Time-Release Genetics

Today I spent $25 on sewing thread.  About 20 spools of it, all sale-priced at 40% off.  No, I hadn’t run out of sewing thread, nor was I stocking up for a big project.  In fact, I don’t even sew.

Oh, sure, I know how to sew; I even own a sewing machine.  It’s stored away in a tightly sealed carton, a  relic from our last family yard sale.  At the end of the day, my aunt and my mother had secretly loaded the unsold machine into the trunk of my car.  They knew that I would need it, not necessarily then . . . but someday.  And now it lives in my basement — baggage from my past, safely packed and standing ready for wherever my future journey might take me.

My mother sews — prolifically and extremely well — which is probably why I don’t sew at all.  Like most young women, I have grown up to develop interests in anything but that which interests my mother.  To have common hobbies is to admit fate and acknowledge that, as women, we are destined to become our mothers.

Please understand that there’s nothing wrong with my mother.  She once broke her finger — at sixty-something years old, she’d had a minor incident while lacing up her shoes before aerobics class!  She didn’t give up waterskiing until she was in her early sixties, and that was only because the engine on the old family motor boat finally wore out.  No, she is certainly not a mother to be ashamed of.

She is in her seventies now, and still quite active.  Her retirement was given her time to organize her fabric stash, and the attic of our family home is now lined with rows of matching boxes  labeled with notations like:  wool- plaid, cotton- blue prints,  fabric-quilting scraps.  My mother’s love of sewing has been complemented by her Yankee thriftiness, and her fabric collection has grown steadily with each semi-annual sale at the local fabric store.

I’ve spent the last twenty years of my adult life trying any craft other than sewing.  Basketweaving led to knitting, crocheting, rug hooking, spinning wool, dyeing yarn and fibers, felting, and most recently, weaving.  I realize as I embark on this latest round of “fibermania” how dangerously close I am — flirting around the edges of the forbidden craft.  After all, what is woven fabric other than raw material for my mother’s hobby?  At first I made only scarves, which came off the loom as completed items.  But now I’ve begun to weave fabric yardage, wash and iron it, and store it away as if it were the end product.  Today, I decided to make some of this yardage into a set of tea towels; I cut the fabric strip into four sections, and realized I needed to hem them to prevent the edges from unraveling.  Rationalizing that “hemming” is not really “sewing,” I headed off to the fabric store for thread and a needle . . . because of course I owned not even the most rudimentary sewing supplies.

And there I saw the sign:  “40% Off!!!  All Threads!!!!” I don’t know what possessed me to seek out a shopping basket and begin to fill it with a systematic selection of neutral thread colors, then a dozen “common” colors that I might need for other projects, and then several spools of fancy threads made of rayon, with spirals of contrasting glitter.  After all, I had come to the store for a relatively modest purchase.  Was it the neon sale sign that made me do this?  Or something deeper?

As I reflected on my behavior, I thought back to a conversation I’d had recently with my friend Pat.  She loves delicate bone china and other Victorian finery, but her daughter always expressed nearly opposite tastes.  Pat relayed the story of the time she caught her adult daughter admiring an exquisite crystal vase in an antique shop, and how she teased her daughter mercilessly about this change of heart.  “Face it, Mandy,” Pat explained, “Daughters have time-release genes!”

I suspect this genetic theory is what led to my newly acquired thread inventory.  My yarn cabinet is already overflowing, but I carefully rearrange a shelf to make room for the new threads and organize them by size and color.

I hear the old sewing machine stirring anxiously from its cage in the basement as I begin hemming my tea towels.  And, not surprisingly, I find a certain bittersweet enjoyment in the task.

From the Archives . . .

© Mary Jane Russell 1999