A Box for Everything

Rolling thoughts….. We all know I love little sewing boxes. I love making them and I love using them.

But, some times you need a box for Everything. I rather like Lydia Jane’s nickname for this type of sewing box, the “mothership.” This is the sewing box that holds just about everything you might need, every tool, every thread, every “just incase”. For some, this might contain a small project or two. (Before going further, there are a couple must read pages from Miss Leslie I think would be nice to tuck into a sewing box for occasional reference for mind set. READ ME.)

The women of the mid-nineteenth century certainly had their “box for everything” sewing boxes, aka “Work-boxes”, “sewing chests”….

Some were downright Amazing such as this stunning inlaid box in England. This example is lined with red and white silk and velvet, inlaid with flowers, birds and butterflies, filled with silver tools for every need.  Just beautiful. Just as costly then as it would be now. More my style of drool-worthy is this ca 1830s rosewood and bird’s eye maple chest with incredible flowers worked into the wood. It has delicate mother of pearl inlay and a blue velvet interior. This too would have been a sewing chest for a lady with a more comfortable position. (While the 1830s date would put many items out of the 50s-60s bracket for most, in my opinion a piece like this is a life-long piece that could have been acquired in one’s 20s.) She has long since lost her sewing tools. This prompts me to wonder how many such sewing chests which have lost or been stripped of their contents over the years have been dubbed jewelry boxes instead. If you have an impression for which such a sewing chest is suitable, I highly suggest reading up on furniture styles of the 1830s, 40s and 50s before making a selection. Keep in mind, these highly decorative boxes might not be the proper goal for every impression. (Pricing thoughts to ponder further- We can find them listed in exhibition catalogs (ex1851) along with other very high end goods. This gives a hint.)

If you particularly love the chest style box but have an impression more towards upper working class, a simpler box with simple decoration may suit. These examples fall on the upper end of what I am trying to describe. Example 1, Example 2, Example 3. The MOP inlay on example 1 and the interior decoration in example 2 are the parts I am iffy on in terms of where the pricing would have landed for some one. Example 2 is also post-war.  That said, these are boxes that could be carefully mimicked sans inlay. Notice how the interior compartments are actually a separately constructed piece that sets inside the box itself? This could be done with velvet or silk covered pasteboard or covered wood. (Guess who has just realized she has given herself another project???)

I do need to look into how much imported sewing boxes, such as this one at the MFA, actually cost in the mid-century and who would, or would not, have owned them. This page makes me wonder even more since this shows two girls being gifted sewing boxes, un-described sewing boxes.

What about the sewing box an everyday, middle of the working class women?

g wIn areas where Shaker goods could be purchased (paragraph 6), a Shaker sewing box is an option. Here are two examples of Shaker boxes made into sewing boxes from a show I was at a few years back. When properly made, these boxes are quite sturdy. They have nicely fitted lids usually. They range in size as well, giving you several options. (I thought way in the back of my head thinks there may be standard sizes.) In the examples to the right, the box is lined on the bottom and around the wall with pockets for items. Matching pieces such as pincushions, needle-book and scissors holder are often seen. If this type of box is what appeals, find a well made Shaker box. I suggest doing the lining by covering a pasteboard or cardstock paper with the fabric, pockets already set in. This, slid in snuggly, will allow you to use minimum adhesive while giving a clean edge. This also allows you to change the interior later. (note – This is what I know in this area growing up to be Shaker boxes. I’m anxious to hear what T.L. shares about the difference between the boxes Shakers had for themselves and those they sold.)

If you are interpreting at home, do not discount the sewing basket. We often see the sewing basket, cloth or projects draping out of it, in paintings. While these may not be the idea for mobile impression, they are practical and correct for stationary ones. Do keep in mind that baskets have holes while tools and needles are small. Plan to have smaller storage pieces, such as a sewing box, inside.

And, then there are sewing stands. In my opinion, a whole other subject that very few mobile impressions would need.

Possibly more to come….

Related reads:

The Old Lady’s Work-box

Examples of which I am fond:

Things to look up:

  • Imported sewing boxes, prices
  • Find price lists of Shaker goods
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Published in: on February 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Not as fancy, but I love her just the same. Sewing box, green velvet, bought off eBay a few years back. Still in use. I used to take her to reenactments, but she’s showing her age. Gracefully retired to around the house. Feel free to use if you can. Sent from Xfinity Mobile App

  2. Thank you for the story, Jackie.
    It sorta sounds like an attachment/photo should have come through.


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