My sewing roots.

My mother is visiting right now and brought me a wonderful gift.  Let me explain…

When my great-aunt (on my father’s side) learned that my mother loved to sew, she was thrilled.  She had someone to whom she could give all of the many sewing notions from the family.  So many wonderful tools and items!  Now that I too have picked up the needle and thread, my mother has passed these things along to me.  Needless to say it’s so wonderful to have things that physically attach me to my sewing roots.  Just have a look… so much stuff!


Look at all of these wonderful old wooden bobbins.  The colors of the thread are still so bright and vibrant!


Can you read that? Yes. It says “Pure Silk” for 15 cents!


Needles in wonderful holders!!


Needle BoxNeedleBox2

The prettiest embroidery scissors:


An old pin cushion made from a Chinese child’s shoe.


And finally, a beautiful gold thimble still with it’s original case. My mother told me that when she was given this, I was two years old and immediately grabbed it from her and loved it. How wonderful that I now have it!


I am going to use all of this stuff! Well, the stuff that I can use… Not only do I remember my mother using it when I was growing up, but it’s amazing to know it reaches much further back into my family’s history.

Oh! And a question for all of you… there is one mystery tool in the bunch. Anyone know what you would use this wooden tool for?

Mystery tool

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  • Cate

    March 25, 2009 at 7:00 am | Reply

    How great that she gave all the stuff to you! Everything is so beautiful.

  • ChrisC.

    March 25, 2009 at 7:06 am | Reply

    Lovely! I also inherited some lovely old sewing stuff from my grandmother, and I love it. There’s something very satisfying about using my grandmother’s old tape measure, pin cushions, etc as I sew. It makes me feel more connected to her, even though I never got to know her very well. As for the mystery tool, it’s hard to tell the exact size from the picture, but my guess is that it’s a point turner of some sort, for squaring up the corners when you turn things right-side out after sewing.

  • Rachael

    March 25, 2009 at 7:07 am | Reply

    That’s a great find! One word of caution, though– I wouldn’t use the thread in any projects. Thread can break down and rot, and I wouldn’t take the chance. That tool almost looks like an old knitting needle, or maybe a point turner?

  • bear

    March 25, 2009 at 7:16 am | Reply

    Your mom rocks! This post made me think of what my mom might pass down to me – I’m hoping for the Bernina 1090 QE, but she still turns out the most amazing projects from it…

    I agree with Rachael that it looks like an old knitting needle (with the point broken off) but it wouldn’t be unheard of to use it as a stuffing tool or a point turner.

  • kerri

    March 25, 2009 at 7:16 am | Reply

    oh my!! is that every so valuable, to have all your families sewing notions!! so priceless!!

  • Ellen

    March 25, 2009 at 7:18 am | Reply

    That is really awesome! I think that tool is a “Finger Press”, you know, to press open your seams when you are hand sewing so you don’t have to iron every seam. (Old irons weren’t nearly as easy to use as ours!) I think.

  • Allison

    March 25, 2009 at 7:27 am | Reply

    I love that cute needle holder with the ladies on the cover sitting around the table sewing. Hopefully someday we’ll get back to turning off the tv more often and sewing together instead! And I love all your work lately! Your baby blankets are gorgeous, same with those pillow covers! Lovely stuff, its so springy and bright! -Allison

  • Alison

    March 25, 2009 at 7:29 am | Reply

    I have used some old thread from the 1920s and 1930s on adorable wooden spools that got passed down to me when my grandmother passed away. I have no idea if they were my great-grandmother’s first (whom I knew well) or my great-great-grandmother’s. I have used them on my machine no problem. I wouldn’t use it for a heavy quilt or anything, but little projects have not been a problem. I suppose the conditions in which the thread was stored would make a difference about rot and such. They are beautiful to display even if they aren’t usable!

  • katie

    March 25, 2009 at 7:42 am | Reply

    How cool is all that stuff!! I really love the pincushion. It is toooo cute!

  • Sarah

    March 25, 2009 at 7:46 am | Reply

    I love it all! I have an antique sewing machine that I got as a wedding present and it has nostalgic things like this filling its drawers. I’ll have to explore them more and see if I find any treasures like these.

  • Ashley

    March 25, 2009 at 7:59 am | Reply

    How fun! I love vintage sewing stuff, and the fact that it’s been passed down in your family must make it even better! Love the thread on wooden spools!

