Sunday, 23 September 2018

Dark lovebird

One side-effect of buying vintage patterns at auction is that you tend to acquire 'sewing ephemera' as part of the lots. This has included my Art Deco repair kit and some of my vintage haberdashery stash, but also numerous old reels of cotton.

Different brands, but the same size of reel

There is just something about old wooden cotton reels which takes me back to my childhood. Having a mother and grandmother who both sewed, they seemed to be everywhere. There were even some in the coal scuttle in my grandparents' house: I'm guessing that they were used as kindling. Looking at the reels now, as well as the chunky shape and the tactile quality of the wood, part of the appeal is that the shades had names, not just numbers.

The Dewhurst spools have shade numbers only

Dewhurst's 'Sylko' brand, which was the most widely used at the time, seems to have started off with shade numbers and it was other brands ('Sylviette' is a new name to me) that used names. But then Dewhurst's joined in. Most of the names are fairly descriptive, but occasionally you get something wonderful, like 'dark lovebird'.

All the greens - I have no idea what 'reseda' is

Dark lovebird is in the centre, light reseda below it

There were slight changes to the label over time, but the brand remained largely unchanged. Even when the new synthetic 'Trylko' thread was introduced, on up-to-the-minute blue plastic reels, the shades were still named; 'blue cactus' is a another favourite of mine. I would love to know how the names were chosen; did Dewhurst's have an official 'shade-namer'?

Newer reels at the front

We hear so much about the environmental impact of single-use plastics now, that I feel guilty whenever I throw an empty plastic reel away. I get through a lot of thread, and there are only so many reels I can re-use for storing ribbon etc. I wonder if we will ever move away from single-use plastic cotton reels; either by encouraging re-use (returning them to the fabric store?) or replacing them with something more sustainable?

A few have been re-used to store a second thread

Finally here's a sneak peek at another recent auction buy – a wooden sewing box on legs. It's a bit battered, and in need of some TLC, and will get its own post at some point. For now though, here's a picture of how the dimensions of the lidded top section seem to have been specifically chosen to accommodate wooden cotton reels.

Form following function!

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