Last weekend I had another successful bid at the Glasgow Auction (which is rapidly becoming my new obsession). The item that had caught my eye was this – a wonderful 1950s walnut sewing cabinet. I am very keen on these cabinets, and have been on the look-out for a nice mid-century one for a while. Now I have one!


The cabinet is in excellent condition and will serve me very well as a by-my-knitting-chair-hold-all for my current projects and notions. An additional bonus was that it came complete with its original contents . . .


. . .which I excavated this afternoon. I found . . .

Straight knitting needles . . .


. . . patterns . . .


. . . needle gauge and row counter . . .


. . . equipment for mending and darning “specially prepared for fine silk hose.”


. . . collar reinforcements and suspenders . . .


. . . needle cases “frae bonnie Scotland” . . .


. . . and needles for all purposes . . .


. . . buttons . . .


. . . .other types of fastening . . .


. . . several special threads for stringing necklaces . . .


. . . and all types of sewing cotton.


The cabinet also contained a nurse’s dictionary from 1935 and this photograph from Largs. . .


. . . which I have included here on the very slim possibility that someone may be able to identify it.

I have a special fondness for ancient haberdashery, and find so many of these objects curious, evocative and moving. Many remind me quite powerfully of my Grandma, also, like the cabinet’s former owner, a knitter on straight needles and a reader of Woman’s Weekly. I still use my Grandma’s darning mushroom and needle gauge and I like how these small functional things carry the memory of her back to me through use. But what have these objects been doing since their owner died, or had no use for them? The item of latest provenance in the cabinet dates from the 1970s. Have these things been sitting in an attic for forty odd years? Will someone a century hence excavate our Addi Turbos, our Chibi darning needles, our scraps of Wollmeisse or Madelinetosh, and feel the same way that I do about the JP Coats bobbins and the mysterious NYLUSTA?

In other news:
*I am extremely happy to report that an appendix-less Tom is now actually on his way home from Dublin! Much relief and general excitement all round. Thankyou very much for your kind wishes.
*After several days swotting up on the Highway Code, I passed my driving-theory test this morning. This is the first essential step to being fully mobile as it means I can now put in for the practical driving test. I feel ready. I think.

88 thoughts on “treasure

  1. It is absolutely wonderful news of Tom’s imminent return, Kate! And, Well Done to you for your theory test. And, a beautiful sewing box, too! Thumbs up all round, I think xx

  2. What delightful treasures inside your cabinet! I bought a treadle sewing machine many years ago, and its drawers were full of similar treasures. My favorite was a little tin sewing needle case with an ad for a cigar company stamped on it.

    PS. I’m in love with your rug!

  3. are you sure the photo doesn’t say 69? It would fit more with the contents but it will probably clearer on the original

  4. a treasure trove indeed! finds like that are scrumptious! i think the pic says ’69 or ’64, which makes more sense with their mode of dress.

  5. What a find! I love the grain in the walnut wood. The contents are very intriguing too. I’ve never seen anything like it.

  6. Oh if that cabinet could talk! It is like an archeological expedition, finding such treasures and imagining its previous life. cheers!

  7. What a treasure. Enjoy it!,, I have gotten many great treasures at Estate Sales myself. Glad that Tom is on his way back home and I hope he rests. Much Blessings to you.

  8. What a wonderful find for you!! The wood is so beautiful too. I’m sure the previous owner took good care of it. I still have my Grandmother’s wooden sewing box. It has a handle and the two top pieces open. I keep knitting bits and pieces in it.
    So happy to hear Tom is on his way home and on the mend.
    Did you knit those floor pillows?

  9. What a delightful day and many congratulations on the driving theory test. Also very glad your Tom on his way back, it must be such a relief. The photo reminds me of colour photography in my youth, in the sixties, length of skirt, etc, and not much colour photography around in the forties, all black and white with lacy edges! A lovely lovely cabinet.

  10. Oh my jealousy levels have just hit the roof! What a wonderful find :-)
    I love using things that belonged to members of my family – the other day I made a quick mini-batch of jam using my paternal grandmother’s recipe and maternal great-grandmother’s saucepan and it felt lovely being connected to my family through using their treasures. My sister cannot seem to grasp this at all or see how precious her mother’s favourite jug is to my mother or the pleasure and connection my father feels when digging with his mother’s beautiful old garden fork.
    Glad Tom is on his way home, time to get ready for his first knitting lesson?!
    Good luck with the driving, I’m sure you will do well

  11. Congratulations on all your happy news! And thank you for sharing the contents of your lovely sewing cabinet; I was very curious to see them after your last post.

