Thursday, 6 December 2012

Haberdashery Heaven

Well, the sofa arrived, a few minutes late, tut tut, but somebody approves...

Mr HenHouse and I couldn't remember when we might last have sat in this room; all the furniture went into storage and the room was given over to the builders back in February.  The barkcloth frenzy has taken place.  Charlie Boy favours the pink one.  Currently, that is.  He knows to stay on his thrifted polyester version of an eidy which I must say, I am quite keen on myself as it's incredibly warm!  Miaow, purrrrrrr.

Now where were we?  Oh yes, haberdashery.  A few weeks ago in my beloved Bridders, I happened upon this rather unexciting looking box on a market stall.  Unexciting.  Ah, but that would be discounting what is inside, wouldn't it?

It was full of goodies of the sewing kind.  The handmade sign offered them to me for 50p each, or a tenner the lot.  I started squirrelling away the bits I was most interested in when the stall holder, and a jolly lovely West Country chap he was too, offered to do a deal for the lot.  Well, I like a deal, even if I do say so myself.

(This is a little selection of what was inside.) 

I had an absolutely smashing time when I got back to the cottage, getting every last little piece out and examining it in minute detail.  Thrilling, really.  Do you know what I love the most?  Look closely at all the items below.  Those snaps are going to give you a big old clue.

That's right, something you sadly don't see very much on items here nowadays:  Made in England or Made in Great Britain, British Made.  Fabulous.  I liked seeing where things had been made.  It seemed that the area around Birmingham was known for needles.  Is this right?  Do chip in if you know of areas with a peculiar "haberdashery history", I'd be interested to know. 

What I was completely and utterly over-the-moon to find inside that box, however, was this:

A wartime temporary spool. I now realise there is a whole area out there waiting for me to hoard collect.   Sorry, it is too too exciting to have this piece of history in my hand.

Anyhows, that is just the tip of my burgeoning haberdashery collection.  That's right, I now justify my thrifty, hoarding habit by naming my motley thrifted goodies a "collection".  Works for fabric too, I find.  

I found the much coveted wartime "Sew and Save" book in Lewes and the "Witch" needle threader (oh I love this) at a flea market.  All pretty cheaply, in fact the guy selling the needle threader seemed to think I was quite batty for wanting it.  The pin tin and card of hooks and eyes came fairly recently from a crazy sort of garage sale we stumbled across near the cottage.  I think that Newey's card is fab, just look at the graphic with the 1940's styled lady and her daughter.  I refused to pay the £3 requested and left, but Mr HenHouse later emerged with them having done a deal along with his gramophone records!  What a team.

Another spiffing find was my giant Coats' cotton reel with its original box.  I cannot tell you anymore about this, I imagine it was probably for advertising, to sit on a haberdashery counter maybe?  I parted with a little more of the green stuff for this but our piggy bank was not overly traumatised by the event.

I could go on... drawers of cotton reels, 1930's hand painted belt buckles, sewing machines whether real or toy, patterns, needles... oh stop!

I realised a lot of what I loved about my vintage haberdashery goodies was the fantastic graphics.  I needed to do something more with them.  I needed to incorporate them into my own crafty work, that's what.

Pin cushions then; images combined with feedsacks and modern cottons too, vintage buttons, hand embroidery...

Needle cases were the next natural step...

It seems that some really great modern fabrics were released this year, featuring all manner of haberdashery delights, begging to be combined with the vintage graphics, some applique and embroidery.

Then I stumbled on yet more fabby fabric, this time printed with definitions of sewing terms.  Oh and you may just be able to pick out the dinky little metal charms sewn onto the front: scissors, spectacles, safety pins, cotton reels.  Too cute!

Should you be desirous of a little Christmas shopping, whether for others or rewarding your good self, you will find all these goodies in my Etsy shop.  Thanks so much to all of you who have shopped with me this week, you have directly funded my haberdashery habit which can only be a good thing?

Don't forget to let me know any vintage haberdashery stories or connections of your own in the comments, if you fancy.


  1. Hi Hen, I do know that English made needles are still considered the best, even in the States; very good quality. (This from my Quilers' Guild days)

    I just love how your room has turned out, pale and interesting wthout ever looking too cool. Really lovely, I bet you're so thrilled it's all done in time for Christmas!

  2. What a lot of beautiful things you have there. Redditch was the needle making centre for many years.

    I wish that I had managed to hang on to some of my Mother's sewing accoutrements.

  3. Just remembered that I have just the same card of hooks and eyes in my sewing box - they've been there since new so i probably bought them in the 1970's. I'm down to last two on the card. I'm really amused by the 'by appointment to the Queen Mother'. Can't imagine her repairing or making clothes somehow!

  4. Wundervolle Bilder!
    Lieblichverschneite Rosaliegr├╝├če

  5. Redditch was a big needle-making town ... many of the women in my family worked in the industry and I still have the most wonderful needle collection that my great-aunt gave me for my 18th birthday ... I've never needed to buy a needle!

