Even as the home sewing machines became more affordable and, therefore, gained in popularity, sewing baskets and boxes were not completely replaced by the drawers on sewing machine tables and desks. Up until very recently, small sewing kits would be kept nearby for small repairs and needlework projects done by hand. As discussed last week, this makes vintage sewing baskets and boxes easy enough to find and, so, at prices most can afford. Which is why vintage sewing boxes and baskets are quite popular in today’s DIY needlecraft craze.
Portability has long been desired for sewing boxes and baskets, which why most of them, even the furniture styles, have handles. However, some are far more portable that others. In today’s mobile world, portable means for toting around one’s needlework projects is just about mandatory, so today we’ll be looking at some of the smaller vintage sewing kits.
This mod vintage NeedleMaster Kit is perhaps the ultimate in portability. At 12 and 1/4 inches long and just one and 1/4 thin, this slim handled kit is likely smaller than virtually any woman’s purse. This mod knitting kit was made by Boye Needle Company, the first American manufacturer of crochet hooks and knitting needles which was founded in 1906. Obviously, this is no antique needlecraft kit. It is, however, vintage — and the ultimate in mod style.
On the outside, there’s that avocado green plastic with large blue and green floral print on burlap-esque fabric insert (on both sides) in a round shape with handles. On the inside, the brightly colored aluminum knitting needles lay upon a bright yellow plush lining that reminds me of shag carpeting! We’ll call this mod kit circa 1970. (Did I mention this vintage needlecraft kit was mod?)
Collectors should note on kits like this that the plastic hinge and clasp are in good working order as they cannot really be repaired. The fabric should be clean and sit properly in place.
But with neat little knitting kits like this, there’s no room for the skeins and balls of yarn, for the projects in process. For this purpose, one often had a portable fabric sewing or knitting basket too. Folding knitting and sewing baskets made of fabric “slung” between light-weight wooden legs, like this one shown here, were often the result of projects in home economics classes — the alternative to making a fabric purse.
The wooden parts may be fixed with some wood glue, or even replaced with new wooden legs or dowels; for it’s the vintage fabric which has the most collector value in these vintage sewing or knitting bags and is what mainly drives the prices.
For those sewers who aren’t looking for portability so much as they are in need of a sewing kit which takes up less space, there are small trinket-sized plastic sewing boxes. This is one of my favorites in my collection: Standing 5 inches tall and 9 inches in diameter at the widest point, this vintage plastic sewing box is tiered like a cake!
Adding to the cake-like quality, this vintage clear plastic sewing box has “frosted” in blue lids which have a floral pattern. The whole thing turns like it’s on a lazy Susan or carousel and is topped off with a satiny pincushion! There are pegs inside the bottom tier for spools of thread, complete with openings for neat, organized, access to the threads. The center area is where you store your other sewing essentials.
When looking for such vintage plastic sewing boxes, avoid any cracks, splits or breaks in the plastic. Some of these vintage plastic sewing boxes came with hinged lids, which should be intact as well. Scratches or small areas of “clouding” of the plastic are not desirable, but nearly impossible to avoid in vintage pieces. Despite plastic being such a modern marvel, these are among the most fragile of vintage sewing boxes and should be treated with care.
Have some of your own vintage sewing boxes to show off? Why not add them to here!