Category Archives: sewing

My Dead Mother-in-Law Got Me Hooked on Craigslist

If American business relied on Americans buying things that they truly needed, American business would be out of business.

When my mother-in-law died, she left a house full of fabric. It was in the attic, it was in the basement, it was in each bedroom. My unscientific guess (by weighing a few containers) was that she left about 6,000 pounds of sewing fabric. She didn’t sew that much or create crafts. She bought the pretty, bright colored fabric when it went on sale only because it was on sale and the colored patterns caught her eye.

I’m sure fabric stores rely on people like my mother-in-law to keep them afloat. If people only bought what they needed, that would mean 5,995 pounds less fabric for this one woman alone.

Just a small sample of the fabric

Just a small sample of the fabric

And she was not alone. Two weeks after she died, the wife of my manager’s neighbor died. She left a houseful of fabric . . . and 15 sewing machines.

An ad on Craigslist helped us get rid of our fabric. One woman came by after most of it had been snatched up for free by many people. She complained that the fabric smelled musty. Well, it was stored in plastic containers for, in some cases, decades. What did she want for free? Right after coming to our place, she was heading off to another house filled with fabric left by another deceased elderly lady.

Before she left, she still grabbed a good amount of our musty fabric and told us she had buckets and buckets full at home. Note: big fabric giveaway going on at her house after her death. What goes around, comes around.

Virtually every house hunter reality show on television has that woman that complains about the small closets in a house. She says, “That closet will only fit my clothes, my husband is on his own.” Or, “That closet will only fit my shoes.” The older houses have minuscule storage space and that same women is shocked to think about how few things people must have owned back then. Huge shoe collection? Not a thing in the past.

Maybe buying stuff gives people a high. Maybe they keep so much stuff because it might be useful someday. Unfortunately, by the time they need that item, it is lost in the other old junk they saved or new stuff they bought.

I blame ubiquitous advertisements. Can anyone get through the day without an ad overload? Everything we look at or listen to sends us an ad for some product or service. One reason I don’t own an e-reader is because of the ads that pop up on them. Sure you can pay more and not get ads, but I’m sure that someday the ads will still come, outright or in a subliminal manner. My computer is probably sending subliminal ads to me at this moment. Paranoia is a land I’m well acquainted with.

Government, along with business, encourages us to keep mindlessly buying. Buying stuff is good for the economy (and not saving is bad for the economy – go figure).

Both rich and poor overbuy. The less wealthy buy cheaper stuff (i.e., 6,000 pounds of fabric) and the wealthy can buy enough expensive clothes to fill a 1,000 square foot home or more. If we lived a dozen lifetimes, we couldn’t wear out so many clothes or sew with so much fabric.

I’m ready to cross my cultural references and throw my shoe at the TV next time someone complains about a “small” 2,000 square foot house with kitchen countertops that are “not granite.”  Then I’ll be in the market for a new TV. I’m part of the problem.

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Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: How Home Ec Made a Radical Out of Me

Back in my high school days, Home Economics was a requirement for girls while the boys took Shop class.

I remember the cooking class. One lesson stressed that a healthy family must eat meat three times a day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The girls in class were shown slideshows of one cut of bloody red, marbled meat after another. Future family, here is your nutritional guideline.

But the real danger of Home Ec was the sewing class. I found out I could sew well enough. Woodstock already happened by the time I took Home Ec. So I started sewing clothes that were cutting edge in my eyes based on images I scanned from magazines, movies, and television.

Billowing sleeved poet blouses with oversized collars were popular for both sexes, so I sewed one in olive green cotton. I made pants out of an olive green, gold, and black striped fabric. Bell bottoms of course.

So one day while wearing this outfit I started walking to a friend’s house down 8 Mile Road. Yeah the same 8 Mile Eminem sang about.

An older man came walking toward me. Slowly he inched over to the far end of his side of the sidewalk, then he started walking on the grass. He held out his hands in front of him as if to protect himself against me and said, “Stay on your own side.” I must have scared the hell out of him as he saw this radical type walking up to him.

My Home Ec project propelled me into the counterculture without my doing much else to warrant this label. If he only knew me, he would have known that I hit the honor roll on every report card. Drugs were never part of my list of must buys. Outside of the one Zero Population Growth meeting I attended, I didn’t take an active part in political groups. My reading list included Soul on Ice and Fanny Hill but I also read many classics.

Today people think I look like a librarian. And not the naughty version of one, the dull, boring version. But in the back of my mind, I can reflect on this wild, radical image from my past. I could scare the ruling class and all I had to do was turn on a sewing machine. Power to the people.