The One That Got Away

Spontaneous splurges are a standing joke in the sewing and knitting communities. The fabric that you just had to buy, even though you already have a cupboard full. The yarn that was in the sale – it would have been criminal not to. But what about the times you exercised self-restraint, only to bitterly regret it?

I came upon the above jar of thread, as one does – during a road trip. We were on a lunch stop at a faceless cafe on a Main Street somewhere in America. Every road trip has to have a stop in a faceless cafe on a Main Street somewhere in America!

Next door to the cafe was a quilting store, where I made quick friends of three women quilting. I scribbled on a note ‘The Three M’s, as they all had a name beginning with ‘M’. Now, I can’t remember what they were each called – how sad! But I can remember that the woman at the back of the shot was making a quilt for her daughter. The joke was that the quilt was for something like her daughter’s 12th birthday but the daughter had already turned 16.

This was my first time seeing REAL quilting, in REAL time, in REAL America! I felt like I was on the set of Steel Magnolias. (A film with a stellar cast! Can you imagine that number of great actresses all in one film today? It’s like watching the Acting Olympics.)

Anyway, nextdoor to the quilting shop was a vintage shop, so obviously I had to go in. I leapt on the jar of thread, but how to get it home on an airplane? So it stayed behind in the store. It was only as the car pulled away I realized that I should have gone cherry picking through that jar of thread for a few spools of silk. I didn’t have the heart to ask to turn round. It seemed so silly. So that jar of thread was my One That Got Away.

What about you? What’s the purchase you really should have made?

STOP PRESS! The Perfect Nose has launched the 6th Pattern Pyramid giveaway here AND she’s already made an awesome painted dress from one of the patterns here.

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20 Responses to The One That Got Away

  1. Molly says:

    I love quilt stores, it seems like there’s always one in every small town (and slightly larger towns too) in the Midwest. My mom always had us stop at them while on vacation road trips when I was little.

  2. Lauren says:

    I was just talking about my ~one that got away~ today, actually. I know I’ve mentioned it a lot – it pains me that much! It – or rather, “they,” were boxes and boxes of vintage Czech glass buttons from the 30s. Absolutely beautiful! This was at the flea market a few months ago – there were literally thousands of them. I cherry-picked a handful, then asked the guy a price… $1 apiece, some were $5. I’m sorry to say I dumped them right back into the box and walked away. I only bring $20 to the ‘flea and there were at least 15+ buttons in my hand, and for some reason I couldn’t justify blowing my wad on something I didn’t even have a project in mind for.

    Anyway, I was at Joann’s a few days later when I realized that the shitty plastic buttons they sell are fairly close in price. Ugh! I found the guy at the flea the next month and all the buttons were gone… he’d sold the mass of them to some collector for something obscene like $6K.

    Still kicking myself for that one.

  3. olivia says:

    hello, this post delurked me! what colours of silk thread are you looking for? I see it all the time in thrift stores in switzerland. Is it hard to find in england? it would be kind of fun to send spools of thread to a stranger in another country. Also i don’t have “one that got away”: resisting things in thrift stores reassures me that i’m not a hoarder yet – the relief drowns out any regrets i might have over not buying something.

    • Jessiekays says:

      Olivia! Where on earth do you find thread in thrift stores in Switzerland! I am in Basel and have never found any!

      • Olivia says:

        Strange! I think I have seen thread, stitching hoops, needles, horrible knitting patterns, carpet-making stuff etc. in every thrift store I’ve ever been to. Maybe you need to come to Bern! Try a Brockenhaus/Brocki – there should be a Hiob in Basel. They usually have a corner with sewing paraphernalia. Ask the crew if you don’t find it, that stuff must be there in Basel too!

  4. I think you have to be steely and prepared to buy stuff at vintage shops or estate sales with the thought in mind to toss out what is not needed or worth keeping. Even when traveling! I buy the whole box or jar or tin for a few dollars and then keep what is useful. There always are some useless tangled spools and ratty bits of elastic (always, why?) but I figure for a few dollars I come out way ahead with the goodies I have found. So now you know!

