Pins And Needles


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The old expression “I’m on pins and needles” is a familiar one. It is one that, for me, rings true. When L’is Sis came home to live with me for two years –bringing all her worldly possessions, The Pig (her beagle), and her small cranky parrotlet with her — I found myself constantly stepping on pins and needles (accessories of her career as clothes designer and seamstress). In fact, at the time, I referred jokingly to the front room that had become her workplace as ‘The Sweatshop’ — a not-too-subtle reference to overseas factories where overworked, underpaid workers slave under terrible conditions to make cheap goods for North Americans to buy at Walmart and Costco. The pins were embedded in the carpet, sequestered at the bottom of desk drawers, stashed in containers under her bed, even between the sofa cushions where she finished up hems while watching t.v.

After L’il Sis moved on, I assumed the pins moved too. Sadly, I am reminded every day since she left two years ago that they did not. I walk down the carpeted hall and wince in pain as one of the wretched prickly wonders stabs me in the foot. Or I reach into a ‘junk drawer’ only to find blood gushing from my finger, victim of a stealth pin attack. And when Crazy D and his girlfriend stayed over the night of L’il Sis’s wedding last summer, they nixed the front room as a sleeping venue since, when they tried to put down their sleeping bags on the floor, they discovered more pins. It would have been akin to sleeping on an angry porcupine.

“But I have vacuumed that carpet hundreds of times and have had it professionally cleaned since L’il Sis removed her sewing equipment from that room!” I offered in my defense. “There can’t possibly be any pins left.” At that point, they displayed the incriminating evidence, a fistful of small metallic daggers they had found.

“Oops…” I replied. “Sorry. I guess those pins are like Poochie’s white fur — still with me years after she died. Truthfully, although I’ve combed (with a lint brush) and had my black coats dry-cleaned many times since her demise, I still find her fuzzy white hairs.” At least the fur bits are happy reminders…the pins, not so much since they continue to inflict pain.

I give this background as a prelude to what happened this week. I was replacing the laundry room blinds with curtains and I decided to go with ready-made ones. It seemed easier at the time but proved to be anything but. Gone are my days of sewing clothes for my daughters, making drapes, and special projects like placemats (complete with edged appliqués that took days to finish) and fancy cloth miniature hot air balloon ornaments covered with yards of ribbons for birthday parties. My creativity these days is restricted to writing and the world is better off for it! It is also worthy of note that I use fewer expletives when writing…

The curtains I chose did not, of course, come in the length I required. Do they ever? So I ordered the closest size I could and begrudgingly decided that surely I could rouse myself to measure, cut off the excess and do a simple hem. That required unearthing my sewing machine from the depths of a closet — one of several that stayed here after L’il Sis departed. (She insisted that she would ‘someday’ need these machines and would be grateful if I’d store them for her. I have a feeling, when I agreed to this plan, that I signed the equivalent of a 99-year lease. I will move on to the Great Beyond but the sewing machines will still be here…waiting. Probably for The Second Coming.

Anxious to get the lovely new curtains hung, I got out my trusty scissors, measuring tape (I actually found it this time!) and prepared to face battle. Knowing my tendency to cut everything crooked (the  kids are constantly criticizing my slanted bread cutting), I realized I required pins to pin things carefully so I’d have a guide for cutting.

“Pins?” I said to myself. “No problem. I’ll just harvest the crop from the front room carpet.” Serene in the knowledge that I had an infinite supply at my bleeding fingertips, I went to the room, small box in hand to contain my bounty.

Down on my hands and knees, I looked. I found nothing (unless you count some bits of fabric fluff and the aforementioned Poochie hairs). “What?” I asked aloud. “You have to be kidding me! Now, when I actually WANT pins, there are none!” Murphy, I hate your law and the horse you rode in on.

I checked drawers, under beds, closets, anywhere I might possibly find a pin. Still nothing.


Conceding defeat, I jumped in the car and headed off to the nearest Dollar Store to buy pins. “I can’t believe, after all the pins I’ve been maimed by, I am reduced to having to BUY more pins!” I yelled to my imaginary passengers.

I walked confidently into the Dollar Store and asked a clerk if they carried pins. She looked puzzled. “You know, straight metal pins to attach bits of fabric to each other.” I explained.

“Sorry, we don’t have those…”

You’re kidding, right? The Dollar Store carries every bit of useless, cheap crap available to mankind…most of which I’ve purchased at one time or another from just such a store. But still no dice.

I was then forced to take myself to the next closest possibility, a well-known craft supply store that shall remain nameless. I hate going in there since I need a guide dog to find anything. It is a truly overwhelming experience. They too sell cheap crap but more of it than any Dollar Store I’ve ever been in. I wended my way through the Mother’s Day craft supplies (thank god my kids are past the age when they make cute tchotchkes for me that I am obliged to display proudly on the mantle) and finally, just before I lost the will to live, made it to the sewing section where I did indeed find pins. I forked over the money for my purchase, cursing again that I had to pay good money for a commodity that SHOULD be readily available in my carpets and went on my way to pin and sew a hem. It was then that I realized I may have to recruit L’il Sis’s help next time she visits since my eyes are useless when it comes to reading fine print (necessary when trying not to overdose on my prescriptions) or threading the tiny sewing machine needles (well, the hole in them is tiny).

It was late in the day and I was no longer keen on this project. I sat down, poured myself a glass of wine and opined to myself that perhaps I should go for the new minimalist trend in decorating. Who needs curtains in the laundry room anyway? Certainly not me…