Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Last week I repaired a king size comforter cover, one we've had over a decade. I guess we've used this one the most. Along the top edge, where we clutch it around our necks at night, the fabric has thinned, now soft and flimsy compared with the rest of the thing. It was torn along the top seam. Re-seaming it a half inch down would extend the comforter's life, at least for a while.

I dragged out my sewing supplies, setting up my heavy Viking/Husquarna of unknown age on the kitchen table. I bought my current machine, used, for about $200 dollars to replace the one that was dropped when we moved in '95. I always go for metal working parts--that's why I buy the old machines. I have a lot of sewing experience, but it takes a while to get things set up these days. I have to find the power converter so I can plug the machine into my German wall.

Turned inside out and pressed flat, the edge of the comforter cover was ready. I found a familiar spool of off-white Dual Duty poly-cotton thread, the American brand I've known all my life. The spool was close to empty; part of the plastic showed above the wrap of thread. I threaded it in anyway. The machine whirred and pulled, whirred and pulled across the long seam. Six inches from the end, the thread's tail leapt off the spool and wormed through the mechanism of the machine. I watched it, wondering how long it could keep going, wondering if it would last.

The thread ran out one inch before the end of the seam. Odd. I've had this experience before with yarn. My knitting is generally a "make it up as I go" approach, and I mix yarns and colors. More than once, I've reached the very end of a complicated little kid cardigan or multicolored vest and truly had less than a yard of the main color left. There's a good deal of suspense and tension in working that way, but it's a little crazy!

The moment had arrived. The entire length of off-white thread was gone, all 250 yards, I imagine, although the label has long since fallen away. I finished the seam with a bright white thread, which is also nearing its end, as you can see in the photo.

Even the largest spools run out.

How long does a large spool of thread in basic black or white last in a life? Conscripted into countless and varied projects, yard by yard it winds away. It's the kind of commodity that feels as though it would last forever, like a 20-kilo bag of rice. Surprised, we eventually reach the last grains. Rice goes on the shopping list again.

Maybe I can't take credit for all the sewing that used up these spools. I may have filched them from my mother's box. I also have Granny's supply of buttons and threads, dating back into the '40s. Nonetheless, whatever it measures, congratulations to me for the years I've lived and the seams I've sewn. They are adding up.

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