    • LinB says:

      Beth, I regularly cut up my family’s old cotton underthings into rag yarn for knitting absorbent bathmats. For years, I also carefully saved the elastic waistbands. Why? I cannot say. The bands are essentially useless, as the loss of elasticity is what caused us to reject wearing the garments. I had a fantasy that I would make a big garden, and use the elastic loops to tie plants to support stakes — that is NOT going to happen. Did I pass the scraps to a thrift store? No, I did not. I threw them into the garbage. I thought I would regret that action. I have not.

      • Lin, what a great idea about the bathmats! I cut ours up into small pieces to make draft excluders for doors and things of that nature. Cotton things go to the workshop for the boys, but anything else is fair game for my devious purposes. But bathmats? Yeah, the future beckons. Thanks, Karen, for starting this interesting little discussion – and thanks, Lin, for the great idea.

  5. Phil says:

    I have just made a list of things I can do (or not do!) that will make my life easier, and near the top is buy things when I see them. Not only is it time consuming to go back, but someone has always bought the item! We have an antiques centre near us, last week I saw a treble string of coffee coloured pearls. Would I wear them? When I got home I realised they would have matched everything and, yes, when I went back they had gone!

  6. Deborah says:

    Oh my, look at those bobbins!

  7. Thanks for the link. Re: Got away- Eh no regrets. If it was meant to be mine then it either is or will be sometime in the future. I don’t sweat that stuff. I focus on using what I have to make stuff others will hate themselves for missing out on XD

  8. janine says:

    Yes I have left things behind that I regret but not for long. I can not think of anything I have left behind that I am now peeved about because something else will always crop up .

  9. Jessiekays says:

    I regret not getting some awesome blue/white/red striped t-shirt cotton at a fabric fair, wasn’t even expensive but I’d already bought a lot that day I couldn’t justify something else. Then of course I found the perfect project for it!

  10. how funny…I did the same a few months ago when I was in the US…entering every little quilt shop staring in awe at these women who spent their time quilting and chatting away. The thing I left behind or didn’t do was take a class in one of the amazing sewing shops in New York…and tons of fabric I didn’t buy!

  11. Either there have been so many that got away I can’t remember them, or I really do take the view that if it’s meant, it will be there when I come back.

  12. Sarah says:

    Gutting! I saw a vintage machine at my local op shop and didn’t buy it, (there was two, I only bought one). Maybe not so bad..

  13. Fougasse says:

    Karen, I’ve come out of deep lurkdom, lured by your post! My most recent one that got away is a whole clutch of vintage (50’s/60’s) patterns, most absolutely unopened, on a stall in a local Saturday market. I did buy quite a few, but afterwards felt like banging my head on the wall in sheer fury – why didn’t I make an offer for the lot? They were only asking £1.50 each!

    But my life-long regret is that I wasn’t around when the haberdashery/sewing/knitting/fabric shop I used to work in on Saturdays closed down. This was in my hometown and by then I’d left home. That shop was run by a complete eccentric and it stocked EVERYTHING, from corset-bones to amazing fabric, all housed (after a shambolic fashion) in vintage display cabinets (think glass-fronted, wooden, multiple shelves, utterly gorgeous, 1940’s or even earlier). I will always bitterly regret not being around to buy as much stuff as I could, and I bet loads of it was just junked.
    Ahhh, the beauty of hindsight!

  14. Kayosis says:


    I regretted not buying a sewing machine that a lady whom I well-respected for her skills and grace sold in one of the forums. I finally found the same machine last month and bought it and it’s fab. So there’s one regret remedied..

    And there was this really nice chiffon fabric on summery yellow with polka dots in yellow… I kept looking at it wondering if it was too yellow, but forgot to buy it before it was all gone.. I even knew what I wanted to make with it! It would have made a fabulous one of a kind piece..

    And when I was young’er’, I had amazing access to sewing lessons and such.. but wasn’t proactive enough to learn more and practice and work on my skills. I regret that.

  15. Carolyn says:

    What a great story! The bit about a faceless store in Main St somewhere/everywhere in America made me laugh, I charmed by this when we were there too!
    Thanks for posting that link to the pattern pyramid, I was wondering how it worked. Do we have to register each time on each recipient’s blog? Or was the initial comment on your first post “the one” ?? 😀

  16. Elle C says:

    There was some lovely tomato red silk in a thrift store, I think three meters. It was a lovely heavy weave, perfect for a jacket. It was $4, what on earth was I thinking?

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