The art of sewing and vintage crafting has been on the rise in the past few years, along with the comeback of many other traditional skills such as home baking, home making, knitting and crochet. In this article, we take a look at why sewing is making a comeback and how vintage sewing accessories make great collections.
Sewing was a skill that many years ago was included in education for every girl taking home economics classes. Home economics classes were gradually dropped from the school syllabus perhaps due to changes in educational priorities, alongside slashes in budgets across the years. Many women used to learn these skills from their grandmother or mother, but the knowledge has been gradually disappearing. Traditionally, the make do and mend mentality, being able to repair items of clothing was an extremely valuable skill to possess. But with the increase in cheaper clothing being made in bulk and shipped in, we appear to be in a somewhat throwaway society, where you can replace clothing for a few pounds rather than replace buttons, repairs tears, take up hems, and maybe the most common washing mistake - laundering a piece of clothing incorrectly or placing that white shirt in with a pair of red socks! The same has happened with basic cooking and baking skills; busy family life, tight schedules, working parents (a whole host of extra pressures added into modern life) can now understandably mean that millions of people favour ready meals, fast food and takeaways. The Great British Bake off has certainly helped home baking come back in a big way. See our previous blog post about the vintage kitchen and the bake off!
Many celebrities such as Fearne Cotton are strong advocates of vintage clothing, and regularly post their vintage fashion outfits and finds on Instagram. It's a style revolution! Using vintage clothing to express originality and individual style is incredibly on trend right now, and because of the huge variety of vintage clothing in circulation, it's really easy to remain original. It shows that it is entirely possible to mix the old with the new, as with vintage and antique furniture in modern interiors. As well as celebrity vintage fashion icons boosting vintage sales, it's helped to create a whole new raft of people who use vintage sewing patterns to create their own clothing. Many popular pattern brands have begun to reissue vintage designs to cater for this new interest, as vintage sewing patterns were made of paper and cardboard and often suffered damage during their use.
With social mediums like Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube being ideal places to share and store ideas and access written and video tutorials, you can teach yourself this skill in your own home. Learning the basics has never been easier than it is today. Social groups have been formed around these traditional skills, and you'll now find regular knitting groups, crochet clubs and sewing circles. Television programmes such as The Great British Sewing Bee showcased some of the Britain's best amateur sewers, most of them being self taught. Featuring a variety of pattern, alteration and made to measure challenges, the contestants competed for the title 'Britain's best home sewer'.
Vintage sewing items are also highly desirable, and there are many serious collectors around the world. Sewing machines such as vintage Singer sewing machines are popular. You can still get vintage and antique sewing machines that are in good working order, or that may only need a service to get them back up and running. If a machine is still working forty years on or any issues can be easily resolved, you can be quite sure that it's a well made and reliable piece of machinery! Many people swear by old machines due to the quality, some have been passed down through generations and they learnt to sew on a particular machine and have never wanted to own a newer machine. The antique sewing machines that you can find nowadays were very often the highest quality, premium machines at the time they were manufactured. Not only are they practical, but they also look great in the home, whether you have a period home and are furnishing it with antique furniture and homeware from that period, or if you have vintage accents throughout a modern interior.
Throughout the years, needle boxes and needle cases have been made of silver, carved wood, or bone. From fairly basic to very pretty and ornamental, you can still find many online in great condition. They can vary in size, from small cases that were suitable for a ladies handbag, to table top boxes that have various size compartments for storage. During the Victorian era, pin cushions appeared in all sorts of shapes and sizes from animals, to normal household objects, made from a huge variety of materials like porcelain, wood, ivory, bone, silver, and gold. The fabric used for pinning was often velvet. My first memory of a pin cushion was in my grandmothers' bits and bobs cupboard which contained a mass of sewing and knitting accoutrements, one of which was a bright red tomato pin cushion with green embroidery as vine and stem. After doing some research, it appears that this modern tomato design stemmed from Victorian superstition and subsequent tradition, which was to place a tomato on a mantlepiece to ward off evil spirits.
Thimbles are another lovely piece of sewing equipment that can be much more than that. The earliest known thimble dates back to the Han Dynasty ancient China, and was in the form of a basic ring. Extremely practical items, thimbles were originally designed to protect the thumb when pushing needles through fabric, but as time went on and thimbles were produced in delicate and elaborately decorated porcelain, silver, gold etc, they soon became the ideal gift for women from the 16th century onwards. They remain highly collectable today, from the rare antique thimbles to the unusual vintage thimbles. You can buy specially made display cases for small or large thimble collections that also protect them from exterior damage.
If you want to start sewing, but feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of equipment and supplies that are available to buy, here's some basic sewing equipment that all beginners should have in their sewing kit. You'll need dress making scissors which are of good quality to easily cut through fabric, these are large scissors and won't be suitable for much else. A small sharp pair of scissors will be handy for cutting thread and finer tasks. Keep a pair of general household scissors in your kit too. A measuring tape for body measurements, and a yardstick will probably be handy, along with a see through ruler. Good quality pins, and a case or pincushion to store them safely. A sharp seam ripper. Marking wheel and transfer paper, chalk or marking pens depending on what sort of fabric you are working with. An iron, for pressing the fabric. Needle threaders may also save you a little bit of time!
Please feel welcome to comment on this blog post with your experiences of antique or vintage sewing machines, or indeed if you have any sewing tips for someone wanting to take up sewing as a hobby! We'd love to hear from you.
Victorian Walnut Sewing Tidy
Vintage Haberdashery Tin
Mahogany Sewing Tidy
We specialise in good quality 19th and 20th century furniture & have 100s of items for your home and garden in stock now. We regularly stock Ercol, G Plan, Ladderax, mid century, arts & crafts, antique pine, mahogany, solid oak, good quality vintage & antique furniture. We love vintage chairs!