There were roses and pansies upon the facings of the coat; and the waistcoat was worked with poppies and corn-flowers.
Everything was finished except just one single cherry-coloured button-hole, and where that button-hole was wanting there was pinned a scrap of paper with these words—in little teeny weeny writing—
NO MORE TWIST
I don’t know how many years we’ve been watching Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester at Christmas. 15? 20? I love the story of the mice who help an ailing tailor finish a waistcoat for the Lord Mayor’s wedding, completing the work while he is sick in bed.
Completing, apart from that single button-hole, because they’d run out of twist. The tailor had tasked his cat Simpkin with purchasing the thread he needed and Simpkin, in a very feline way, was sulky about the tailor rescuing mice from their prisons under tea-cups and he hid the twisted thread away in a teapot. Last year, our first Christmas ever alone (because of Covid and because John was recuperating from major surgery), our Edmonton family suggested we might like to watch The Tailor of Gloucester with them; they found the animated version we love on YouTube and we have the entire Beatrix Potter opus here on dvds. That was sweet. This year we watched with Angelica and Karna and it was just as lovely as ever. The moment when the tailor, worried that he has lost too much time to illness and won’t be able to finish the waistcoat, and finds it laid out on his worktable with a tiny note —
I am thinking of the story this morning because I have only a few feet of stitching left to do on my quilt in progress but I’ve run out of the red sashiko thread I’ve been using. I’d ordered two spools, each wound with 30 meters. I thought that would be more than enough. But I guess some of my river systems (the way I’m thinking of the quilting) have meandered and idled and I’ve finished my spools. On the weekend I ordered more and it should be here later this week (though the delivery date changes every time I look up the tracking number). It’s not thread I can buy locally. The nearest source for the kind I like is a small business in the Fraser Valley. I’d ordered the blue momen cottons you can see immediately to the left of the long red strip in my photo (and the red is a true vivid red, not the orange-y colour you see there; I can’t seem to photograph its true colour) when I ordered the first spools of thread and this time I ordered more of those rich Japanese blues. During this bleak month, with its cold and snow and my own dark moments, sewing the blue cotton has kept me hopeful.
I’ve also finished the edits of my forthcoming Blue Portugal and it was the other thing that kept me more or less hopeful during January. Hopeful that despite our relative isolation, our collective anxiety about plagues and political upheaval, it’s possible to write about things one loves and wants to keep intact in memory and language.
It never occurred to me, as a child allowed to borrow an atlas during a wet recess or because I’d finished my assignments early, that someone might actually own an atlas, or several, that the pages would show how borders shift, how rivers change, oxbow, leave their banks, join with other watercourses, enter lakes, the waters amalgamating. Yet somehow a river can leave again, return to its original course, sure of its water.
When my thread arrives — today or tomorrow or even next week, because those are all the duly promised delivery dates–I’ll sew the final lengths of the rivers into place on blue cotton and on red. My stitches are nothing as delicate as those left by the mice but this quilt I’ve been making is intended for warmth and comfort during the winter months and its stitches are durable enough for that.