Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Sew What?

Should I be concerned that My Lovely Wife has lugged home a 1928 hand-operated Singer sewing machine that weighs as much as a boat anchor and is probably just as useful? And a scratchy wool horse blanket, despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, we do not own a horse? And that yesterday she made me lash a cork bulletin board to my bicycle and carry it through the streets of Oxford to our home?

Should this bizarrely acquisitive behavior worry me? Maybe, but I think I understand it. See, three weeks ago we moved to Oxford from our comfortable suburban Washington home, a home filled with a surplus of stuff, anything we could possibly ever want or need. And though our house here in Oxford is furnished, it isn't what you'd call overfurnished. While I am content to muddle through ("There's only four of us; do we really need more than four plates?"), she is determined to assemble a full complement of staples.

Then, too, there is the fact that My Lovely Wife has too much time on her hands, time that she must fill somehow. She's decided to fill some of it by grazing through the Oxford Freecycle listings, the Web site for second-hand items that people would rather give to a good home than throw away.

The cork board? Our daughters aren't allowed to put up posters, but they may hang one picture. A bulletin board should allow them to decorate a bit and still get us our security deposit back. The horse blanket? Ruth is convinced a hard winter is on the way and that our linen closet is lacking. Then there's the sewing machine....

First of all, Ruth is a wonderful seamstress. She can sew anything. I used to daydream about owning a polka-dot shirt like one I saw Ringo Starr wearing in a photo. Ruth made me one for Father's Day. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a shirt? It almost broke her--Ruth's eye still twitches every time I say the word "placket"--but she did it.

Our 14-year-old daughter's school is having something called "Book Character Day," where students dress up as characters from books. When confronted with an assignment like this, Beatrice doesn't think in terms of "What's my favorite fictional character?" She thinks, "What would be the coolest outfit to wear?" A simple Nancy Drew twin-set would not do. She decided on Scarlett O'Hara's dress from "Gone With the Wind."

Oxford is the thrift shop (or "charity shop") capital of England so Ruth was able to pick up a few patterned bedsheets for a couple of quid. An ancient, hand-cranked sewing machine showed up on Freecycle and she snapped it up. She will need to take it apart, clean it, oil it, and put it back together again.

Ruth is slowly filling our house with objects she has salvaged. I wouldn't be surprised if I came home one day to find a crockpot, a snooker table and a stuffed crocodile in our living room. It should bother me, but frankly my dear....well, you know.


Beatrice said...

I refuse to dress up in a lame twin set. :)

Anonymous said...

In one of the "Little House" books, Pa buys Ma a sewing machine. When I read the book, I looked at the illustration and wondered why the artist showed a modern sewing machine. My mother used a machine that looked very much like Mrs. Kelly's and very much like the illustration in the book, and I didn't realize it was old! (And when I found a similar machine in the Smithsonian 40 years later, I felt old!)

suburbancorrespondent said...

Nothing worse than renting a furnished place - doesn't have what you need and has lots of what you don't need. The year we spent in Newport, RI, was typical - more bedsheets and towels and "occasional" tables and various chairs than we knew what to do with (and don't get me started on the 16 sets of salt-and-pepper shakers, okay?); but I was still running out to Walmart to buy the most basic necessities - a decent-size pot to cook in, say, and extra blankets, just to name 2 examples. And I'd find myself wishing that I had brought something that I had thought I wouldn't need for that one year - like a sewing machine.

Marc Naimark said...

"Ruth was able to pick up a few patterned bedsheets for a couple of quid."

For authenticity's sake, curtains would have been more appropriate, no?

Marc Naimark said...

Beatrice said: "I refuse to dress up in a lame twin set."

Now a lamé twin set... that would be something else.

TC from CLUUC said...

John - I had to say Wow when I saw that machine. It looks almost exactly like the one my mom had when I was a kid. It now sits a show piece in our house.

Sally said...

This column made me laugh. My mother had that machine and I nearly wore it out in the late 60's making everything. My husband of 34 years has never gotten a Ringo shirt. Ruth is a saint!