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Vintage Threads (and other notions)

2014 February 7

A couple of weeks ago I received an amazing gift. My mother-in-law was going through some of her storage space and came across her mother’s sewing things. Since she would not be using them, she asked me if I wanted to have them. I could not have been quicker to say ‘YES’ – I was (and am still) so excited to have been given this amazing vintage sewing stash.

This thread shelf was made by my husband’s grandfather for his wife – and it’s likely to have been commissioned specifically. Because of it’s shelf system, I can store it flat on the wall, and it holds multiple heights/styles of thread. And, speaking of thread, it came fully stocked!

I love wooden spools – I think these will be stored in a(nother) glass jar on my shelf so I can look at how pretty they are. And, maybe only to be used if I am desperate at 1 in the morning for a particular colour. (Did you see the cat spool? My favorite!)

Again with the thread… but did you see those prices? The winner is… pink at 30 cents a spool! (Can anyone enlighten me as to what Boilfast means?!)

The pricing on this vintage stuff is the best part. I think if I ever use these I will have to save the packaging as long as is usefully possible. I’m not so good at throwing things away anyhow! Check out the elastic – it’s washable – super handy if you want to wear your pants more than once!

I will enjoy using the Zephyr Lightning slide fastener one day. To be honest, again it’s a question of disturbing the packaging – but it seems a waste to just let it sit because I can’t open it… What would you do?

These buttons are my favorite. I wonder what they were destined to be used for? Did she have a plan when she bought them, or were they an impulse buy? It would be so fun to know! I love this buckle too, and the neat and tidy buttons, all together – not like mine with multiples all floating around in the jar. The dressmakers tracing paper is a perfect example of vintage design and the graphic designer in me may have to frame this one, too bad the cover is torn.

I think my favorite things in the stash are the ribbons and rickrack. I really love trims, but don’t generally keep them around (or remember to use them!) These will be a great addition to my growing stash. My favorite? The baby rick rack. I promise I will have enough patience to sew it on one day!

Now, you may (or may not) be wondering what I have used as a background for these photos. I am pleased to say that I now have an antique pattern cutting board that is 2 yards by 1 yard. Amazing for photo shoots, and maybe I will use it for cutting out and altering patterns, if I can bear to put holes in it. I don’t think she’d mind, it’s got some already. I also love my new ruler and vintage measuring tape. Oh, so much fun! And, there’s the oh-so-soft yellow dot fabric I also acquired, soon destined to be a summer dress for my youngest.

Aside from my obvious infatuation/love of vintage things, I do have more appreciation for these items than that. I am grateful that my mother-in-law and I have a really good relationship and that she chose to give me her mother’s stash. She takes wonderful care of my daughters and of course, my in-laws both raised my husband, who (of course!) turned out amazing!

I am also thankful to have a connection to my husband’s grandparents, who I never met. Having their things in my sewing space makes me feel more connected to the art of sewing. In a (possibly strange) way – it reminds me of a time when every woman knew how to sew, and it was more a way of life. Not so much a hobby, as it is mostly seen now. Back then life was busy, but time was consumed differently – not spent so much on commuting or buying a “faster” way to make dinner. We were more connected to the people directly around us, instead of always knowing what our 700 friends are doing.

I’m not against social media in any way! Of course if I was, you would not be here – and that in itself is amazing to me. I appreciate you more than you know. So, now that this has turned into a blog post about the state of life instead of my new vintage sewing gear…. to lighten it up – check out the smile on this girl…  think happy thoughts… (Like vacations on the beach!) Until next time…

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16 Responses leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    February 7, 2014

    This is such a great post! Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. I love the wooden spools of thread and, yes you should use this stuff but definitely save some of the packaging!

