Sunday, October 7, 2012

"In Seattle you haven't had enough coffee until

you can thread a sewing machine while it's running." ~ Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder)
For thousands of years, all sewing was done by hand. The invention of the sewing machine in the 19th century and the rise of computerization in the later 20th century led to mass production of sewn objects, but hand sewing is still practiced around the world. Fine hand sewing is a characteristic of high-quality tailoring, haute couture fashion, and custom dressmaking, and fortunately is  still pursued by both textile artists and hobbyists as a means of creative expression.

I picked up a sewing "box" at the flea market, and this one still has its history tucked inside.  What fascinates me in this business is the history behind these finds.  I know many people buy to resell and never think of the past that comes with the objects.  Perhaps a tad romantic, but I do think we are losing the human spirit that made us a little more special.  For example, check out the lock!  A previous owner must have wanted it secure from a little one's hands, and I imagine her husband going out to his workshop to find a latch! 

Of course, the button stash is artistic even tossed on the shelf in the box.  Old thread is more charming!  Kismet!  Love it!


This was in with the buttons...I have no clue!  Two buttons connected with braided metal...
Which brings me to the history of buttons--quite fascinating. Primitive man used bone stick pins, thorns and sinew to hold clothing together. The buttons of those times in Greek and Rome were fashioned from bones, wood, metal, horns and even seashells. In the Bronze Age man didn’t fasten anything to it but simply wore it for decoration. They were just sewed on the clothing and used as brooches.

The first button holes were slits made in the other fabric just big enough to let the button pass through. We do not have the exact record as to when the button hole was developed. By 1200, buttons and button holes spread to Europe, thanks to the Crusades and their encounters with people on the way. At this rate the button and the button hole had become a driving force in the clothing industry.

The word button was not used for this cloth fastener. It is claimed that button was derived from French words bouton for bud or bouter to push. The French spotted the potential of the button market and established the Button Makers Guild in 1250. The Guild produced beautiful buttons with excellent artistry, much to the delight of the aristocracy. Commoners weren’t allowed to use the button even if they could afford it, and it was kept separate only for the elite. (You know, this might account for why the 1% is a tad upset...we can button our shirts and tie our shoes, but I digress.) Thus, the button became a status symbol and an ornamental piece rather than a fastening tool.

By 1300s the buttons had become a big business and its popularity grew to such an extent that people started using thousands of buttons in a singe dress. In 1520, King Francis 1 of France, bedecked his dress with 13,600 gold buttons to meet King Henry VIII of England, who was similarly clad with buttons. France by this time had become the Button Capital of Europe.

What I found in the bottom drawers were these booklets from the 1920s including one teaching the seamstress how to make underwear. 




Women truly suffered in the 18th and 19th centuries from corsets that pulled the shoulders back and pushed the breasts up...think Victoria's Secret antique style. By the 1880s, a dress reform movement campaigned against the pain and damage to internal organs and bones caused by tight lacing.

At least the patterns in this little booklet allow for normal body styles.

So, when you buy a sewing box, you never know what will be inside, and, in this case it was a little treasure trove.

If you are in the area, don't forget my neighbor down the road-Home Made  http://behomemade.com/shop/
She has the modern take on sewing for you; I have the vintage/antique spin!
And she has classes if you want to learn to sew or knit, so think about this:
"Really I don't dislike to cook, but what you cook is eaten so quickly. When you sew, you have something that will last to show for your efforts. "~Elizabeth Travis Johnson

1 comment:

Julie Petrella said...

What a find, Susan! Love that box.

And, I think I'll pour another cup of coffee to work on threading that machine while I'm sewing! Sewin' ain't for sissies. (: