Aging forty years in my possession, my old sewing basket is a companionable resource. Its faded, nearly colorless stripes decorate an octagonal shape that has almost reverted to the natural browns and tans of the fine strands of grass from which it was woven. Its nubbly exterior draws my fingertips to rub along the channels of weaving, massaging my fingerprints into the grass. Small, and firm enough to be an offering bowl, it is comfortably held in one hand with thumb resting beneath the sturdy stalk of a knob; a feature which seems to gather together the entire geometry of the basket into a central point, allowing the snug lid to be removed.
Inside, the scent of bayberries and wood smoke mingle with the amber spiciness of the woven grasses. Shielded from sunlight, the basket interior shows the brilliant scarlet and green stripe circles erased from the outside. An edge of the lid is sewn with black thread, reattaching several rows of weaving separated by wear, but allows a few frayed bits of grass, loosened by breakage, to be folded underneath the rim of the basket lid.
This woven container holds the tools of repair for other weavings: thread, needles, a tarnished thimble, scissors, and two darning eggs scratched by thousands of needle pricks. A few buttons, marking chalk, a bead bracelet, and a plastic blue owl Cracker Jack charm all nestle beneath larger items. A pale green huswife, an “Austen-esk” portable sewing kit, embroidered with silk ribbon flowers lays atop this assortment, accessible for rips and tears away from home.
The basket jingles with the sound of tools that affect the intimacy of repair; stitching whole those tiny damages from life. My sewing basket also holds memories, ephemeral bits, secrets and associations. It was the small basket purchased on an embarrassed retreat after grinding my knees into an icy sidewalk one winter in Boston. An unnecessary item, just an excuse to escape my public clumsiness, initially filled with useless junk before transforming into a cherished memento and a regularly used tool. Bits of my history mingle with needles and thread, lingering inside an ageless interior, brightly colored and protected.