Sewing Treasures Remain Sharp for True Collectors

A unique spool caddy, this one features inlaid wood and a smooth working drawer, along with carefully fitted spool holder dowels and a red velvet pin cushion top.

Sewing collectibles are a surprisingly popular category of antiques. Vintage sewing baskets, pin cushions, needleboxes and spool caddies are just a few of the attractive items in this group of treasures.

In previous eras, darning and repair work was done by every woman and household alterations were needed constantly so that clothing could be passed down and reused. Naturally, spools of sewing thread and supplies accumulated and needed to be kept neat.

Even trimmings were saved and reused and items such as lace, braid and buttons were carefully cut off worn-out clothes and stored for future use.

Spool holders were made in many designs and a variety of materials and were often handcrafted to meet the demand of storing thread. I have one that I’m sure was homemade and looks like a cottage that I’ve always liked that was passed down.

Sewing collectibles continue to intrigue and capture antiques collectors’ imaginations even today. Really unusual or fine 19th century and earlier pieces bring hefty prices in the antiques market.

Complete sewing boxes and chatelaines in original condition seem to be the rarest sewing items, according to Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide, and even incomplete examples of these are desirable.

Chatelaines are sewing supplies attached with a chain at the waist and were used by women during the Victorian age. Often created in sterling silver, they can sell for hundreds of dollars today.

Tape measures, needle books and old wooden spools are other items that are avidly collected by antiques enthusiasts today. Even sewing clamps are listed in antiques and collectibles journals as items clearly sought after. These clamps held a piece of work for the seamstress.

Pin cushions too, have been made in any number of shapes and sizes. Often including elaborate beadwork, trims and chintz backings, Victorian pin cushions were made to look like shoes, dolls, bellows and animals.

Needle books are another sewing item of collectible interest and these were often decorated with horses, children, beautiful ladies and other motifs. Sometimes used as premiums or giveaways by companies interested in advertising, needle books can be found with product endorsements on them.

Lace making tatting shuttles are often collected and include examples in plastic, bone, brass, sterling and wood, decorated in Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and other modern 20th century designs.

Collectors also enjoy vintage patterns (uncut patterns are worth more), children’s sewing machines, darning eggs and other sewing novelties.

But the need for most of these sewing tools, carefully constructed and often used, slowly disappeared after the availability of ready-made, machine-stitched clothing increased in the 1920s.

Today there is a strong craft and sewing trend so that’s another reason to enjoy collecting antique sewing tools, baskets and more — or gifting them to your favorite seamstress.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambito maureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.

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