  12. Three congratulations for: 1. Lovely cabinet and treasures within. 2, Tom is on his way home. Betting Bruce (and you) will be v happy to see him. 3. Driving theory test passed. A few good days for you.

  13. The photograph is from 1969 – the year I was born. My earliest baby pictures are still in black and white, my family switched to colour film a few months after….

    A wonderful treasure that you found – one wonders about the story behind it, and why it was sold in an auction. My mother-in-law still uses her mothers sewing chest, and my grandmother’s chest is in my mothers house.

  14. I wonder what the nurse’s dictionary looks like. Probably a pocket one? Any interesting words or phrases to note? After working in London as a theatre nurse, I had great fun returning to the States with all of my newly learned English medical terms. And I still have my cotton ward uniform with shenk buttons and my sporting wool cape. Just like Jenny in Call the Midwives(love that show)
    And as long as you don’t knit while you take your driving practical, you’ll be fine. Actually, you would be one that could do both:)

  15. What a treasure trove! The contents evoked vivid memories of my own mother’s sewing cabinet, a much less attractive dark wooden box on spindly legs whose top lifted up on a rear hinge to reveal trays of similar cotton reels, needles and mending equipment; the front panel swung open and had a large cavity behind. Since my mother hated to sew this contained numerous small items, from knickers with spent elastic to pullovers with worn elbows, all of which had sat awaiting repair for up to 30 years. Your cabinet is so much nicer. At first I thought it was a drum for a tombola.

  16. Hi Kate, I found myself referring to you as my friend today. I have been following you for years and I love your posts. I was telling my mother about The Great Tapestry of Scotland and she asked how I had heard about it. “A friend in Scotland told me about it.” Well there you go. I am happy to hear that Tom is on his way home without that mucked up appendix. Happy healing to him, and a happy summer to you both. Oh, btw, you may enjoy a movie entitled, “Kissing the water” about Megan Boyd–a salmon fly-tier from Scotland. The movie is lovely.
    Best from your friend, Annie

  17. what a gold mine of treasure you have there! it must have been such fun to explore the contents and the piece itself is magnificent
    good, good news about Tom and congrats on the DL
    I enjoy your blog so very much and wish I were living where you do it seems to be a paradise


  18. So glad to hear that Tom is fit enough to travel. What a worry for you! When my fifteen year old sister had appendicitis involving gangrene it took quite a while for her to recover – she suffered serious hair loss, fortunately temporary. Of course, your Tom is super-fit, and the hair issue may not be an issue for him.

  19. Truly a treasure. I wonder if 50 years from now our sewing boxes, baskets, cabinets will be viewed with such admiration and fondness…?
    Congratulations on passing the test & glad to hear Tom is on the mend.

  20. What a great posting! So very glad that Tom is on way home… phew! Thay was scary!
    You have a lovely find indeed, and quite a few of those items remind me of my growing up in the 50’s, spending time playing with the button box that had hundreds of odd buttons in it. Pity I did not inherit it!
    Congratulatins on the theory test and good luck with the driving test…
    Best wishes, Rosey x

  21. Thank you for this beautiful post. Your desire to understand and investigate the history of fabrics and hand work is so wonderful. To find original contents was so fortunate and i want to thank you for sharing this find with us.

  22. Really pleased Tom is on the mend. What a fantastic auction find, absolutely fascinating! Many congratulations on your theory test pass. All good luck for the driving test and then there will be no stopping you.

  23. Glad Tom is coming home and that your family will be intact once more – I’m sure Bruce will be ecstatic. Nice find on the auction – they are addictive.

  24. I love a bit of old habby. My mum passed last year and I inherited all her sewing paraphernalia which ncluded much of my grandmothers. I love the feeling of continuity.

    Good luck on the driving test!

  25. What a lovely home for a lovely object. I was given a choice of things from my granny’s house as keepsakes and chose her peg bag. Every time I hang out my washing to dry and hold those wooden pegs in my hand, I feel immediately in touch with my wonderful, querulous granny too. Enjoy your treasures.

  26. I love the older sewing baskets and I don’t know if it’s for the baskets themselves or the treasure troves in them. Many years ago, I received two sewing baskets from my mother-in-law when she was no longer able to sew. The first is a small painted wicker one and to the delight of my then small children, it has a music box in it which plays when you lift the lid. The other is wooden and opens up in tiers. Both were filled with a lot of the things you show above and since she was also a sock knitter, there where knitting notions among the surprises. The smaller basket I have kept with the contents intact and think of her each time I pass by it. Lovely memories.

  27. This is amazing. I love anything like this especially with contents. You can image who used them and when, what memories the item would hold and if it had eyes what it would have seen. I often look for antique jewellery and image these things.
    My daughter had her appendix out last Tuesday. Scary.

