Quite a few years ago, my Grandma gave me a sewing tool that she’d had for a number of years. She wasn’t exactly sure how it was used, but she always liked the look of it, which is why she scooped it up at a thrift store. Back before I was probably even born, she had my Uncle paint an oil still-life of fruit on it. I remember it hanging in her dining room when I was little, but I can’t say I thought much of it.
Fast-forward to us packing for Portland, and I happen upon this again. When I flipped it over, I couldn’t believe that I’d forgotten about it!
My Grandma had tried her best to preserve the instructions on the back of it, but whatever she coated it with has since eaten the frail paper. From what’s still there, I can tell it used to be an Excelsior Plaiter, patented on February 28th, 1876. It originally sold for $3.00, and was used to make knife plaits (pleats), bon plaits, double box, triple box, diagonal point plaits, fluting, french quilling, and Parisian plaits, which were highly popular at the time.
I can still read some of the instructions, but I’m scared of moving the plaiter around too much, because more paper is about to come off.
For right now, it sits on my wall, above my Great-Grandfather’s dresser. Everyday I look at it and debate trying to use it to create tiny pleats and tucks on a skirt or shirt. I can tell from the burn marks on the wood that someone definitely used it at some point, which makes me want to try it out all the more!
I tried to research the Excelsior company, and thru the Library of Congress, I found a photo of the original tailoring shop.
And thanks to the wonder of Ebay, I found a plaiter for sale. However, I can’t quite see the instructions, and the price is far too hefty for me to pay just so I can play with it!
So what would you do? Scan the back of the piece, cover up the oil painting and try to use it? Or leave it up on the wall and out of harm’s way?
I wonder if I search the patent office if I’ll come up with anything interesting…