  2. February 7, 2014

    You’re very lucky with such a great mother-in-law! ;) And with all the vintage sewing stuff of her mother. I’m still using some of my grandmother’s sewing stuff I’ve gotten after she died 4 years ago. It’s nice to go trough the stuff and wonder when, why and/or where she’s got it. :) Have fun using those things! And the picture of your daughter is amazing!
    Mirjam recently posted… [W.I.P Wednesday] Ethan(a) shirtMy Profile

    • February 7, 2014

      Oh wow! It’s so fun to see everything. And the connection to your grandmother would be amazing! I’m glad you like the photo. I do too, but I’m biased! :)

  3. February 7, 2014

    Oooh. That is SO neat! Buttons. I am fascinated with old button jars and the cool ones they have. Those are really cute swans. I have some that were your greatgrandmother’s -1 peachy colored clear high heel. 1 clump of clear yellow grapes with 2 yellow leaves and 6 peach plastic hands holding a tiny cup. Pretty cute.
    By the way, the wooden spools are worth more with the thread on them – at least that is what I’ve heard. Have fun with your treasures! Awesome.

    • February 7, 2014

      Thanks for the tip Mom! I might have to put a padlock on my jar so they don’t go missing! :) Your buttons sound fun too! You should send a photo I’d love to see them.

  4. February 8, 2014

    Thank you for a wonderful post. I love looking at all the vintage threads and notions – I have a lovely selection of op-shopped finds – the packaging is simply the best and the colours!!!! I love the colours zips and bindings came in as late as the 70′s. I’m also blessed to have a wonderful MIL who raised fine sons and adores her grandsons – we’ve definitely bonded over our shared boys and sewing.

    • February 8, 2014

      Thank You MaciNic! It is so great to have good family around you!

  5. barbe permalink
    February 8, 2014

    such fun, as the only sewist in my family i always get given peoples leftover like that, my mom, my aunts, my grandma…. love finding the notions with amazing prices on it. i’ve got a great collection of thread too. one word of caution, older threads break really easily, i don’t use them, i just look at them. Boilfast means that they are colorfast i think

    • February 8, 2014

      Lucky you, Barbe! Thanks for the caution – I was not sure as lots of them are cotton as well and I’m concerned they will shrink. Maybe they should all go in my jar instead of just the wooden spools! Thanks for the boilfast info too, super helpful! :)

    • Rebecca Walsh permalink
      September 30, 2020

      Yes, boil fast means it is colorfast. I think it may be part of the mercerizing step too. I have a basket of empty spools that my grandmother gave me over 30 years ago. I used to play with them as a young girl. And I like you have been collecting old bags and boxes of notions. You would love the bodkin I found! I have a spool of Coats & Clark thread 125 yards with a 19 c price on its label. Thanks for sharing your stash with us.

  6. Laura permalink
    February 25, 2014

    Boilfast does mean that it is colorfast. As for the thread quality the prior comment is dead on about the diminished quality of the thread. Knowing that I still have used thread that is WW2 era and on these foam type spools! The way I was made to understand checking thread quality is to unwind a length of it and holding the end in one hand and the spool in the other, both parallel and a 20″ or so length of unwound thread in the middle, you can judge the quality by what the thread does. If it winds around itself it is not suitable for sewing. I think it was on one of the thread sites that I picked that tidbit up a few years ago.

    • February 26, 2014

      Wow – thanks Laura – good to know! I will have to give it a try :)

  7. Rebecca Walsh permalink
    September 30, 2020

    Yes, save any packaging you can. In tact is best, but the old ones with prices are collectible for someone. May I suggest making a shadow box with the oldest, rarest, cheapest or most unusual! Hang them in your craft/ sewing room. I’ve done that with old pattern packages.
    Buttons! I have mire than I will ever use. It started with a tin of them my grandmother gave me. She was born in 1894 so has a long history of sewing. She lived through the flu pandemic of 1918, the raining fire Haley’s comet visit, the roaring 20’s, the Great Depression, and both World Wars so she was an avid recycler! She cut off buttons, removed zippers, stays and snaps to be reused at some future time. Then any usable fabric was refashioned into children’s clothes, or aprons, clothes pin bags, sun bonnets, or a quilt. Nothing was wasted. I have been the benefactor of a couple quilts, multiple dresses and outfits as a girl. And in the end, lots of containers of buttons and fabric. I’m positive I was taught and inherited the love of fabrics and sewing from her.

    • October 5, 2020

      Thanks for all the good info Rebecca! Sounds like you have some fun things too!

  8. December 18, 2020

    I would take the old packaging pieces and stick them to an acid free mat. Make a vintage/antique collage with them and frame it in a shadow box. The old labels and price tags are endearing. Keep them on display❤️

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