In my ‘About me’ blurb I say how my hands have always been busy making things. Well this has proved it to me.
I had a long awaited visit last week from my gorgeous youngest sister and my wonderful, long suffering parents. I say long suffering, because I was never an easy child and I’m certainly not an easy grown up even now.
They brought with them some precious memorabilia. Things I’d made years ago when I was very, very little and some I’d made in my teens.
It was like being transported back in time and to be quite honest, made me a tad sad.
Not only did I instantly recognise the articles they brought, so carefully wrapped in bubble wrap as if they were precious historical artefacts from a National museum, but I recalled where I was when I made them.
The most significant was the sun yellow, felt pin cushion.
Oh how I remember sitting in class, struggling with a giant needle to sew crude, overlarge and unevenly spaced stitches to secure the two pieces of its head.
Everyone in the first infant class made one, even the boys ;( now there’s equality for you) - we must have been all of 5 years of age. It was a collective secret – we were making a present for Mother’s Day. It was my very first attempt at using a ‘proper’ steel needle as opposed to the red, plastic baby ones we’ d been practising with.
I specifically recall being asked by Miss Krelly, our somewhat prim and proper spinster teacher, (who incidentally wore tan brogues, a tweed skirt and twin set with pearls; quintessentially an English teacher through and through ) to find the bag of Kapok from the colossal oak cupboard at the back of the classroom that usually only she was allowed to open.
I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was indeed a privilege to have the key which was bestowed only upon those who could be ‘trusted’. Though trusted with what I have no idea.
Turning the key and hearing the soft click of the well oiled lock, I slowly prized open the heavy doors to reveal a treasure trove of school paraphernalia.
Standing momentarily, I soaked everything up with my eyes; the sturdy glass bottles of ocean blue ink, needle sharp pencils gathered into a bundle with a thick, toffee-coloured rubber band, sugar paper covered exercise books , thick, pink blotting paper and wooden rulers stacked neatly on top of each other.
I’d never seen or even heard of Kapok before, but could miraculously read the word on the bag and quickly delivered it safely to the teacher who was sitting at her wooden desk completely surrounded by preoccupied children waiting their turn and all sucking on cotton threads and squinting into the sunlight in an attempt to thread their own needle before reaching the front of the queue.
She gathered us round and opened the bag to reveal the softest, lightest cloud of Kapok which we would use to stuff our pin cushions. She described it as ‘like gossamer threads’ and took time out of the needlework lesson to describe how spiders would float away on a warm breeze on their own gossamer threads. You could seriously have heard a pin drop.
We all imagined I have no doubt, that the Kapok was indeed those actual spiders’ threads.
The bag was passed round the class and each child silently sank one stubby little hand deep into the bag and pulled out ‘just enough’ gossamer thread to stuff their pin cushion. No second dips were allowed.
Sadly, at some point long after infant school - I can’t exactly remember when- I used a black indelible ink pen to ‘enhance’ the features of the face. Not content with adding stark, long eyelashes and eyebrows, I obviously wanted to make sure who’d made it and added my initials to the back. Well in a family of four children you have to stake a claim on things.
It is still in use today and my Mum, who is no mean seamstress herself, was keen to take it home with her, complete with its myriad of threaded needles.
It is blatantly obvious, from the crudeness of the pin cushion, that it was fashioned by an inexperienced hand. But it was made with love, like everything I now make for Juju and Bubba in my little shed at the bottom of the garden.
Incidentally, I'm still making pin cushions.