This sewing box belonged to my great aunt Mamie (also known as Ena, also known as DeeDee and christened Georgina – just as well I have her pinned down in the family tree!)
It has well-organised compartments full of buttons, safety pins, needles, hook-and-eye fasteners, threads organised by colour and a few other bits and pieces such as the darning mushroom, beeswax for using on thread when sewing on buttons, a decorative thimble and a little gold propelling pencil that would once have hung on a Chatelaine, albeit well before Mamie’s time.
Mamie was a very independent lady who left Scotland on her own in her twenties and built a successful career in London. Like so many women in the 1940’s, she never married – her Sweetheart went to War, never to return. I remember her as being very well-organised, stylish and elegant, although I think having 4 of her niece’s kids running amok was a bit much for her. Her flat in London was immaculate – cream shag pile carpet and modern chrome and glass furniture (it WAS the 1970’s), just ASKING for sticky fingerpints and abandoned toys.
My Grandmother, Mamie’s sister, Elsie. That’s what happened to this one! The knobs on each side have been lost, the lids are scratched and scored, there’s a leg missing and when you open it, there is an explosion of home-made pin cushions, bits of old elastic, hotel sewing kits of every possible variety, pebbles, odd clip-on earrings, shells, miscellaneous sewing machine parts, rusty safety pins, coins…
Elsie was irrepressible, boisterous, loud, mischievous, clumsy and a laugh-a-minute. She was prone to bursting into (very loud) song with no warning. If she got too noisy and my Grandfather complained, she would put all the pot lids in the kitchen sink, stir them vigorously with a wooden spoon and shout “Is that enough noise for you yet?” We kids thought she was hilarious, although probably a bit too cheeky for her own good.
Elsie used to knit socks for my Dad, and he loved his home-made socks when wearing boots, however she used whatever wools were to hand and couldn’t be bothered counting the rows, so every sock was stripey but there was never really a “pair”. Well, not a matching pair, anyway.
We were allowed to play with the sewing box and I loved tipping the buttons out and arranging them on the table (what, no wii?). Going through this box brings back so many memories.
The tailor’s chalk was used to mark out measurements when my Mum and Elsie were sewing, and a variety of sizes of thimbles would have been needed to accommodate everyone’s fingers. The buttonhook is a left-over from times when you would have needed it to do up the buttons on your shoes. The collar stud would have belonged to my Grandfather, Douglas. The two odd cufflinks, likewise – one is marked “Riley” which was a British company that built cars. Douglas ran a car dealership, so I have quite a few of these car -related Corporate Gifts.
The red ribbon is special. Douglas and Elsie had a black china cat with green glass eyes and a red fabric ribbon tied around its neck. It sat on the hearth beside the fire and the ribbon would get grubby and dusty, so every year my Mum would buy a length of new ribbon for the cat. Elsie died in 1997 but my sister kept the tradition going until Douglas’s death, aged 91, in 2002.
If I need a button, a needle or some thread, I know it will be easier to find in Mamie’s sewing box. If I fancy a rummage through some old things from down memory lane, I open Elsie’s sewing box, although things escape and it takes a bit of arranging to get the lids closed again…
Treasure Chest Thursday from Geneabloggers – create a post with the main focus being a family treasure, an heirloom or even an every-day item important to your family. A special thanks to Leslie Ann Ballou of Lost Family Treasures for suggesting Treasure Chest Thursday as a daily blogging theme!