Time Will Tell 7/27/14: On pins and needles

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Gypsy’s Two Cents: Sometimes I wake up scared, grumpy or both. So I now apologize to anyone who walked in and received a growl instead of a wag. I realize my growl is most intimidating and can frighten the bravest of humans. I do get corrected for this behavior and my only current reason is not enough ice cream.

The collectibility of sewing items is not my specialty, but the subject is so broad I thought it worthy of an article. Cheryl Anne Reed is one of our dealers and a local expert in this field, so with her assistance we will try to inform.

When we are invited into a home to evaluate items, the client proudly shows art, pottery or many other things, never thinking of that old box in the closet. We ask “do you have any sewing items?” They bring out this box from the 1800s and Cheryl faints.

Here are some basics: The earliest sewing machines were from the mid 1700s, all mechanical and most certainly status symbols. Most any of these through the 1850s can be quite valuable if you can find them.

By the 1900s, many were electric or were being converted to electric. The early treadle machines with cast iron bases and oak tops hold little value at this time, but are great decorator items.

Singer Featherweights were manufactured from 1933 to 1964. The Featherweight was the portable model, hence the name. These are very popular among quilters and sewing collectors. There were only three colors produced by Singer: black, beige/tan and white/green, which Singer called pale turquoise. If you see other colors, they have been repainted with new decals applied. Prices range from $100 to $600 depending on year of manufacture, condition and color. If you have a Singer sewing machine, go to www.singerco.com to find the date of manufacture based on your machine’s serial number.

Many tools are collectible: Tatting shuttles, needle cases, thimbles, thread holders, needle threaders, bodkins, button hole scissors, tailor and embroidery scissors, pinking and cutting shears, sewing birds, rulers, (take a breath!) ribbon threaders, spools, darners, bobbins and my personal favorite, seam rippers.

Then there are buttons: Military, occupational, shank, bone, ivory, figural, calico, porcelain, hand-painted, character, scenic, animal, Bakelite and oriental — just to name a few. There have been several high-end button auctions in Citrus County that have brought collectors from all over the world. 

Did I mention pincushions? Tomato, doll head, shoes, beaded, make-do, tartenware, animal, strawberry or other fruit, sunflower and all these are made from many different materials. My head is spinning.

This is a very complicated area of collecting and these few words won’t do it justice. I’m still trying to figure out a tatting shuttle.

Consider that many of these items can be gold, silver, brass, glass, hand painted … oh, please stop!

This month’s story from Cheryl Anne Reed: About that fainting thing  ...  Any sewing box from the 1800s is special, but more important is that many sewing boxes are also for keepsakes. They can hold plain to fancy buttons or sewing tools, but I have also found grandma’s favorite button string, a child’s lock of hair, or a dance card with a special beau’s name penciled in. And sometimes a marble or two, but that’s another story.


Steve Barnes owns and, along with his shop dog Gypsy, operates Olde Inverness Antiques.