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… Thursday mornings were market mornings, Carcavelos, just a short train ride from Lisbon, the streets taken over by stalls and stalls and stalls of clothes and pottery and towels and sheets from the factories in the north of Portugal. In recent years things have been tidied up somewhat, the market is contained in a compound, more sellers have appeared with “made in china” wheelie cases and the such, but it is still a great place to find some great things that didn’t make their original outlet, surplus stock, seconds…

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… clothes are piled in mountains, usually with the gypsy hawker sat on a stool in the middle of the table, crying out her rates “é mil, é mil…”. Most things seemed to be 1000 escudos before the euro arrived, now they are 5 or 10€. The only way to shop was to dive into the pile, and scrabble your way through, the good stalls were always crowded, you had to elbow your way to get a spot by the table, colours and fabrics catching your eye, tugging, pulling, up comes the item, yes, no, maybe…

… for many years this was where I equipped my house, and picked up all my basics, t-shirts, sports wear, sometimes shoes… it has been a long time since I last went there.

… spring cleaning, sorting through my wardrobe, getting rid of the things I haven’t worn for the past year or so, making space for some of my latest sewing projects… I am pretty good at this, I do it every year and I am fairly ruthless.

… so how did this little black dress, a children’s towelling dress I remember buying on the market soon after I arrived in Portugal in 1996 or 1997, and that I think I last wore on holiday in Cape Verde in 2000, manage to hang on, clinging to its hanger, and never being donated or passed on? It is such a perfect fit, such a lovely material, but my lifestyle has changed from all those years ago. I live in a cold country, 150 km from the beach, holidays are usually spent on a bike, but still, I cling onto the dress.

… finally, purging a couple of weeks ago, clothes piled on the bed, each and everyone examined before it is allowed back in the wardrobe, the black dress was put in the “let me think some more” pile… I pulled it on, over my jeans, it still fits just as well, but am I ever going to wear it? No! I go to pull it off, destined for the donate pile, when I have a brain wave. I grab a pin, fold the hem over and off came the dress, and it was added to my “to fix or refashion pile”. Phew!

… this morning, between projects, I decide to attack the dress. I measure the pin mark, cut off 19cm, and fold over the bottom to hem. Then I went to youtube and checked out how to use the double pointed needle that has been in my sewing machine’s accessory drawer since I inherited the machine from my grandmother. Why was I so nervous, I seem to remember my mother telling me of the troubles she had had with a double pointed needle (trying to sew a denim jumpsuit in the 70s!), in fact it was so straight forward. I followed the tip of aligning the cotton reels in opposite directions to avoid tangles, threaded the machine, did a few test stitches on the cut off bottom of the dress and then sewed up the hem of my brand new top.

… I dare say I will be using the double pointed needle a lot more!

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