03 January, 2010

Unexpected commonalities

When we were down at my in-laws place I was doing a bit of mending for them, and fixing up my brother-in-law's slippers with blanket stitch etc. so I was doing some rummaging around in my mother-in-law's sewing bits 'n bobs looking for thread and wool and so on. I came across this fabric wrapped up in yellow tissue paper, in with lots of other very scrappy bits of fabric like the bottoms of jeans she'd hemmed - the kind of thing I'm very tempted to keep too but which makes me roll my eyes when someone else actually does :P This, however, is different.

Julie's fabric

I wish she was well enough to tell me about it, but I think I know the story because it struck a chord with me. I'm 99% sure it's Liberty although I can't find the exact pattern anywhere; it looks like Liberty, it feels like Liberty, and it was clearly treasured like Liberty! I'd say she made a shirt out of it and couldn't bear to throw any of it out, there are tiny tiny scraps in the bundle! No-one else wanted it, so the jean and dress hems went out and this came home with me.

It might seem a bit odd that I'm blogging about it, but when I opened up the tissue paper it was like there was a connection between us, over who knows how many years, because I knew exactly how she felt when she wrapped it all up carefully. I'm very fond of my mother-in-law and we get along well, but we're such very different people that we don't have a very deep and personal connection. Now that she's ill there's yet another barrier between us and I accept that it's likely to remain so for the forseeable future. So it's neat that a little bundle of fabric scraps showed me that, although our personalities are quite different, we do share some little quirks!

It's these little connections that make archaeology fun too. I remember on one historic dig in inner-city Sydney where we were excavating a row of terrace houses and we found a wee stash of marbles. They'd been carefully put inside a ventilation grate by the back steps and were a motley assortment of old and new, purpose made and appropriated from the old soda bottles that used them as seals. My co-worker and I just knew, in that moment, that a little boy had hidden them away and for some reason hadn't retrieved them and they'd lain there for maybe 80 years or so, even as the house was razed above them. I wonder if he ever thought about them or if he'd simply forgotten them and moved away? I felt the same when I picked up a Mousterian hand axe from a plowed field in Syria - 70,000 years ago a Neandertal made it, held it and lost it, and there it was in my hand having sat in the ground for all that time. It still sends a shiver down my spine.


  1. the fabric is beautiful!
    i totaly understand the magical moment!

  2. That's so neat! I love this post.

  3. This is a wonderful post, for many reasons. The connection you felt with your mother-in-law is so touching... I hope she becomes well enough so you can share your stories with each other. Regarding the excavations, I can only imagine and wonder what holding those things must have felt like. I am overcome by feelings somewhat like those whenever I find a fossil, imagining how old it is, humbled that I am holding in my hand something that has withstood millennia, something which, for that moment in time, connects me to its time of life and movement.

    Working with human settlements must have even more meaning, and I am somewhat envious of your experiences. :)



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