I used to always think I wasn’t one for collections. I’d see photos of seashells, feathers, or other tiny figurines and such that other people collect, and tell myself, “I could never fill my space with tons of little tchotchkes.” I’m seeing more and more how wrong I was.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m not one to have things sitting around my house that don’t have a purpose. I’m happy to buy things that feel useful to me, but I usually shy away from random things that just take up space. I think I’m at the point where I have to admit what’s growing in my sewing studio though. I have my own little random collection. So far it is made up of Charlotte the Singer 201-2, a dozen or so early 1900s sewing magazines, sewing patterns, an Excelsior Plaiter, some incredible vintage fashion illustrations (which I should share here), and a growing jar of cute buttons and antique mending kits.
What’s a few more small pieces, eh? I really hope this isn’t how every person on that awful show “Hoarders” started out. I’ll start stacking vintage patterns up in every corner, piling away every fashion illustration I can get my hands on, then 50 cats will magically appear in my sewing room, draped over every surface. I don’t buy every little sewing trinket that I find, BUT I COULD. I mean, how am I supposed to resist tiny prancing Lipizzaner pony buttons?!
Do I have a use for them? No. Did I NEED them? Yes. I hope you understand I had no choice but to take them home with me.
I don’t really know what made me start looking thru vintage photographs at my local antique store. Oh wait, yes I do. Two young kids were blocking my access to the vintage pattern bin and they seemed to be immune to my old lady “what are you doing looking in those, get out” stink eye. I flipped thru a few photos while I waited for my turn at the bin, and then I saw her.
I have no idea who she is, or what her name is, but something about her expression caught me a bit off guard. She seems so sure of herself. What I like even more than her expression is her dress. It’s a beautiful example of a dress from the 1880s. It’s impeccably tailored to her body, with those tight sleeves, formed lapels, and crisp fabrics. I love the detail on the side of the skirt- the fold of fabric that is wrapped around itself and hangs with the weight of two tassels. It’s no wonder she felt confident when this picture was taken. Finding this made me start thinking about possibly collecting (there I go again) more photos; I’d like to find more examples of antique photos with beautifully made garments.
After tucking the photo of Little Miss Sassy Pants under my arm, I went over to another cabinet, where I saw a small clear envelope. Inside of it were two packages of needles from the 1800s. Yes, they also came home with me. My brain says things to me like, “Oh, is that old but still possibly useful? BUY IT. NOW.”
These are the needles that are inside the S. Thomas & Sons casing. There is another foil advertisement, for Clark’s thread, but look at how tiny some of these needles are! The tiniest needles have such small eyes that I think I’d have a hard time even feeding a piece of hair thru one of them.
The H. Milward & Sons needles said that they were “patent helix” needles. I was curious as to what the needles would look like, but I think the main difference is the shape of the needle head and eye.
To compare, here is one of the antique “helix” needles on the left, and on the right there is a modern Dritz brand needle. Both are sharps, and both are supposedly the same gauge. What differences do you notice? You can click on all of these photos to make them larger if you’d like to see more details.
The eye of the needle on the left is much cleaner, and has a smoother and longer scarf. Notice also that the head of the needle smoothly runs into the blade, so it would insert into fabric easily. The needle on the right, which is the modern-day Dritz, has a needle head that is wider than its blade. You would find this needle to be more resistant to feeding thru fabric. Since the blade leads into a wider head, your needle would feed easily into your fabric up until your fabric meets the needle head. The head has to make a wider hole in your fabric to fit thru and make your stitch, because the blade doesn’t make a wide enough hole.
I’m eager clean up these needles and try them out with a bit of hand sewing. Would you use antique notions like needles and buttons on your current-day projects?