  28. Well, that is just all kinds of fun. An aesthetically pleasing, archaeologically-rich, highly useful treasure! It really doesn’t get much better than that. I have also enjoyed playing “Spot the Bruce” in your recent posts. I enjoy that, but I also very much enjoy when Bruce takes center stage and narrates your posts.

  29. Eureka!! What an absolute treasure-trove you’ve found.

    Oooh it’s so nice to hear someone else say things about how dear items are, from their family members. I have always thought this. I have my Granny’s button collection. While I have parted with a few buttons for very, very special babies on occasion though; I mostly selfishly use them on knits for me. They are too pretty not to use but it nearly kills me to part with them because I won’t see them again and it feels like giving away part of my Granny. Silly I know but hence the being selfish. I always think of my Granny when I use her pattern books, needles or buttons. It reminds me of sitting at her knee talking and learning the gift of knitting with some wonderful life’s lessons thrown in and then I catch myself smiling from ear to ear with each remembrance.

    PS: WooHoo to Tom coming home. Wishing him a very speedy recover from his scary ordeal. And to you my dear, no worries we all think you can do it! Best of luck with your driving test!!

  30. What a very happy ending to a very anxious few days Kate. Fortune is smiling on you, that test will be a mere formality. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful piece with us. Now I can visualise your knitting corner complete with view and workstation. Many happy hours there to come! A safe homecoming and a successful recovery to Tom – he will be at least as pleased to be home as you and Bruce are to welcome him. A happy summer to you all.

  31. A trifecta of wonderful news! By the way, thanks to you I am the happy wearer of 2 pair of Red or Dead t-strap sandals. I’m back to England this summer and I’ll try to grab up the other 2 colors. Schuh will NOT ship to the US (is that a European Trade Union rule?).

  32. Lots of treasure-Tom’s return, a lovely cabinet and a theory test behind you. Yeah! Enjoy each of these distinct pleasures!

  33. wonderful news about your DH coming home. Fond reunion I’m sure !! the sewing cabinet is so unusual and awesome. LOVE the unique design – do you suppose it’s a commercial one? How wonderful it was filled with vintage goodies to plunder thru. Lucky you for the find. enjoy it all ~~

  34. Trifecta is RIGHT!!! First Tom then the driving test and now this fantastic cabinet WITH contents.
    Swoon………. You deserve all of the above :)

  35. I think the sewing cabinet has just been waiting for you with your name on it. What a fabulous find. The walnut veneer, just the same as my old piano, is called book leaf. Slivers of walnut are split and flattened. It looks as though your piece is in excellent condition too. Well done on a fantastic buy!

    Great news also that Tom is on his way home – a little lighter as you say……

  36. How lovely to see where your creations are ..created !..Love the sewing cabinet. Ive not seen anything like that before. Happy news about the return of Tom. Make sure he rests up.

  37. I missed you post about Tom and am very happy that he is recovering well.
    The cabinet’s contents reminded me of my Grandma’s sewing basket, too.

  38. How gorgeous – and the colours of the thread – “golden cinnamon”, “gladiole red” etc simply divine. Such a great find!

  39. I remember my mother-in-law, toward the end of her life being sad that her special interests would likely hold no interest to her family and I reassured her, that on the other hand, they would likely go to someone who did value her tapestry work and other interests. Kate, with you successfully bidding at auction, these precious items now have a home where they are truly valued… and what a find! They are treasures of those times past when the majority of homes had needlework baskets full of all manner of materials and tools…. and we who follow you here just love how you are nurturing knitting and stitching crafts back, along with your wonderful historical research abilities. Thank you!
    …… and just show them what a competent driver you are! :-)

  40. How good for Tom and sure for you too and congrats on your test. What a lovely cabinet!! and the contents! There is some really fun stuff in there, at least lots of things I had never seen before!!

  41. What a fabulous find! Congratulations on winning the bid. The cabinet is in beautiful condition, and I envy all the wooden spools of thread and other items. I just finished refurbishing my husband’s grandmother’s 1912 Singer and cabinet, which she had electrified in the 30’s and, sadly, put in a smaller cabinet (but what a treasure that is, too). When she could no longer sew, she gave it to my mother, who had it until 20 years ago. It took me this long to get to this project, but I’m so glad I did. Next, on to a 1921 Singer treadle machine I found in a barn sale. It was a mouse apartment building, so I have my work cut out for me. But these old machines and materials need to be preserved!

  42. Hi Kate! When you say Glasgow auctions what are you referring to? i had a very quick search online and it came up Great western road and another website. I live in Glasgow that’s why I would love to know about it. thank you !

