The contents of the sewing basket revealed! 3-15-22

Inside the antique sewing basket that I purchased for $7.50 were these examples of hand sewing – all absolutely perfectly stitched with tiny invisible stitches, several different techniques of patching and amazing tucks, pleats and casings. I hope these pictures are clear enough for you to understand each piece.

The art of hand sewing is evident! These examples need to be in a museum they are so perfect. These are hard to photograph because they’re white but if there’s anything you want a real closeup of I’ll try my best and repost.

What a unexpected treasure!!

50 thoughts on “The contents of the sewing basket revealed! 3-15-22

  1. Dorothy

    What a wonderful find Mary and so glad it was you who found them as you will give them the care that they deserve. I love the last photo with the sleeves with the fine stitching and folds. I have a sleeve from my grandmothers wedding dress that she made and wore in 1908. I treasure it and I was married in 1982 in a dress that I made and designed after my grandmothers dress.

  2. Carol H.

    If you are ever looking for a home for these items you might contact the Iowa quilt museum in Winterset. It would be great to add these if they did a display of hand quilting or hand piecework. I would love to see them up close. It would truly demonstrate the skills of the seamstress at that time! Thanks for showing them!

  3. Carla

    I’m a day late, but yesterday was a “day”, and I didn’t get much free time. Thanks for sharing. I LOVED examining the pictures. And I learned so much from reading the comments. So many ladies here that I would like to have as neighbors! The piece in the bottom right of the fourth picture… what are those? It’s probably obvious. The lace cuff is so pretty. It’s all so pretty! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Renee Struecker

    Such a surprise in your thrift store basket! My mother kept her school scrapbook with all types of sewing samples such as yours. I don’t know if it was all from one school year, or several classes. She also left me the first dress she made (calico) as a school project in the 40’s, with hems and seams let out over time. The textile department at Iowa State University was happy to get it for their collection. The staff told me they seldom receive any “everyday” dresses, but have lots of special occasion outfits to look over.

  5. Linda in TN

    Oh,my! Someone must have been taking sewing lessons of some kind! Beautiful!

  6. Sandi

    Beautiful pieces of art!! I’m so glad you found them. You know what wonderful treasures you have. Hugs,

  7. Rhoda

    What a treasure you have Mary with the hand stitched examples. I have some if my grandmothers and knitted samples she did for a class that I treasure.

    Hope things are going okay for Rick and you as his caretaker and driver.


  8. Kathy L

    how beautiful they all are, a show of how to do all the different stiches, Love it

  9. Becky in Seattle

    What a wonderful find! These are absolutely gorgeous. I’m currently about a third of the way hand piecing a quilt but my work doesn’t hold a candle to this!

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Ann in VA – I just look at them now and then – hopefully I’ll leave them to the same place as the pincushions – I just don’t know who that is yet.

  10. NancyTD

    A real treasure. My Mom always talked about her and her cousins doing handwork under the big shade tree when they visited their Grandmother. I wish she would have taught me more.
    Good luck to Rick with his new treatment!

  11. Ellie

    What a treasure! Imagine sewing these delicate pieces . I can imagine they might have been made by a young woman learning to do handwork. It hard to image all the fancy work that was done by hand and in bad light!

  12. Jeanie S, Central IL

    Wow, Mary! What a treasure, found by exactly the right person.
    The first handwork I did was a Swedish Weaving project, when I was in 4-H during Junior High. From then on, I loved hand sewing.
    I volunteered in a thrift shop, while we were living in St. Louis. I was always attracted to the linens, dragging home lots of drawn thread napkins, fancy pillowcases, etc.
    Sending positive thoughts for Rick’s new meds to work.

  13. Kris in WI

    Oh, Mary, how wonderful that these samples of French Hand-Sewing came to you! Just think of those French seams and flat-felled seams, eyelets, and hemstitching…by hand! I’m showing my age because it is now called Heirloom sewing or Classic sewing and is done mostly by machine. It is still lovely and is most often seen in Christening gowns or other fancy dresses with inserts of lace, tucks, and smocking. Interesting to think these pieces may have been samples that home sewers sent in to a company for evaluation. Can you tell how old they might be? I’m rattling on, but the samples bring back memories of the dresses my sister and I wore as babies and toddlers in the forties; hand sewn cotton batiste, embroidered, with pearl buttons. We dressed our dolls in them when we got older! I remember them having labels in them so they weren’t made by family members. But on a lighter side…The patch on the red gingham is very like the one I had to do on an aqua gingham dress of my daughter’s after she experimented with my treasured Gingher embroidery scissors! Not that I’m holding this over her head or anything, but the scissors were never quite the same afterwords. (Smiley face imoge inserted here.) Yes, I love the idea that keeping this collection together would honor the person who made the samples and the needle workers who came before us. Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your sewing basket! Treasures indeed. My best to you, Rick, and company.

