Recently, Janet Smith of the Button Baron shared their reproduction sewing bird on a Facebook group. Many people asked “what is it?” This made me think it would be nice to do a series looking at tools in the Work Box. I will start with the sewing bird.
Here is my sewing bird, an original patented in February 15th, 1853.
A sewing bird clamps to the work table. The bird is meant to hold one end of your work in its beak. Some, but not all, sewing birds come with a pin cushion either next to or on top of the bird.The Knight’s American Mechanical Dictionary (1881) illustrates and describes it here:
Godey’s Lady’s Book hints at the advent of sewing birds in 1852:
While being called sewing birds, birds were not the only figure adorning them . They were also made with different figures, such as dogs, butterflies, serpents, dragons and other birds. See the variety on this Pin board.
Sewing birds came with and without pin cushions. The pin cushions could be found in front of, behind, below and above the bird itself. Some also had two pin cushions. (There are also sewing clamps with just pin cushions, not clamping birds.)
Just six years following the Godey’s mention, we see the quick popularity in this poem, The Sewing Bird (Arthur’s Home Magazine, 1858)
This article discusses the differences between some originals and some reproductions. (I have yet to dig deep enough into the construction of sewing birds to evaluate statements in this article.)
Here is an article about an original sewing bird at the Museum of the Grand Prairies.
This is an image of assorted sewing birds in the National Museum of American History collection. ***A must see***
Patents for sewing birds and improvements in sewing birds can be found from the 1850s on.