  43. Oh, this reminds me of my grandmother too! Would you believe that some of those things are identical to the things she had in her sewing equipment here Downunder? I still have some buttons belonging to my grandfather, stamped with the name of his tailoring business too.

  44. How wonderful Kate, felt really moved looking at the photos as you revealed the contents of the cabinet… Glad to hear Tom is recovering, I didn’t know he was unwell.

  45. Such an elegant shape; so like a purse. Do you think it was designed by the owner? Congratulations on your excellent week.

  46. Treasure indeed, you lucky girl. I too love ancient haberdashery and have quite a few of the items you show here.
    Jacqui x

  47. This post brought back so many memories! My Mom had a house and estate sale business for many years. Back then no one was interested in old buttons, spools of thread or straight knitting needles. I have a lovely collection of all, some of which, like the buttons, are still waiting to be sorted. I was always curious as to what became of the owners, and why their families weren’t interested in their “treasures”. Of course finding treasures like this allows you to invent a newly found long lost relative…

  48. Glad to hear that Tom is on his way back home, and doing better! and congratulations on the theory test! Soon you’ll be able to roam freely.

  49. Great news about Tom and what a lucky find! My husband bought me an antique Singer sewing machine for Yule and the drawers were full of similar treasures. I found out the machine was purchased in the 20’s at the store that I now own. It used to be a country general store, sadly everyone wants convenience foods now.

  50. What a ‘good news’ day. The sewing cabinet is a treasure. The best news is that Tom is coming home. I am sure you will get your driving license. The process seems much more difficult than I remember in Seattle WA.

  51. Could go on all day about treasure hunting; love of these things leads naturally to love of kindred spirited things eh. :) Awesome re Tom. And psssing the theory. Re driving test – Chris Hadfield, Canadas incredible astronaut , would advise something like: ‘Don’t leave it at thinking you might be okay and do well, but put both hands on the pump and practice and master whatever is niggling away that you don’t feel in command of. All best every time, robin

  52. Amazing find! And all the treasures inside! Glad your partner is returning and is recovering. I had a similar incident three years ago almost to the day. In NYC. My own little version of ER, which I remember with humour now. It was rather humourless at the time though! Wishing him a full speedy recovery.

  53. Oh, so beautiful! What a lovely cabinet. So glad to hear that Tom is home and your driving test went well. It’s a day filled with great news!

  54. When someone writes an article he/she maintains the image of a user in his/her mind that how a user can be aware
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  55. Hope that Tom is safely back home and feeling much improved now that he is in familiar surroundings. i reckon that people always feel better when they can sleep in their own bed.

    looking at that cabinet and its contents was like taking a trip back to my childhood – i recognised so many of those things.(sadly not the people in the picture though) what an absolute treasure trove!

  56. I once bought an older sewing machine on ebay, and I was curious about it, so I emailed the seller to ask if it had belonged to her. I received the loveliest letter in return, telling me about her sewing her own clothes as a young bride, as well as clothes for three children that followed. I felt so honored when she wrote, ” I can tell my sewing machine is in good hands now. I have loved it, and hope you will as well.”
    Every wonderful item used by another woman’s hands has a valuable story to tell!
    Thank you, Kate, for telling one story. It seems you have brought so many more to light that we are sharing here. I am loving reading every one’s stories!

  57. What a find! And in a way all so familiar to me, as I inherited my mother’s haberdashery stuff when she passed last year, and she had inherited her mother-in-laws’s stuff; the wooden Sylko thread purns, straight metal needles (incl. very long dpns), needles cases and buttons, buttons, buttons. I have two darning mushrooms, one of wood (Gran’s) and a bakelite one (Mum) which is also a jar for pins. I am always glad to have that craft link as Mum in particular made so many of my clothes as a child.

    The original owner obviously loved that sewing cabinet and I am sure would be glad that it has passed to some who will love it just as much. Thank you for sharing this.

    So glad to hear Tom is on his way home – we knew he was super-fit, and well done on your driving theory test. Best luck for the practical!

  58. Hi Kate, I recently purchased the kit of the Ecclefechan Mitts.  I am anxious to knit these but find that I have the wool but not the Knitting pattern.  As I have already purchased the kit, could you email me the pattern please? Kind regards, Marian

  59. Dear Kate, congratulations on the sewing cabinet-it’s Gem! I love mid-century furniture; with a special interest in the 1930’s and Scandinavian design from the 1950’s & 60’s. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as its’ previous owner did.


  60. Feel REALLY old now, as I remember using that iron-on ‘No Sew’ stuff ! (and more than a few of the items you found were replicated in my sewing basket until quite recently…!)

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)