, , , ,

Building One Home A Needle is not a Needle

The last few days have ranged from frustration, to worry about money, to downright distress. Since the fire that consumed our lives, we have learned that simple things are not simple. You set out to do a task, reach for your tools and then discover you no longer have what you need to accomplish even the simplest task. Frustration is first. Money is next. What you took for granted, having a tool in a cabinet, when you have no cabinet, become complex. When the underlying reason for the complexity shows itself, it can make you sad enough to cry.

We like blue. The whole master bedroom and bath in our rental house is orange and gold. Neither of those are fantastic colors to us. Being resilient people, we took that in stride and decided we could do something about it without altering the rental house itself. Orange and blue are complementary colors. Complementary colors are those directly across from each other on the color wheel. We set out to introduce some blue in a complementary way. I put a blue throw on an orange chair. We got a blue bedspread. We found a throw pillow that matches perfectly to span all the blues and the oranges.


We found on sale a complementary color shower curtain to put over the existing liner. The shower rod is low so I needed to shorten the shower curtain. Simple, except that I had no sewing machine, no sewing shears, no ivory colored thread, no thimble, no hem marker, and no pins to hold the hem in place while I sewed it. Not to be deterred, I found a mending kit from a hotel that was stuck in my luggage. I used kitchen scissors to trim the hem. I do have an iron so I was able to turn the hem. Using the pre-threaded needles from the hotel mending kit, I made it ½ way with white thread and ½ way with gray. I have other things to mend or fix and sadly, my hotel sewing kit is not going to do it. So, bring out money, bring out time, and bring out tears.

The worst thing was no sewing box. Soon after we were married I purchased a plastic sewing box. It was of a good size. In the bottom were interfacing, tracing paper, patterns, and other miscellaneous things. It had a middle tray that held tracing wheels, rotary cutters, elastic, drawstring pullers, buttons, and such. The top tray held spools of thread, bobbins, scissors, needles, pins, marking pencils, fabric erasers, measuring tapes, presser feet, and that little ruler with the slidy thing I can never remember the name of but assures you have an even hem. It was a great box.  You could just pull it out for mending or unpack it for sewing. Soon after I got it, my mom—who had sewing rooms—looked at it and proclaimed that it was “too small and would break soon.” Well, I had had it since 1977 and it was going strong. I miss it. I thought it would be easy to find a sewing box. I hunted and hunted but could find nothing. I finally found some like my old one in the vintage section on ebay. Even with damage or a missing tray they sold for as much as $50. Frustration, worry about money and downright distress.

I have always associated sewing tools with building tools and vice versa. Both are for making things. One of my tasks this summer was to put a furniture-quality finish on some unfinished book cases we have had for years. I had everything ready. The tools I needed were in my tool boxes. I simply needed to go grab the right box. I had found and purchased the three-phase, hand-rubbed finishing system used for antique furniture restoration that my mom had taught me to use 50 years ago. I had 120, 220, 320 and 600 grit sandpaper. I had 120 to sand the wood smooth before I put the first coat of finish on. I had 220 to sand between the first, second and third coats of finish, 320 to sand between the last two top coats and 600 to knock down the shine a bit and give the furniture the look of a well aged piece. The lovely, painstakingly applied, hand rubbed finish would match our antiques.

Of course, the tools did not survive the fire. The bookcases did not survive the fire. The antiques did not survive the fire.

We re-ordered some of the bookcases, not have money to replace them all. I reordered the finishes. I procured the sandpaper: 120, 220, 320 and 500 since I could not find any 600. I had no rags for a painstakingly applied, hand-rubbed finish so I purchased cotton painting cloths and a few foam pads. I got back to our temporary house and realized that my good, fabric drop clothes had burned. I had to go back to the store and replace them. They were $30 each. More frustration, more worry about money and more distress.

We decided I needed to replace my tools. I went to Lowes and came face to face with the vast array of tools and I just started crying right there in the tool aisle. I loved my tools. I had a dozen tool boxes with different kinds of tools in each. I even built them a cabinet.

I had accumulated them over the years so I had no idea that starting from scratch would cost so much money. I had no cabinet, I had no tools and I had no courage to buy them because they were so expensive. Again, frustration, worry about money and distress. Thankfully there were no people in the tool aisle to see me crying in Lowes.

Each task that was simple before is complicated now. Each task represents some part of our life that has been affected by the fire. Each item was a friend, sometimes an old friend who had served us well. How do you replace friends?