Vintage sewing thread: Heritage in a box

18 Jan

A  couple of years ago my mum gave me a box full of vintage stuff which was kind of hard to open. It was my nana’s old sewing supplies.


When nana died and my family cleared out her tiny house, they found scraps of fabric no bigger than 1cm square, hoarded away ‘just in case’ – a mindset leftover from the two world wars she lived through.

We couldn’t keep all of it, and yet, mum didn’t let the thread go. Originally there were two boxes that she gave me, both smelling musty and in an absolute jumble. So I took a deep breath and put my ruthless hat on, getting rid of anything plastic, anything that was just too tangled and unuseable.

I kept the real vintage stuff. Embroidery silk wrapped so neatly onto cardboard tubes, 10 yards on each…



Wooden spools of thread, including the ‘Patent Glace’ cord that shines like a midnight thoroughbred…


Scraps of paper she’d wound her leftover thread around – a Christmas card that talked of rationing…



A letter about ‘terms’ in old money, I think from a landlady…


What looks like the cover ripped off a ration book, entitled ‘The Week’s Food’…


A shred of newspaper advertising emergency beds and reporting a bombing in Bucharest, with German troops putting out the blaze, in the tiniest type.



And more. A ball of ecru crochet cotton…


Darning silk in tan and pink and brown, plaited together and tied with a green bow…


Linen carpet thread and silk for mending hosiery…


I cannot spend long looking at some of these things. To know that she touched them but she is gone is sometimes too much. I open the box and tears come, even after all this time.

But her spirit  is in there, among all this vintage haberdashery and scrappy paper and so, as part of my constant quest to make the best of what I have, and only keep things that are truly beautiful or useful, I am going to make a little display of it all, instead of keeping these fragments of her history shut up in their Cadbury’s biscuit tin.

I found a box frame, and it should be here in a couple of weeks. so I’ll show you how it turns out then. Ttfn.

10 Responses to “Vintage sewing thread: Heritage in a box”

  1. Chloe kirby January 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Rosee, I just read about your Grandmothers box and cried buckets! Its such a special thing to keep, she would be very proud. I was very close to my nan and think about her nearly everyday as she was just the most special person. Look forward to seeing your frame. I am sure you will do her proud. Much love xx

    • Rosee Woodland January 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

      Bless you Chloe. When I look at it all I feel happy and sad at the same time. But the important thing is to remember, however it makes you feel. xxx

  2. craftymum2be January 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm #


  3. Georgina Beazeley January 19, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    How much we take for granted now. Need thread? We go out and buy thread or just order online. To our grandmothers these would have been riches indeed.

  4. Mim January 19, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I look forward to seeing how the box frame turns out – I’m sure it will be beautiful.

  5. anna January 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    i’ve just been given my grandmother’s sewing box – she passed away in november last year – also someone who never threw anything away! i can’t yet bring myself to go through it despite the hope of treasures like yours, it feels like an invasion of privacy somehow. i know it’s a precious thing to be able to do, so until i’m ready i peep in every now and then, spotting needlebooks, tins of pins and name labels from my dad’s school days, trying not to disturb the contents and enjoying just the ‘having’ of it.

  6. alleybeth January 26, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    I just wanted to let you know that this really touched me, thank you for sharing.

  7. Aunt Pamela January 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Rosee darling, I’ve just read your sad but beautiful story of discovering Mummy’s (Nana’s) stash of ancient haberdashery. It’s so old I don’t even remember it myself and that’s saying something as I have a v. gd. memory usually. It pre-dates me by the look of the smoothed out paper, but your mother’s name is there! Actually, I do much the same with sewing threads, winding them from the machine spool onto whatever scrap of paper/card comes to hand. “My mother myself” is a v. true saying. In fact in that shot you look like Maggi quite a lot for the first time.
    I’ve stopped crying now, and looked up to see a pic of Nana. It’s lovely that you were so close to her. Huge hug.

  8. Rosee Woodland January 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    I just wanted to say thanks for all your lovely comments (esp my very own aunt Pam, who was nana’s younger daughter). Nana never got to see me make a living out of messing around with wool and fabric. I think she would have loved it, and been so happy to know that these things are having such an amazing revivial. Thanks again!


  1. Heritage in a box frame… « Nana taught me how - February 1, 2012

    […] so much for all your lovely words about nana’s sewing box. The frame arrived this week and so I have started playing around with what’s going in […]

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