Knoxville Easy-Thread Needle Conspiracy

john_james_calyxeye_easy_threading_needleIf you ever sew, even an occasional button, and have less than 20-20 vision, you want these needles. Instead of poking blindly, increasingly convinced that a company of rich men, a dozen Rupert Murdocks, could enter the Kingdom of Heaven more easily than you can get this darn thread though the tiny needle eye, you could use an easy-thread needle. Just drape thread over the notch, pull down, and go. If you don’t have such a needle, I bet you want one now. You better not live in Knoxville, TN.

Last month my mother-in-law Sara was visiting from Italy. When I gave her one of my easy-threads to sew on a button, she was delighted and amazed by American technology. She wondered if perhaps, if it wasn’t too much trouble, we could get a package for her to bring home. An easy request. I called ahead, found a sewing supply store and there they were, two packs. She wanted them both, one for her, one for her son. At the cash register, she realized she’d like three more, one each for her cousin, neighbor and a friend. The clerk was watching this Italian exchange suspiciously, as if we were acquiring materials for some Bad Thing, like bomb building. When I asked, she admitted, reluctantly I thought, that more easy-threads were coming on Friday.

Then her curiosity burst its bounds: “Why does she want so many needles?”

“To give to friends. In Italy,” I added, also thinking that “None of your business” was  a possible response. Her hardening face declared: “Likely story.”

“She’s not going to re-sell them, is she?” As politicians say, this didn’t seem the kind of remark to be dignified by a response. My little mother-in-law with her three packs of easy-threads (which she didn’t have yet) would corner the European Union market and thus bring down the mid-South sewing supply sector?

We paid and left. As it happened, we couldn’t get to the store on Friday, Sara went back to Italy with her two packs of needles, and the next week I called to see if the shipment had come in. Not yet. So 1) the word was out and everybody wanted easy-threads or 2) this clerk figured better safe than sorry and stopped my nefarious plan in its tracks by cancelling the order.Yesterday, two weeks after my adventure with Sara, I called and was told “back order.” A likely story.

I called two more stores and found one that said yes, they had easy-thread needles. Not so fast. When I got there, I discovered they had easy-threads for sewing machines, not hand sewing. “Hey Margaret,” one clerk called across to the other, “do we have any of those handicap needles?” Really? That’s a pretty broad descriptor. Not having 20-20 vision means that I’m handicapped? Since I’m trying lately to shop local and not online, I keep searching for the easy-thread needle in the haystack of this city, in my new identity of handicapped terrorist.


Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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