  • Carrie

    March 25, 2009 at 9:00 am | Reply

    Definitely things to cherish!

  • Trina

    March 25, 2009 at 9:21 am | Reply

    I have to agree with Chris C. (post number 2) that the mystery tool is a point turner. It looks to be an older version of a tool my grandma would use when making “strings” for drawstring pants and such, used to turn them right side out. Heres didn’t have the “pointy” end though, so I imagine that this one will actually work for it so much better.

    Now here’s a question, is all that thread still good? I have a couple spools of that same sort of silk thread, but I was told not to sew with them because the thread was rotten. (It breaks to easily.) I have so many old thread spools in so many colors that I would just love to use, but I know know what to do with it now that I was told it was rotten. (Right now my collection is sitting on a shelf just looking pretty.)

  • Chris Warnick

    March 25, 2009 at 9:23 am | Reply

    I would have guessed a “finger press” too for the mystery tool. There is a modern version similar to that used in applique.

    What a treasure trove! That little thimble home is so neat. I agree with the previous poster about how special the needle case is with the women sewing. It reminds me of Rosie The Riveter.

  • josie

    March 25, 2009 at 9:31 am | Reply

    What a great collection of heirlooms. I am sure that you will find great joy in using them and your projects will be even more special.

  • Alison Marie

    March 25, 2009 at 9:45 am | Reply

    I collect that stuff too!….My grandmother was a professional seamstress, and I have a lot of her old sewing notions (but sadly not her old black cast-iron Singer sewing machine)and use things like the Knit-check, hem gauge, hook&eyes, buttons, snaps, but not the thread (it’s in a big box, and I occasionally think about how to make it into a display). I actually have a standing request with family & friends to pass on any old sewing supplies no one needs. It’s amazing how many people have donated things to my collection once I put the word out there. Everyone seems to love making sure their loved ones’ things are still being used and/or appreciated.

  • MJ

    March 25, 2009 at 9:46 am | Reply

    I wonder if it’s a nostepinne, which is used for winding wool into a center-pull ball, instead of the ball-winders available today.

    Then again, if it was found in a sewing kit, it’s not! 🙂

  • Katie

    March 25, 2009 at 10:13 am | Reply


  • jeanettesquiltin

    March 25, 2009 at 10:16 am | Reply

    O…how cool. You inherited some beautiful antiques, Enjoy and thanks for showing those. I received my Grandmother’s “White” treadle sewing machine and it was loaded with all kinds of goodies, can’t wait to use it…

  • jeanettesquiltin

    March 25, 2009 at 10:19 am | Reply

    P.S. I know your Mom loved her quilt….

  • Amy

    March 25, 2009 at 10:30 am | Reply

    the wooden tool is a hand iron…

  • Sandy

    March 25, 2009 at 10:31 am | Reply

    I would agree that it is a point turner. What an awesome collection! Congrats!

  • Ginger

    March 25, 2009 at 10:56 am | Reply

    That tool makes me think of a finger press. I love those scissors and thimble! really cool

  • Amy (badskirt)

    March 25, 2009 at 11:04 am | Reply

    I would have guessed a turning tool first. Not necessarily for points, but for helping turning out small fiddly things (like the beaks on my kiwi birds) I was actually looking at it with envy for that reason.

    The things are amazing and I love the photos. What a wonderful family where they have been shared and passed along.


  • Beth A.

    March 25, 2009 at 11:53 am | Reply

    What a beautiful treasure!

  • Doris

    March 25, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Reply

    What a treasure! I think that is a piece from a spinning wheel, but not positive.

  • jacquie

    March 25, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Reply

    oh alissa, how wonderful. such lovely things and such history to go with them. it’s great to have that connection. the tool looks to me like a wooden iron, at least that’s what i’d use it for. have fun with your mom!

  • Cathy

    March 25, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Reply

    Love those vintage stuffs. I got some like this myself, one was my great grandmother’s scissor exactly like yours! Enjoy those precious things hand downed from your ancestors

  • Michaela

    March 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Reply

    How precious! I love all of the vintage tools and threads. I would say point turner, but I don’t really have any idea.

  • Abby Mann

    March 25, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Reply

    I love that thimble! Look at the intricate work at the bottom…such great craftsmanship. And I don’t think I’d want to use the thread. It’s too pretty to look at!

