This is my Top 10 list — the 10 things I can’t sew without:
1. Needle book. This handy little item I made from two pieces of 3-inch-by-4-inch cardboard, a scrap of quilt batting, and small pieces of satin fabric and off-white flannel. It is put together like a book, using a glue gun. The flannel serves as “pages” where needles are placed to keep them secure and always at hand. My needle book has four pages to accommodate the kinds of needles I use — blunt, embroidery, quilting, sharps, long-eyes, darning, crewel and beading. I have several needle books. Two have beading on the front, and one has cross-stitch embroidery. I have made many more needle books to give to friends who sew. I also have several needle books shaped like little pockets and made from scraps of old plaid Pendleton shirts that once belonged to my father.
2. Vintage silver thimble. I have had this thimble since the 1970s. A friend who liked to buy antique jewelry and other small gold or silver items gave it to me. It has a raised floral design on it. It’s one of the very few I ever found that fits — I have large hands.
3. Tailor’s chalk — a nugget of blue and a nugget of white. Years ago this chalk was much larger and square, and was housed in a red plastic gizmo intended to make it easy to use. But now the chalk has worn down to the size of a fingernail. It’s still useful and I keep it in my pin tin where it’s always handy.
4. The small round tin where I keep straight pins. This tin came into my life in 1962. It contained toffee imported from England. My sister, who worked at Moore’s Drug Store in Bingham after school, sold it to me. I think it cost 50 cents, including the candy. The tin is pale blue with a cameolike design of Grecian ladies on the top. It’s showing its age, but, hey, who isn’t?
5. A tiny pottery cat magnet. I bought this little device in a needlework shop on a back street in Bucksport in the 1990s. A second magnet secures the cat to one’s embroidery project. When I finish my stint, I place my needle on the cat and the needle stays put so I can find it easily the next time I want to stitch.
6. A retractable tape measure shaped like a wooly black sheep. Pull its tail to use the tape measure, press its belly to make it retract. My friend Susan gave it to me several years ago. She knew that every time I looked at it I’d smile and think of the good times we’ve had making kitchen angels with cinnamon sticks and bay leaves, and trolling beaches for flotsam and jetsam to turn into impromptu “art.”
7. Dressmaker shears. I’ve had these since 1966. They were made in Germany and fit my hand like they were tailored for me. They are used only for cutting cloth.
8. Sewing scissors shaped like a stork. My friend Nancy gave these scissors to me a few years ago when I admired a pair she had. They have very sharp points. I keep these scissors at hand whenever I am engaged in making something by hand, which is often.
9. Jars of vintage and newer buttons. Over the years I have accumulated hundreds of buttons — shell, plastic, metal, rhinestone, glass — the good, the bad and the oh-so-ugly. I find it impossible to part with any of the buttons in my trove, no matter how hideous, like those awful olive green ones intended to simulate woven leather. My favorite buttons are vintage shell buttons, but I also drool over white plastic buttons from the 1940s and 1950s, especially the ones shaped like flowers or with geometric designs on them.
10. The old oak bureau. This three-drawer piece of furniture holds sewing cultch I don’t use every day. The top drawer has nothing to do with sewing and houses winter caps, mittens and gloves. The other two drawers contain sewing machine manuals and attachments, bias tape, lace trims, rickrack, ribbon, interfacing, electric scissors, zippers, thread and a few pheasant feathers. Don’t ask me why.
• Last year, Margaret Murray, of Glenburn, knit 65 pairs of mittens, which she donated to worthy causes, including St. John’s Church, Eastern Area Agency on Aging and area food cupboards. She knit the mittens using yarn that was donated to her. In order to continue her charitable project, she would like to receive more donations of knitting worsted-weight yarn suitable for mittens. For more information, call her at 942-2677.
• Artist Christina Heiniger, of Lamoine, is coordinating art shows for the lobby of The Grand theater in Ellsworth.
Heiniger also is organizing the second annual Spring Bead and Jewelry Show: Beads and Baubles Downeast set for April 16-17 at The Maine Grind in Ellsworth.
To learn more about these opportunities, call Heiniger at 664-2404 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Mary Bird writes that the Fiber Maine-ia Web site has been updated for 2010. Visit http://extension.umaine.edu/fibermaine-ia/default.htm to learn more about exhibits and activities, such as “My Journey: 20 Years of Art Quilts,” an exhibit by fiber artist Natasha Kempers-Cullen Feb. 26, at Maine Fiberarts Gallery in Topsham. Visit www.mainefiberarts.org for more information about that exhibit.