In Praise of Old Technology: the Sewing Box

For those who are so misfortunate as to have never encountered one, allow me to provide a definition. A sewing box is a toolbox for needlework. It may take the form of a box, a basket, or – if one happens to have friends with deep pockets and dainty taste – an elegant table, an egg, or even a converted walnut shell. (In the case of the person with deep pockets and no taste, there is such a thing as a rhino foot sewing box.)

Painting: a woman sits by a table sewing. On the table is an open sewing box. On the floor beside her is a basket of sewing, possibly mending.

I have recently managed to acquire one of these delectable items (a box, not the disjecta membra of maimed African megafauna) and I don’t know how I managed for so long without one.

Need the scissors? Here they are. Oh, the other scissors? Here. Biscornu pincushion? Here. A different shade of thread? Here. The other thimble? Here. Pins, needles, pattern weights? Here. Hemming tape, tape measure, tailor’s chalk? Here. Elastic, bodkin, quick-unpick? Here.

It’s not simply that the box holds so many things, or even that it keeps them conveniently all in the same place. It’s the portability. Admittedly, this aspect depends in part on your choice of sewing box. Walnut shell? High portability, but low capacity. Sewing table? Holds a lot but doesn’t score too well on the portability measure.

Painting: a woman sits in an armchair by a large window. In front of her is a sewing table with the bottom drawer open. On her lap is a pile of fabric she is sewing.

My box is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It’s one of the extendable ones that has layers that slide apart and back together (some call them concertina boxes), and it also has a handle. Some of these boxes have handles, some legs, some neither, and a few both.

I decided to hold out for one with a handle, and how right I was. Now I can easily carry everything about with me, whether I’m upstairs at the sewing machine or ironing board, or downstairs cutting out a pattern or mending from the comfort of an armchair.

There is also the benefit that everything is easily put away, so after a spell of sewing one does not end up with one’s sewing implements and impedimenta scattered all over the everywhere, getting in the way of everything else one does in life.

The only downside that I have yet found, is that I tend to lose track of which side is which. Left/right is a bit of a thorny issue for me, being ambidextrous, or possibly ambisinistrous, and the box having rotational symmetry doesn’t help. I end up opening and closing everything in search of what I’m looking for.

A sewing box shown with both lids open and one side extended. Inside are a range of threads, scissors, and other sewing equipment. In the background a cat licking itself.
The box is not as big as the attention-grabbing cat makes it look.

This reduces the benefit of a multi-compartmented box, but at least I don’t have to just rummage around in an amorphous mass of everything jumbled together.

A potential solution – since much of the woodwork is nothing to write home about – is to paint each section in a different (albeit harmonizing) colour, inside and out. Maybe one day…

In the meantime, this estimable piece of old technology is getting plenty of use, as I am doing a mend every day for Advent. To have a look at my progress – and the other things I get up to between Thursdays – pop across to my Mastodon profile and have a look.

2 Replies to “In Praise of Old Technology: the Sewing Box”

  1. That first photo, did you photoshop it to make the face look more like yours? Or do you have the most luscious wardrobe … ?

    1. I hadn’t noticed the resemblance! But we all know I am not the photo manipulation expert in this family…
      Wardrobe sadly not that luscious. Don’t think I’d wear a light orangey red over lavender, though.

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