  • jen

    March 25, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Reply

    such beautiful things of the are too spoilt…

  • Mal*

    March 25, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Reply

    What a gorgeous spread of treasures!

  • Jackie

    March 25, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Reply

    What a wonderful collection! You’re so lucky to have them!

  • Katy

    March 25, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Reply

    So Cool, i especially love the image on the package of the needles..

  • andi

    March 25, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Reply

    An amazing gift. I wonder who you will pass it on to?
    Andi 🙂

  • Janis

    March 26, 2009 at 2:36 am | Reply

    What treasures! I too, thought the mystery tool looks like a wooden iron (finger press) but that seems too simple and obvious and answer. I’ll be anxious to find out.

  • petits détails

    March 26, 2009 at 5:57 am | Reply

    This is such a neat post. I love the photos (such beautiful notions) and the story behind them. Lucky you! I live in France and love to look for old sewing tools and notions in flea markets here. They inspire me so much. Hope these inspire you, too!

  • Sherri

    March 26, 2009 at 7:12 am | Reply

    What a wonderful heritage…and such beautiful treasures! I too, have a quilting and sewing heritage and am soo grateful for it! Thanks so much for sharing these lovely things with us!

  • Laura

    March 26, 2009 at 10:06 am | Reply

    Many of those tools have large monetary values. The gold thimble is easily $100 US and I saw the gold needle book in a sewing tools book for nearly $400. I don’t remember what else I saw. So, besides the sentimental value they are worth $$. I collect old thimbles, especially the sterling silver.

  • Lee-Anne Gilbert

    March 26, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Reply

    What a treasure trove of goodies… you lucky girl!! I would say finger press as the mystery tool… keep up the great work Alissa… Lx

  • Maria

    March 26, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Reply

    I also got a great deal of spools like that, I just keep it near my sewing table on a couple of spools holders. I love the colors. I don’t use them cause I’m sure they might break cause of their age but lovely to look at. I also have a small box with all these thimbles, planning of puttin some of those stuff in a small curio cabinet I have. Isn’t this great even just to look at….love the shoe and the scissor is so beautiful. I agree with some. Think it might be a knitting needle or turning tool.

  • kris

    March 28, 2009 at 5:08 am | Reply

    I love having a lot of my grandma’s old sewing tools. I think of her every time I use them. I have seen several of these items in my, or my mom’s stash. In the first picture, what is the black shiny tool that is a handle with an oval shape on the end? My mom has one just like this and I have always wondered…

    • Alissa

      March 28, 2009 at 8:19 am | Reply

      Hi Kris!

      My mom told me that it was a tool to help with darning socks. If you put the sock over it, then the oval held the portion you were darning open and flat.

  • Dani

    March 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Reply

    what a treasure trove! i will admit that i am jealous.

  • amandajean

    April 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Reply

    what wonderful treasures! i have some needles in those little holders that i got from my grandmother’s house after she passed away-i think they came from hardware stores a long time ago. it’s so wonderful to have some of the things that she had used.

  • Threads

    February 19, 2010 at 6:28 am | Reply

    Wow. You have some wonderful treasures from your grandmother. Just yesterday I got some sewing threads and tools myself. I only have about five bobbins that are wooden the rest are plastic. In fact in one of you pictures i saw a spool of thread that said “Belding Corticelli” I have one in my hand right now! As for the tool of yours i am not sure.

  • Nina

    May 4, 2010 at 3:48 am | Reply

    Can I ask where can I order those scissors, please?
    Many thanks!

  • Nancey Johnson

    October 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Reply

    Awesome little treasures you got! I wonder if that is a woman’s shoe, remember how they used to bind their feet and stick them in tiny wooden shoes? Hope that doesn’t change the way you see it now! Anyway, those spools of thread are the best, too, I’ve been trying to find a great place to photograph some of my own. Love your blog.

  • Debbie

    November 23, 2010 at 10:44 am | Reply

    I too, have received items passed down from my Grandmother. I have a wooden sewing stand that had many sewing items in it. One was an old Home Needlework Magazine from July, 1901. I received the items in July 2001. I love the connection to my Grandmother that I feel when I use the items. The ones that can’t be used will be incorporated into a shadow box along with a pair of very old glasses, crocheted doilies and a small beaded purse also from my Grandmother. The beaded purse is similar to patterns found in the magazine. This way I will be able to protect them as well as appreciate their history. I will add an old photo of my grandma too.

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