Wednesday, 8 July 2015

OSF Estate Donation 2: Sheila's Stash

Volunteering for Our Social Fabric has its perks: the company of diverse, generous, creative people, and the inspiration that comes of sorting through donations of long-treasured sewing stashes: useful things that have been saved - sometimes for generations - because one day they may come in handy.

Part of my duties at OSF is to prepare these boxes and bags of goodies to be sold. It's a considerable, often daunting - but always interesting - task. There is always the usual: yardage, thread, notions, buttons; and a few surprises: baby teeth, boot hooks, phonograph needles. I often become a little attached to the glimpse I get of the previous keeper, and I'm always grateful. I hope when I am gone, someone will do the same for me.

Another perk: OSF volunteers receive small amounts of goods for their troubles. Most take a piece or two of fabric. I am attracted to the curious, the ugly and the abandoned: projects that never got finished, strange things that don't really belong in a sewing stash, and dreadful polyester double-knit - nothing of any value, and often objectively quite horrible or useless. It would appear my purpose in life is to find a reason for neglected junk to exist. These things I take home, to live with, until they reveal their purpose.

It was hot as the four of us sorted Sheila's stash this Canada Day. It was a very organized donation: yardage separated by fibre content; notions grouped by type. There were unique items: decades-old clothing to be remade; fabric flowers, fur cuffs and collars removed from their original garments; worn-out attire, half-scavenged for trim (including a lovely pair of cotton bloomers with trap door, and two fancy dickeys) and toilet rolls, neatly wound with what had been removed. We marvelled at envelopes containing shoe laces, sorted by length; coffee tins of broken jewellery, toy car axles and marbles. There were two banks of labelled, tiny drawers: hooks and eyes, by purpose and size; buttons, by colour and type; teddy bear eyes... There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Tucked throughout, we found recipe clippings.

Thank you, Sheila, for saving your stash for us. It will be passed along to people who will appreciate it. Here are your treasures I set aside:

I could not have felt more proud

  • The back section only of a lime green, floral, raglan-sleeved, cotton dress with yoke. This will be a fun challenge. Wonder what happened to the rest of it...
  • An unused, cotton hankie with print of kids in Maryjanes (tee hee). Something for my daughter.
  • A tiny, hand-embroidered pair of felt mittens. Each year I give my children a special ornament - an idea I got from my aunt, who did the same for her kids. Last year, I found my daughter a hand-made, tiny pair of skates that could have been purchased at the same church bazaar as these mitts. Mittens and skates for my Special Olympics Skater of the Year: perfect! I will embroider her name and the year on the back, and tell her what I know of their story.
  • Three polyester rouleaux ties. I bought two similar ties in Tokyo.* Shoelaces, perhaps?
    *the other two souvenirs: a cast iron tea pot, and a pair of split toe construction worker boots, that I plan to embellish. Plus toe socks, to wear with. The ties came from the stupendous sewing shop, Tomato - check it out!
  • Mine are white, but shorter

  • Two mis-matched, polyester pant cuffs, and a skirt hem. I don't know what causes people to keep them once they've shortened their trousers, but I keep finding them! So many have come my way, lately, I think the universe is trying to tell me something. Bring them on - an idea is brewing!
  • A card with 5 used beading needles. They're so easily bent, and with all the embellishment on Blossom's corset, I'm running out.
  • A bullet. Yep, a real bullet - a first at OSF. Things that don't have any other obvious place to live often end up in button boxes. This was found in a shoe box, along with some safety pins; a few sticky pennies; scattered beads from broken jewellery; a St. Christopher, stuck fast to the cardboard; a bunch of blue, Bic pen caps... This will take research, as well as contemplation.

  • 4 partly-used skeins of horrible, scrutchy, Phentex yarn: black, red, white, brown. I almost wrote "wool". Phentex is definitely not wool. It is a "space age fibre". Want to talk Luposlipaphobia? Socks have got nothing on Phentex!

    In the winter I depend on Phentex slippers - lovingly made by my mother in various shades of ugly - to help my brain, which can't function if my feet are cold. What we've discovered: old Phentex stretches and holds its shape better than the new stuff (which used to be available at Zeller's). Generally only (rarely) found at garage sales and thrift stores.
  • A round, wooden bingo marker: under the I: 23. No idea what I'll do with it, but a single bingo marker seems a particularly useless thing: right up my alley.
  • A tiny, heavy, tarnished, miniature... baby rattle? It doesn't rattle, but what else can I call it? It might serve as... something... something... nothing's coming to me - yet...
  • A pin: "Souvenir of Rodeo. Let 'Er Buck". It reminds me of a fella I didn't know well in high school, and wish now I had - I'll give it to him if ever I should see him again.  He's an actual cowboy. We're Facebook friends.
  • The separated pieces of two moth-holey, cashmere cardigans: shrimp-tomato red and a medium, heathery green, including sleeves with cuffs, one ribbon-faced placket with shell buttons (no corresponding buttonhole side), and a black-thread-darned sleeve. I will likely use these to felt together a sweater.
  • An unopened package of labels, with "Sheila", in red. These are a gift for my friend, the connector who first introduced me to OSF.
  • And the item that made me squeal in delight - something I've been hoping to stumble across for months: an honest-to-goodness, hand-crocheted, toilet roll doll! The real thing: blue variegated acrylic, pompons, plastic shoes that won't stay on her feet - everything but the hat! Jackpot! I thought I had hit on a brilliant solution to disguise my daughter's sharps box, and create some real use for one of these crazy dolls, all in one swoop. Sadly, it worked better in my mind.... Not to worry: a little more sideways thinking, and its real purpose may soon be revealed. Stay tuned.
The bulk of Sheila's donation has been sorted and packaged and is ready to be sold. Maybe you will find a treasure, too. Our next sale is Sunday, August 9, from 10 - 1. Our Social Fabric is located at 871 E. Hastings. See you there?


  1. There's something kind of tragic about these disembodied remnants of another's life.

    1. The bigger tragedy would be seeing it all heading for the landfill...

  2. Well said, Leah. As the daughter who inherited these things (and many others), thank you from the bottom of my heart for this tribute, and for your appreciation of these "disembodied remnants of another's life".

  3. The tarnished baby rattle is actually a belly button piercing barbell.

    1. Hmmm. It sure does look like one, but piercing paraphernelia seems an incongruous item to find in an elderly woman's sewing stash, and there weren't any other similar clues! Also, it's very heavy, and there's no way to open it - the balls are permanently affixed... You could be right; I'm sure no expert about piercings, but I'm not convinced. Want to take a look at it in person?

  4. I can tell you a use for hems that have been cut off-my mother in law used them for hair bands! She wore polyester pants so they were stretchy. She was not one to waste anything but she was not a detail person, thus the hair bands were not hemmed at the edges. They were just the way they came off the pants! Thanks for making me think of her as she's been gone 10 years.

    1. Hairbands - perfect! I never would have thought of that!

      I found another one yesterday, stuffed in a sewing machine tool compartment, stumbled across in an alley. They're everywhere! 5 or 6 more, and I'll need to get my thinking cap on...

      Thanks for sharing!

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