  14. Jan Hebert

    What a wonderful find! I can’t imagine being able to stitch like this. I was able to zoom in too, just amazing. I’m glad you have them Mary, and hope you find the perfect place for them once you’re done enjoying them. I wonder if there is a textile museum nearby that might be interested? Jan in MA

  15. Mary N.

    What a treasure all those examples are. I wonder if the person who did them was a seamstress who sewed for others. Maybe they were examples of her finishes for her customers! Wouldn’t you love to know.

  16. Charlotte Shira

    Wow! What a wonderful find for you. They do belong in a museum. Wouldn’t you love to know who stitched them. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Colleen Misner

    Thank you Mary, for sharing such a treasure! I’m so glad you were the one to find it because you recognize the worth. This has brought me much joy today!

  18. Cathy D

    Oh what a treasure you found Mary ❤. I was able to zoom in on the pictures and they are amazing!

  19. PennyC

    Mary, I haven’t responded to your blog in a very long time, but can’t wait to get the next one!! Life as you know, throws us curves balls all the time. I just had to comment on the contents of the sewing basket!! What beautiful hand stitching! I would love to be able to do such beautiful work!! I pray for you and Rick!

  20. Kathy Hanson

    WOW! How amazing – and beautiful!! A prize for sure!!

    AND, Happy Birthday to Connie!!

  21. Sharon Ray

    My grandmother did piece work for a mail in company. We found items like this in her things. She had to “try out” and send in samples before they hired her. My cousin has them, so sweet.

  22. Jan from SW Iowa

    What talent & skill….!!
    The first photo is similar to one I have. I can’t remember if it was family or household auction. Could these have been a sampler for girls to learn the stitches and have a pretty hankie?

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Jan – see the comment by Sharon Ray. Yes, these could be a young girl’s work to become an expert hand stitcher

  23. SandyO

    Wow-what a find, happy that you got them and pleased that you shared them with us. They are beautiful and the handwork is exquisite. I love handwork but can’t magine doing anything like this. They do belong in a museum. Thanks again for sharing,

  24. Sandra Goddard

    Wow. What excellent hand stitching. Reminds me of my grandma’s handstitching. Miss her. Been a very long time. You are right they should be in a museum. On a side note we started to boil sap today yeah! A very small primitive operation but our kids and now our grandkids love to do it. Good memories. Have a great day.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Sandra Goddard – could you tell us about how you boil sap and the whole operation of how you get it?

  25. Amy M

    Wow! It’s hard to imagine hand sewing all of our clothes or anything we needed out of necessity not for fun
    : ) Here’s praying the new orders from the doctor help Rick.

  26. Pat in Michigan

    Those are such sewing treasures!
    They should go to a museum to show the talent and creativity that went into these samples. How lucky for all of us that you purchased the basket!

  27. Elaine Kopischke-Trejo

    How beautiful. And so sad. That the work of our ancestors is just donated away and there are very few of us left to value it or want it. You have so many beautiful collections Mary.

  28. Sue in Oregon

    Oh, my. Those are beautiful pieces. Think of the hours spent sewing everything by hand. Those gals never sat down without a piece of sewing and a needle in their hands. For some reason, I find the patches the most endearing. But, the buttonholes are probably the hardest to achieve. You really do have a treasure.
    I sure hope the new cream works for Rick.

  29. Meredith in Cincinnati

    Exquisite! These are beautiful, and you’re right; these belong in a museum. What does that lovely handwriting say in the bottom picture?
    Thank you for showing these.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Meredith – it says “overhanging” – I’ll post a closeup picture

  30. Frances E

    Oh my! These are treasures. I believe that keeping these is honoring the effort and skill someone spent for those who come after them.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Frances E – yes! I do, too, think we would all consider this honoring someone in the past

  31. Jo in Wyoming

    What a jewel! Who ever did these should be extremely grateful YOU found them. Yes, they should be in a museum.
    Thanks, Mary for sharing.

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