found myself aimlessly wandering around stalls of bric-a-brac and feeling totally distracted because my friend was so sad. I held the tiny bead in my hand all afternoon and put it onto a jump-ring that evening. Then I knit a sock to try and make life feel normal again.

The tin where I keep my small notions contains some stitch-markers I made to teach myself the correct direction to kit in, whilst knitting in the round. These markers bring me great comfort as they give me a tangible sense of my progress as a knitter. My knowledge of knitting has improved now to the point where I no longer need directional markers to show me the way of knitting in the round. But I keep them anyway, always one or two in the tin, because I like the sense of self-care, humour and practicality that they embody as objects.

The strawberry stitch-markers were made by me during another glorious time of seeing Rachael; In between recording her talking about the sounds of her life and playing with the Fantastical Reality Radio Show Activity Booklet together, I went on a crazy mission of stitch-marker making. I created a set of markers for Rachael, and a set for me. I like to keep my strawberries in a little ceramic bowl as if they belong to a miniature world. They are some of my favourite markers as they are light and small and the soldered rings that they come on do not catch on my needles unlike the jump-rings I have used on other markers.

Ellen gave me this very pleasing, musical bead; it has a small bell inside it and is therefore potentially a sonic stitch-marker. I haven’t gotten around to making it into a marker just yet.

The wooden button featuring a painted and carved ship design was picked up during my October trip to Sussex. I have many ideas for how this button could be incorporated into a design, but mostly the button provides a wonderful, imaginative link for me between knitting and the sea. I have been reading about this recently and the button inspires me to make something that celebrates this link in some way.

The Italian liquorice tin was given to me by someone who I have unfortunately lost touch with. The demise of our friendship is one of my extremely few regrets in life. The tin which I handle daily somehow always keeps the lost friendship in mind while also pointing to a happier time, when we hung out together, cooked feasts, sewed cabaret costumes and bought each other things little things like tins of liquorice and bits of ribbon.

Kate also sent me the strawberry button badge that lives in my pencilcase. Sometimes this goes on Maven, whereon I am always gleefully amazed by the similarity between the lining fabric of the bag and the print on the button. The steel scissors in the background were given to me by the nurse who came around to remove the stitches from my feet after my operation. Due to health regulations, scissors used for such a purpose are supposed to be immediately destroyed. But the nurse and I agreed that this would be a terrible waste of a good pair of steel scissors and so we complicity decided that I should keep them. The scissors remind me of the good sense of nurses all over the world.

I bought the vintage thread from the market in Oxford, which I wanted to go to as soon as I read about it on Katie’s blog. It was when I first discovered Katie’s blog that I was inspired to begin a blog of my own and I still love her posts on home and creativity. She writes beautifully, makes wonderful things and takes amazing photographs.

The needles and wooden needle-bottle belonged to my Gran, who gave me some of her needlework things a few years ago since she doesn’t do as much sewing as she once did. All my life she has made beautiful, embroidered things and has always enjoyed doing beadwork. She is a big inspiration to me and I feel honoured to have a couple of her things in my case.

Finally, the metal spoons are the one souvenir I purchased in Italy when we went on holiday last summer. In Via San Gregorio Armeno, Napoli, one can buy miniature things for creating a religious nativity scene. This street was an amazing discovery for me, lover of all things small and handmade. Badgering passersby for the Italian word for ‘ladle’ and clumsily working from a phrasebook plus gestures, I was able to acquire these two miniature spoons. They cost a couple of euros only and I have been meaning to turn them into earrings ever since I got them.

Once the pencil case was rediscovered after temporarily being lost, I immediately did this. I love these earrings. I do not normally go in for jewelry (save for pea-inspired jewelry) but I think these earrings are very domestic soundscape, no? From the moment I saw them, I thought of Caro’s incredible spoon collection and of our discussions on the relevance and beauty of kitchenware. I like the idea that the spoons can literally collect spoonfuls of sound from around me and deliver them to my ears.

What’s in your sewing kit?

