Siege Diaries 4/4/2020

Prepping for mask sewing.


Anyone who’s a crafter or an artisan likely has one.  Some people’s are organized and catalogued;  others are piled willy-nilly in tubs and cabinets and bins.  (I am in the willy-nilly category). It’s the topic of jokes, those piles of fabric or beads or painting supplies or yarn or whatheveyou.  You know, the “She who dies with the most fabric wins!” t-shirts and such.  And stash is not limited to untouched supplies for future projects, it also extends to those leftovers from previous projects you can’t just seem to bring yourself to throw away–those fabric pieces that aren’t quite big enough for anything but are too big to justify throwing away, those almost-empty bottles of paint, the bits of yarn and thread, those buttons that come with blouses and suits that you throw in a pile that keeps growing long after the item that went with them is gone.

Turns out that in a siege, stash is useful.  I’ve just spent the past hour or two cutting out 22 masks.  While I didn’t have a huge amount on hand of the correct material (100% cotton, preferably of the type quilters use), I did have a large piece of Columbus Blue Jackets fabric, another piece with musical notes on it, and another length of Christmas fabric with gold stars on it.  I also had a bit of the right kind of interfacing for six of the masks to be of the three-layer variety.   Thread, of course, is never an issue–I have a whole drawer full of it.  And those buttons?  Once I get done with my masks, I may make some of the straps with buttons that are being used by medical professionals to save their ears from becoming sore from the mask ties (which are often elastic.

But this post is really more about a fond memory associated with my own stash, prompted by a photo posted by one of my cousins.  When I first moved to Canada and got active in the SCA, I was visiting my Aunt Kitty in Buffalo fairly regularly.  My Uncle Ken stored my car for awhile at his trucking company until I could bring it into Canada, and we sometimes had packages shipped there.  Aunt Kitty was a talented seamstress, skilled at both dressmaking and upholstery, and down in her basement, she had an enormous stash.  When she heard I was making medieval clothing, on one of my visits there in 1991, not long before my wedding, she took me down there and proceeded to load me up with bags and bags of fabric.  Some of it went into the sleeves of my wedding dress.  Other parts of it were used over the years for doublets for my husband, tunics, pants, and even as part of a dress I made for an A&S swap.  It’s taken me nearly 30 years to use everything she gave me;  most recently, I made a pair of 1940s-style trousers with a piece of grey suiting.  But every time I did, I remembered her.

Aunt Kitty died a couple of years ago. Her funeral was limited to immediate family only, so I couldn’t attend as I had for Uncle Ken’s a number of years ago, but I hope she knew how much that gift of stash meant to me over the years.  I think of her often.  I may have been an only child, but I was privileged to have–and to still have–some very special aunts and uncles and cousins, even though it’s been harder to stay in touch as we have all moved on with our own lives.  But, keeping in mind my realization from yesterday, I reached out to a couple of my cousins today when I saw one of them post that photo of Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ken — just to remind them again how special she was to me, and to check in on them.

And I know if Aunt Kitty were still with us and still able to sew, she’d probably be making masks, too.  Her generosity was always an inspiration.