Monday, 13 January 2014

I Can Sing A Rainbow…

Do you know this old children’s song? [written in 1955, and recorded by lots of artistes; Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, Cilla Black and others]

I know the colours aren’t accurate – but I remembered it one afternoon last week when Bob came in with a gift for me. He’d been out pastoral visiting [we have an awful lot of church folk who’re unwell at the minute] and one lady had send me this little bag. Fifteen spools of thread – she no longer sews and thought I’d have a use for them. I spread them out and admired their pretty colours


I love the fact that the older ones have a name for their colours, not just a code number. Why did thread manufacturers stop doing that? I cannot imagine Farrow and Ball giving up their evocative paint colour names and just having “Grey #17” instead of “Mole’s Breath”!


This little collection includes dark jade sky blue gold peacock sage saxe blue dark claret light pomegranate & dark olive

Googling about, I have discovered that there are still colour names – but the manufacturers no longer print them on the spool labels. I am a little bit frustrated that in America you can buy a spool of blue thread called variously Wedgewood and Wedge Wood. Somebody should tell them that Josiah the potter never had an ‘e’ in the middle!

I know I shall never be able to use all the reels of thread in my box, or the fabric in my stash. I have recently started making up little shoeboxes of fabric, threads, buttons and trimmings to pass on to the young people I know who are starting to sew, so that they have stuff to practice on. Two of my pupils had sewing machines at Christmas – and were quite thrilled to be given a ‘starter pack’. It costs me nothing – and means these resources will get used.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) Sewing Class

“Every young girl should be taught to do the following kinds of stitch, with propriety. Overstitch, hemming, running, felling, stitching, back-stitch and run, button-stitch, chain-stitch, whipping, darning, gathering and cross-stitch”

[quote from Catherine E. Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 1843, the picture is Mary Cassatt’s “Sewing Class”]

I am sure that all the generous older ladies who have given me stuff over the years will be happy to know that I am putting it to good use like this.


  1. It's nice to see old fashioned skills like sewing being encouraged at school. After all, if a hem comes undone or a button falls off it needs fixing.......unless you can just bin the item and go to Primark for another one!

  2. How lovely to see all those reels of thread being put to good use, very satisfying to know that they are going to good homes and will be appreciated and used. What a thoughtful gift. Catherine Beecher's list of stitches every girl should learn is pretty impressive, isn't it? These days it seems that some people junk clothing when it only needs a small repair or even just a button stitched on, everyone should learn how to do a few basic stitches. Have a great day, Vee x

  3. Nice gesture with the 'starter packs'. It means they don't have to find the money to get off to a start sewing and creating.

  4. I had to look up felling (I call that one my invisible stitch) so I've learned something today. I can do all the others so I shall now call myself a young girl!
    Love from Mum

  5. How odd - I read this early this morning, and then went along to our toddler group. They were painting a Noah's Ark scene and as the leader gave out bits of rainbow to colour in, she said "There's a song about this" and proceeded to sing it! As a small child, I got ridiculously annoyed with this song because I was obsessed with organising my crayons and pencils in rainbow order and I *knew* it was wrong :-)

  6. How beautiful they are! I esp. like the paper ends. I keep wooden spools b/c plastic has taken their place, unfortunately. I also like the old names. "Mole's Breath"!!! Delightful!


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