4 Responses to Personal Treasures

  1. caro says:

    What a lovely post with such lovely stories Felix. That was beautiful, what a special thing your sewing kit is! And what a gorgeous celebration of friendships!
    Its funny to hear the story of after dropping me at the aiport too.

  2. colleen says:

    Oh dear. I’ve found too many projects abondoned in my sewing basket including a crochet hook (have tried several times to fathom this out and can’t); 5m of silk thread for something that has never been started; a packet of heavy duty needles “for repairing” with only one left; bobbins and needle plates, scissors and pins and threads and tape measures; some deckchair canvas samples; orphan buttons; a stitch unpicker ( I was always fascinated by these as a child because they look surgical; and best of all, a pincushion with goats and goatherds given to me by a goatkeeping friend many many years ago.

    The earrings are great!

  3. Lara says:

    Love the earrings and the idea they are collecting spoonfuls of sound for your ears. I also think they are quite Bobbi Baker-esque and I think you should find more domestic soundscape jewellery in 2009. I am also so relieved you found your sewing kit – I love the history behind the objects and also the whole female friendships through button badges dispay. I’m very honoured the bluestockings badges made it in there! I love my sewing kit pouch too – it is so crazy south america tapestry thing but I think it is beautiful. I have all manner of oomska in my sewing kit it won’t surprise you but it includes: a full set of clover cable needles (for the all the cabling I do!), row counter, nail scissors, some random green thread that I used to sew up my bluetonic cushion that I got in masons, some blue wool from a scarf I made John, some orange ribbon from the cd case of dreams, mustard tweed from my beret project and various stitch markets – clover, hairband ones from Claire’s Accessories, ones I got at stitch and bitch show and the amazing fimo sheep ones that you made me. Writing all of that out has made me want to lavish care and attention on my sewing kit and ensure it is full of very useful but inspiring things as well.

  4. Susan says:

    My knitting kit bag – a small black cloth bag with plastic beady things (white, kelly green, red, yellow and navy) adhered to the outside. I think it dates from the 1960’s. The beady things are really nice, because you can feel it through the side of any cloth knitting bag (and heaven knows I have plenty of those drifting around the house), so you can find it easily by touch. It has a replacement zipper, brass, with a little pull chain on it. I got it from a friend, and I think it belonged to her grandmother or a friend of her grandmother. It is very very full, and barely zips up. It contains:

    One safety pin attached to the cloth inside of the bag
    One plastic knitting needle gauge measuring card
    A small plastic envelope of stitch markers (pale pink and baby blue, and one white one)
    A card with two plastic darning needles (never opened – from Christmas stocking 2007)
    A card with three metal darning needles (never opened – from Christmas stocking 2007)
    A card with three gold plated (woo!) needlepoint needles (bought because of beauty, never used)
    Four metal stitch holders, the safety pin like type (three blue, one palest pink)
    A Clover row counter kacha-kacha thing (red and makes the Most Satisfying Click Ever when used)
    A retractable measuring tape from Mead Johnson & Co. that says “Pablum or Pabena for Superior Growth” (inherited from a friend who died – her mom gave me all her knitting supplies)
    A short red pencil from the Corning Musem of Glass
    Child scissors, with blunt tips to the blades (don’t poke through bag that way), with magenta and bright blue rubberized handles
    Four crochet hooks – two gold metal, one white plastic (these are of a size to make potholders out of cotton), one silver metal (of a size to crochet lace from fine cotton yarn, and pick up dropped stitches when knitting socks). My grandmother taught me how to make potholders; she used at least one of these hooks to teach me how to crochet.
    Two metal darning needles, both threaded with yarn (different yarn each needle). These are the darning needles I actually use. These yarns are scraps of sock yarn from socks that I was making while I was helping to take care of my grandmother when she was in hospice. I’ve saved these scraps for years; each time I use the needles, I save the scrap and rethread the needle with it when I’m done. This was the grandmother who taught me how to knit many many years ago. She taught me how to crochet about six years ago. She died in 2006.

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