Nanny Sheila’s Sewing Tin

nanny sheila's sewing tin 2

Nanny Sheila was Adam’s grandmother and, from the moment I met her almost 4 years ago, like a grandmother to me too. She died this week and I was given her sewing tin. Judi and Brian (Adam’s mom and uncle) can remember this tin from when they lived in England after their father’s death, making this tin about 50 years old.

thread in sewing tin

Nanny didn’t do much sewing later in life (although she showed me pictures of some very smart suits she sewed for herself as a young woman!), but she was sure to have the basics on hand as, having lived through WWII in England, she was firmly of the Make Do and Mend mindset. A large portion of the tin is spools of thread and a few assorted notions – the odd recycled zipper, rolled up bits of elastic, some stained bias tape – that I will put to use, as Nanny would definitely want them to be used.

sewing kits from around the world

In amongst the random bits and bobs (and pieces of butterscotch candy) are a few treasures of Sheila’s history. Meaningless and worthless to a random observer, they tell stories to those who know. Sheila saved two sewing kits from her travels. The Plume of Feathers (now known as the Old Plume) in Burton, Wiltshire, England, was a public house although it’s now a private residence. The Hotel Despotiko in Mykonos, Greece is still a functioning hotel.

nanny sheila's sewing labels

Nanny had two sets of sewing labels. “Hand Made for my Special Little Boy” were bought and used for clothing that Nanny made for Adam, and if we have a son someday, I will definitely put them in his clothing as well. “Specially Hand Made by Sheila” were stored in a little embroidered leather case from Austria.

las vegas pin cushion

Nanny also had a little Las Vegas souvenir pin cushion (from 1990) so I immediately pulled it out of the tin and put it to good use!

nanny sheila's sewing tin

Comments 16

  1. How sad to lose Adam’s grandmother, but what a very fine thing to have been left. There’s also something both deeply personal and inconsequential about such very everyday things like sewing boxes, tins and baskets. I’m fascinated by what oddities and momentoes get stashed in them: recycled shirt buttons, any amount of darning wool from long gone jerseys, plus darning egg (‘made in Jerusalem’, complete with camel motif). I’m an oddity in my family for sewing, but partly for reasons of shifting notions about gender, work and ideas about sewing as skill, craft, necessity and plain chore (most British kids like me wore school uniforms, each article of which had to be marked with a name tag, in the correct school specified place, no wonder that between that and curtains for the house my mum doesn’t care for it). Sometimes I think sewing, knitting and other crafts have skipped a generation, which makes me pleased to have mementos of two very different, but creative skilful grandmothers in the form of the sewing things of one and knitting basket & button box of the other.

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  2. A treasure in such good hands, Erin. It’ll be great to see what emerges from her through you. btw, my mom had a tin exactly like Sheila’s. A nice memory. xox

  3. I LOVE the tin!!! that is gorgeous. Yes, the sewing supplies are wonderful, someone just gave me something from her grandmother, darning wool from Red Heart – before there was acrylic.

  4. Inherited sewing treasures are the best. These will be precious to you and your husband. Not exactly sewing, but I have my grandmother’s crochet hooks and patterns, 100s of patterns torn out of magazines between 1910 and 1980. I use the hooks all the time and I like to think she is watching over my crocheting, even if I’m not quite up to her exacting standards! I’m trying to figure out the best way of storing/displaying the patterns……..

  5. How blessed you are that Nanny Sheila was able to be a part of your wedding.
    I have that same tin and have used it for embroidery thread as long as I can remember. Mine came from Iran and has a Farsi inscription on the bottom. My brother-in-law’s mother used to send him care packages (to the US) of food from Iran.

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  6. That’s so lovely Erin. I remember when Auntie She first told me about you on one of our too infrequent long distance telephone calls a good few years ago – she spoke so fondly of you and your creativity, particularly the sewing. Looking back I think she sensed then she was your “grandmother-to-be”. xxx

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      Ah, how sweet. Thanks so much for sharing. Many people told me at her memorial service about how appreciative she was that I Adam and I had found each other and the words mean the world to me.

  7. hi Erin, how perfect that you have Aunty She’s sewing box. I remember rummaging around in Nanna Lalla’s (my Grandmother, Sheila’s Mum) button box when I was wee. Emotive stuff :)

  8. I have that same tin! And it was my grandmother’s sewing tin also! Now I have to go find it, and see what mark is on the bottom!

  9. Happy New Year my love. I was so happy to re read this post. Today I remember my mom as I look toward to my first year without her. She lives in my heart, your blog, in her to be great grandchild and the objects she made for all of us. Thank you for keeping her joy of charting alive!

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