  6. What wonderful finds! Love all the graphics and images!! So neat!! The Sew and Save and Newey's card are lovely, as are your pin cushions and needle books!! xo Heather

  7. Ah, Dear Hen - you had me shedding a nostalgic tear or two! My too grandmothers each had a tin of Dorcas pins in the 50s/60s. Grandma T was known as Red Pin Granny - her Dorcas tin was the same as yours. Grandma C had a pale blue Dorcas pin tin and was known as Blue Pin Granny. Oddly enough,their respective birthdays would have been today and tomorrow. Red pin Granny would have been 140. Blue Pin Granny lived her entire life being 21 years old. The two old ladies taught my cousins and me to sew and embroider. Those were the days when grannies seemed to have time to pass on skills. Another reason for life in earlier times to hold so much appeal!
    I'm away to look at your Etsy shop.
    Yours nostalgically,

  8. Charlie Boy looks unhappy that the sofa has been gone!
    Love your vintage sewing finds.

  9. Ah Hen what a lovely stash indeed.
    My fav is the ric rac.
    I have quite a few oddments much the same as yours handed to me from a late aunt.
    There is quite alot of darning thread of sorts on cards, I shall get them out and send you them if you want them?

    ps what a sensible cat you have!

  10. Great stuff- the giant cotton reel is smashing.I shall dig around in my sewing box, I have some bits that would be way happier with you than me as I have way too few to justify calling it a collection! Must be such a relief to have a usable room and a comfy ( looks VERY comfy) sofa again.

  11. What a great collection. When I used to work in the craft shop we had a Newey comemmorative clock on the wall, 1735 to 1985 - after seven years I learnt the wording off by heart!
    I collect haberdashery items too!
    Julie xxxxxxxxx

  12. Love your vintage finds. I collect wooden cotton reels but I do use them on my 1957 Singer Featherweight sewing machine, it sews better with 100% cotton especially if its on a wooden reel, the thread doesn't bounce off the machine, plastic bobbins with poly thread bounce all over! Love your new sofa.

    Sharon XX

  13. Liking your new sofa and cushions. The collection of notions is lovely. I have lots of vintage ones myself , including a blue Dorcas pin tin. I buy lots of mine from eBay, I received some lovely buttons in the post today.
    I had one more delivery today, my HenHouse sewing basket. It is my Christmas present from my husband but I was allowed to open it today. It's beautiful, and the extras on the inside are lovely. I have some of Mrs Hen's fabric stash!
    I can't use it or any of the contents till Christmas day, but I am allowed to look lovingly at it on the chest in our living room. Thank you :-)

  14. Hi Hen, have just stumbled across you blog and wanted to comment to say how much I enjoyed the much so, I'll be back regularly! I've also just sent the link to some girlfriends who I know will also enjoy your musings. Thanks for a lovely visit!

  15. Lovely cushions Hen and the sofa doesn't look bad either! You've got those cats well trained. My sofa is white and always has a grubby patch where Hectic sleeps.
    Thanks for your comment about the shop. A great first day. Let me know if you're popping by any time.

  16. What a wonderful stash, I am sure I still have some of my mum's and aunt's notions...
    I am the same if I spot anything made in Britain I just have to have it... is such a shame everthing is made abroad now
    I love your cushions a lovely mix of colours
    Thea x

  17. I love your kitty... miss my old kitty. About time to get a new one. Those cushions on your couch are lovely.


  18. I am so loving everything about your sweet blog...your new sofa is so lovely and those pillows make my heart beat fast!
    I am thinking I would love your sweet home.
    Thanks you for leaving such sweet comments on my to take a peek around yours right now.
    Happy weekend.

  19. What a jackpot of vintage sewing goodies!! My husband's mom was a seamstress for Jantzen swimsuits and clothing for many years. When she had to retire due to getting paralyzed from the waist down, his dad fixed up a nice sewing room for her where she spent many happy hours.
    ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉
    *M*E*R*R*Y* *C*H*R*I*S*T*M*A*S*!*
    ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  20. that's a great collection. Redditch, just south of Birmingham, was the needle making place. There's a needle museum there, I haven't been for a couple of years, but well worth an hour or so's time if you're visiting near. They had a huge selection of needles for sale, too.

  21. Love what you've made Hen, I had an old sewing basket given to me last week, only a few treasures but I love them....what is it about wooden bobbins and cards of press studs?! Your room is looking fab! :)

  22. Hope you don't mind me putting this here, Hen, but thought Vintage Sheet Addict might be interested to know this. When I was first teaching in a S London nursery class, we bought a bag of multi-coloured bobbins for threading, printing, counting etc. My colleague added in some old wooden ones, thinking the kids would like them less but that they might be useful. Guuess which ones the children argued over? One little lad said he loved the wooden ones because 'they feel real.' Coming from little people raised in the plastic generation, this was quite an eye-opener. Seems we are born with a love of natural materials and it is trained out of us by the huge quantity of man-made stuff we are exposed to in our early years.

  23. When clearing my mum's flat (she passed away in September) I came across some vintage 50's mending cotton for stockings. I wondered whether you would like it? My e-mail is XX

    What lovely goodies.

  24. The sofa looks wonderful with your cushions and cat!

  25. Your room looks lovely, and I have a couch in a very similar style and same colour. Mr Charlie Boy looks very handsome on the couch, but a bit grumpity at having his picture taken.

    Julie and Poppy Q

  26. Catching up on my blog reading and am feeling quite rewarded by seeing your amazing creations ... I love those old labels and graphics, too, and this is the perfect way to show them off.


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