Monday, March 14, 2011

A Vintage Collection

When I was at the retreat last weekend, Jill brought in her collection of antique sewing kits from the 19th century to show me. Oh my goodness! We all fell in love with them! See this gorgeous collection for yourself:

Made of leather with a green silk lining. Exquisite. A beautiful assortment of threads.

Since all of an Early American household's cloth items had to be sewn by hand,  hand sewing was an important skill for most females in the 1800s and earlier, and these skills were of necessity passed down from mother to daughter at a very early age. Thus, young girls (some as young as twelve)  were often very accomplished. In addition to sewing and mending garments for the family,  we can see many of their skills evidenced in needlepoint samplers of the time period and other fancy work such as embroidery.

The needle holder on this one is embellished with a tiny tiny blanket stitch and embroidered flowers. So sweet.

Sewing kits were often very personal items and women took care with their contents. Needles, pins and scissors had to be carefully wrapped to protect against rust. Sometimes women ran their needles through the natural oils in their hair to protect them and make them easier to pass through fabric. (We wash our hair much more often than women did in earlier days so I don't think that would work today!)

This small case is called a Lady's Companion and the other is also lined in silk. Some of the kits contained bone crochet hooks and stilettos and even a tiny pocket knife.

This case came with a note saying "Made by Miss Abby Buckingham and given to me by my mother - 1839." Made of purple velvet and silk with a patent leather outer case.

See the tiny hiding place for the thimble?

A page from an old newspaper folded up into a small packet is unfolded to display some pretty antique glass head pins.

This sewing roll-up contained needles organized by size. Numbers are embroidered in the different sections so every needle has a place. What an organized sewer!

Author and collector Nina Little, in her book Neat and Tidy: Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early American Households, notes: “When one considers the large amount of needlework, both plain and fancy, that was accomplished by young ladies and their mothers during the 18th and 19th centuries, it is understandable that personal sewing boxes should be among the truly cherished possessions of most American families.” 

It would be fun to collect some of these antique sewing kits, wouldn't it?  For now, I'll just have to content myself with making sewing kits of my own to cherish. Those of us with daughters hope that  someday they'll be among someone else's  treasured possessions. 


Anonymous said...

Wonderful collection...thanks for sharing, I love the green silk, can you image the stories these treasures could tell???? Lovely!

Cheryl said...

Oh, they are to die for! I will add them to my watchlist when I am antiquing. Thank you for sharing the info and the pictures.

Nicole said...

This was absolutely fascinating to me! Thank you so much for sharing. What a find it would be to come across one of these kits in an antique shop.

Leeanne said...

Yes it would be lovely to collect these beauties...what stories they could tell!

Tanya said...

These are so sweet. Thanks for sharing.

Merilyn said...

What a wonderful array of sewing kits, love the old glass head pins!!! They really are very special, thanks for sharing these beauties!!!

marian said...

oh drool..such sweet little gems. i'm always on the lookout for vintage sewing kits and scissors..i'm very fortunate to own a few which i treasure dearly.


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