February 8, 2016

A 19th Century Sewing Box, Complete!

“A work-box, or basket, should be large enough to hold a moderate supply of work and all it requisites, without being of such a size as to be inconvenient to carry about, or lift with ease.” 
The Workwoman's Guide, 1838.

My 19th Century Sewing Box.

You asked for it, (inserts the names of several faithful followers), so here it is, finally...may I present: a 19th century sewing box, now complete! 

A Little Background 

I love historical sewing accessories!  From small housewives, to reproduction sewing cases like those featured in Anna Worden Bauersmith's famed Fanciful Utility: Victorian Sewing Cases & Needle Books, work baskets, and now wallpaper covered sewing boxes, the options are practically endless.  However, carrying more supplies than possible to fit in my housewife, it was time to find them a home in one spot...enter the perfectly period, wallpaper-covered sewing band box!

Reproduction wallpaper covered box, 8" by 8"
Courtesy of C. LeCount, thank you!

As for filling it with reproduction sewing accessories, I wrote about that in my past post, To Pin, or Not to Pin, which I consider part one of the sewing box adventures - so please check it out!

A sampling of sewing accessories
including various pin, button and hook & eye keeps.

I've also been pinning a plethora of extant examples for inspiration on my Historical Sewing Accessories Pinterest Board.  For instance, this particular, antique Shaker sewing box sold on Ebay caught my eye:

Antique leather Shaker sewing box with bone tools, scissors & Simons thimble.
(Image via: Pinterest, sold on Ebay)

As well as this Shaker sewing box, which happens to be a little later than the time periods I am hoping to represent: 

Sewing Basket, Elder Delmer Wilson, 1873-1961
Made by the Sabbathday Lake Community, Maine.
(Image via: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Accession Number: 1997-51-1)

Completed Project Shots

Started back in September of 2015, my 19th century sewing box took about a month to completely stock and assemble for the MacKay Scene of GCM&V's Yuletide Theatrical Tours.  Completed in November of 2015, it's since been photographed, well used, and waiting to be released on the blog - enjoy!

Upon opening the box, you are greeted with a rather large pincushion
with plenty of room to hold dozens of steel, dressmaker's straight pins. 

A closer look at the top of the first tier...

...Followed by a look at the bottom of the first tier,
featuring three, embroidered, wool needle pages.

The top page is reserved for sharps, the second for various larger needles,
and the third for specialty needles, including the curved needles
that came in quite handy throughout the project!

The second tier features three, embroidered pockets for my reproduction
7" dressmaker's shears, embroidery scissors & various bone tools.

And the last tier (which is also removable) features a three way divider...

...To fill with all sorts of sewing accessories!
(Please ignore that rather anachronistic spool of thread)

The latest and greatest addition to the box was the 2 yard, linen tape measure:  I marked one side with inches and the other with nails (1 nail = 2 1/4 inch) to help translate period patterns.

And, all together, the finished sewing box:  

A Few Construction Notes

In sum, this was a very labor (and math) intensive project as I wanted to make sure that I'd only ever need to make the one!  Entirely hand stitched, mostly though a combination of tiny whip, running and back stitches.  

The backs of the top two tiers & pincushion.

The three tiers and divider were constructed from thick pasteboard, padded with cotton flannel, and then covered with reproduction cotton.  Ribbon loops were added to the top two tiers to aid when lifting. 

The large central cushion was constructed from two large circles and stuffed with shredded wool batting.  A covered button was stitched in the center for visual interest.  

The three needle sheets after they had been stitched together and whipped to the back
of the top pasteboard tier.  The curved needles came in handy here!

For the second tier, I created simple patterns for each of the pockets, cut them out of wool scraps, and then bound the tops with either reproduction cotton or narrow, black twill tape.  These were then embroidered and whip stitched in place.

Pockets ready to be whip stitched to a completed tier.
Curved needles, again, saved the day...and my poor fingers.

And lastly, I cut out a sewing bag to keep my box in, which I, hopefully, plan to assemble when I return home over the summer!

Patterning in progress...

Medium-weight brown linen for the outer, cotton drill for the interlining
& reproduction cotton for the inside lining.

Thanks for reading!  Questions?  Comments?  Have YOU ever made a sewing box?  If so, please share your story and/or link below!  Inspire us!