While looking for hints on how to keep my pins sharp...the answer is emery powder...I came across this story which made me stop and think.

Just after the break-up of the Soviet Union some American women got together to visit the relative of one of them who was living in a small village. They packed the sort of bits and pieces they thought she'd like and need and included packets of sewing needles and dress-making pins.

She and her fellow villagers fell on the packets of pins and needles with joy and one explained that the village needle was blunt from much use. Have a think about living in a village where one needle had to be shared between all the women...

For as long as people have worn clothes, needles have been used to sew them together...whether it was the furs of early men or the elaborate frocks of satins and silks worn by the people of the Renaissance.

Early needles were made from a piece of sharpened bone with a large hole for the sinew used for thread...later in history they were made from ivory for coarse sewing and gold for fine embroidery. And the owner would have guarded her needle carefully, keeping it along with her household keys and her pins in a chatelaine which was a small ornate purse or drawstring bag fastened to the belt of her frock.

Nowadays we can buy needles for every purpose and they are cheap and easy to find whether they are the curved speciality needles for upholstery or the plain needle with a big eye intended for everyday sewing or the extra long very fine needles for beading work...there are darning needles with a larger eye for the wool to pass through and gold-plated needles for embroidery...

Something rarely seen in a sewing box nowadays is a darning mushroom...Mother had one with a hollow stalk which unscrewed to hold the darning needle. She matched the colour wool to the sock very carefully and had a selection of darning wool on small cardboard keepers for the purpose.

I can't hand sew without a thimble...I have an old silver thimble which is much worn and growing thin on the top after years of use, Mediaeval seamstresses also used silver thimbles which were often given as a gift to a newborn baby girl...as were small silver scissors on a thin silver chain which were fastened to a bodice to keep them near.

Needles and pins and threads were sold from door to door by pedlars who specialised in them...fabrics and trimmings of fine furs and lace were also sold at the door and on market days by merchants from abroad...there was a brief period in the early middle ages when certain furs could only be worn by different classes of people...the very soft fine ermine was confined to the upper classes but the lower class could wear cat and wolf fur without incurring any penalty. They weren't actually prohibited from wearing ermine trimmings...but they had to have enough income to pay the extra monies for doing so.

I doubt our computerised sewing machines make us into better seamstresses or enable us to darn a sock so it isn't lumpy...and anyway, who'd want to darn a chain store sock which was probably made from some material derived from petroleum...

Just thought...did you ever wear garters to keep your socks up? Mine were just elastic with a name tag sewn on...and when they were tight...which they usually were...they'd leave an angry red mark somewhere just below your knee...

Actually...I think you'd need to be a 'certain age' to remember garters...