Public Boat Docks in Seeley's Bay

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Grandmothers Sewing Box

This morning while searching for something I unearthed a gift I was given just before moving from New Brunswick to Ontario. I had forgotten all about it.  The discovery of it this morning was a very pleasant surprise.  
Grandmothers Sewing Box
My Aunt made me a gift of my paternal grandmothers sewing box, seeing as I was the only one in the family interested in quilting.  I do have another cousin that has made some quilts but it isn't a passionate obsession like it is for me.  This box was very special to my grandmother having been made by my uncle in 1926 while in the 9th grade while taking shop.  My father and all of his brothers and sisters were of the era where taking home mechanics for girls and shop for the boys was a mandatory part of their school curriculum.  

My grandmother was a quilter, one of those women who used quilting not only for necessary bedding, but, because she loved change, and because the family's finances were not abundant she used paint and her colourful quilts to bring about the changes in her home.  With 10 children to feed and cloth, new furniture was totally out of the question so old clothing and bedding were recycled and even enhanced some times when a good sale was on with a new piece or two of fabric. 

My uncle made the box in 1926 making it 85 years old this year.  The box is simplistically designed, and measures 8.5" in depth by 11.5" in length and 17" in its width.  Made from 1/4" plywood and nicely shellacked, a wooden lip of a 1/2" around the inside of it and a tiny tray with a velvet covered bottom for storing needles and other small things like her thimbles and her cardboard patterns she'd cut out of cardboard.  The bottom of the box is lined with a page from the Telegraph Journal (the Saint John newspaper of the day), the date at the top of the page, December 24th, 1968, a good six years before her passing, so at that date my grandmother would have been 80 years of age.  
See the Old fashioned tin embroidery hoop?

Inside was a plethora of wonderful items, such as card board templates for her quilt blocks each with her name and address written in her hand on the back, a well worn  thimble, carbon paper, old pair of scissors, a sewing case made from a thin type of oil cloth with various sewing needles bits of yarn for sock darning on cardboard, and the best treasure of all, several test blocks, from quilts she made, left over cotton fabrics neatly tied up with another left over scrap of white cotton, an old tin embroidery hoop and an assortment of old iron on transfer patterns sent to her from the Telegraph Journal, Household Arts Department in 1969 and 1971.  Years ago women could buy patterns featured in the Needlecraft section of the paper and if you were interested in any of these patterns you sent along your request to the paper and the pattern(s) were sent back to you, for a small remuneration, but for exactly how much I can't guess, though I don't believe it would be too much as the postage in 1969 was Five cents and in 1971 Seven who'd have imagined that postage for a letter would cost over Sixty cents today and then there is tax added to that cost.  

One of the envelopes holds several cut iron on transfers of very large roses.  I guess my gran wasn't into larger embroidery because the largest of the roses were all neatly folded away inside this envelope.  I am certain she used the smaller border roses for her pilowcases.  Even some left over transfers from an Alice Brooks design package.  My Aunt told me that my grandmother would travel uptown to a small store to buy 100% cotton pillowcases on sale to use these for embroidering and these would become wedding shower gifts.  I still have the pair she embroidered for me and that was over 46 years ago.  
Envelope with my Grans handwritten
self addressed label containing
Iron on Transfers by
Designer Alice Brooks

Some of Grans quilt squares

As I said, my grandmother was a quilter and all of her quilts were hand traced, hand  cut, pieced and quilted by her,  I was told that she never owned a sewing machine.  Surprisingly the other brown envelope in the box held a quilt pattern, titled only as Design 7151, the total pattern including the block templates, piecing instructions as well as the quilt lay out illustrations printed on one very large piece of thin white paper for the twin and double bed sizes. No hint of the quilt designers' name or name of the pattern and speaks only to the amount of fabric required and refers to the fabric width as 36".  I cannot recall when a wider width fabric was offered to quilters, but certainly not in my grandmothers day. 
Design 7151

I still haven't seen this pattern even though I have been searching for it, when I do I might be able to give a name to Design 7151.

I must search for the trunk that holds my grandmothers quilts and take some pictures to share.  

Hopefully you have enjoyed my travel through my grandmothers sewing box and some of the story about how I managed to have it and the contents within.  I have chosen to leave these contents as they are and have been since her passing and maybe someday, someone in my family will want to check it out and be thrilled with its history.

All being well I will see you tomorrow.


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