Emotional Clutter and My Grandma’s Sewing Treasures

posted by Andrea | 09/19/2011

Last week, I sewed these really cute {and REALLY easy} curtains for our master bathroom.

{I’m purposely not showing you much of the curtains because I’ll be sharing my “curtain tutorial” tomorrow.}

Right now, I want to revisit the issue of “sentimental” or “emotional” clutter and how great it is when you can actually USE something that is also very sentimental…

When my grandma died a few years ago, I was the only grandchild who knew how to sew — and even though my sewing abilities are somewhat limited {simple curtains, bedding, pillows, etc.} I was “willed” her oldie-but goodie sewing machine…

 

…and ALL her sewing supplies {she had a TON!}

 

The cool thing about this sentimental gift is that I could actually use it! 

It did take me a while to weed through everything, and I definitely tossed/donated a decent amount. But as a newly married person who didn’t have any sewing stuff at the time, it was exciting to get such a sentimental AND useful gift from my Grandma. 

Since then, I have regularly used her sewing machine and many of the fun tools and accessories she left behind to make simple projects, hem pants for myself, lengthen pants for Dave, and all sorts of other dd projects. Just recently, our Korean international student, Nancy, is learning how to sew on my Grandma’s machine! {she’s making a skirt and a tu-tu!}

So even though I am still NOT in favor of keeping mass amounts of sentimental and emotional clutter “just because”, I thought I should also share a situation from my own life where I’ve kept a bunch of sentimental items but figured out how to use them in my every-day life so they are no longer “clutter”.

 

Here are some of my favorite sewing supplies from my Grandma:

These are a couple of the old tools she had in her sewing tool box {the same green one pictured above}. I use the measuring tape all the time… the others are just fun to have! 

 

This was my grandpa’s travel sewing kit from the war. Obviously, this is just for sentimental purposes… but it does fit inside the sewing box :)

 

I love that all her old supplies had prices on the packaging. It’s crazy to look back and think how inexpensive some of these things used to be!  I absolutely LOVE the old packaging, and have actually used many of these items.

 

Of course, what would a good sewing box be without a handful of thimbles? Since I don’t do a lot of sewing by hand, I’ve probably only use a thimble once in my whole life, but I just couldn’t part with these.

 

My grandma was very organized {it must be in my genes!} and still had the manual, all the extra parts, and even the old can of oil for her sewing machine! She also had gobs and gobs of carbon tracing paper —  however, I make all my patterns out of newspaper so I just kept one package for memorabilia and donated the rest.

 

If you need any color of thread, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it — all sorted by color too so it will be easy to find!

 

I have every color of bobbin thread too! I’m actually surprised at how often my rainbow collection of thread has come in handy for different projects. And I just can’t get enough of the metal bobbins — they are SO much nicer than the new plastic kind!

 

I saved the best for last… this super old, hand-made wrist pin cushion is practically falling apart, but I use it all the time! It is so handy to have my pins readily available and attached to my wrist at all times! I haven’t seen anything like it in sewing stores.

 

All of my sewing supplies {and memorabilia} fit conveniently inside my grandma’s sewing box, which is stored in our office closet alongside her sewing machine so I can quickly access anything I need.

And every time I get out the supplies and start another project, I can’t help but think about my grandma and how proud she would be to know that I’m using her machine — and now teaching Nancy how to sew {seriously, if you knew my grandma… she would be bragging about this to all her friends!}

This week, I’m planning to sew most of the crib bedding for our soon-to-be baby girl, and I feel like the finished product will be extra special since it was made with many of her great-grandma’s supplies!

So for those of you who think I tell everyone to get rid of every piece of sentimental clutter — you’re wrong! I’ll probably try to help you find a useful purpose for it first… and then tell you to get rid of the rest :)

Do you have any sentimental treasures that you also use regularly?

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22 comments

  1. amy martin

    09/19/2011

    while I was reading this, i couldn’t help but get stuck thinking about some of the things you’re holding onto and how they would make the perfect little display inside a shadow box…like, using the tool with the wheel on it and arranging the thimbles around the spinning part would be the cutest little “flower” !! and the green/turquoise binding could be tied in a simple knot around the handle to look like “leaves”….
    Either way I ithink this is the best kind of clutter to keep!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Amy, I have actually used many of the items to decorate around our house. Like… she had a collection of OLD medicine containers and boxes that are displayed on shelves in our bathroom. Thanks for the other ideas though!

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  2. Stacey

    09/19/2011

    Cute. And Yes, Grandma ‘ner would be proud. :)

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  3. Suzanne

    09/19/2011

    I LOVE this post, because I grew up a seamstress since I was twelve, and have such an affinity for all of this! I too love the old metal bobbins. So much easier to start a “wind” on the machine. My first career was even in fashion design. Sadly, my Dean told me “You don’t even need to speak English to sew,” when I told her what I wanted to do for a living, and I ended up a pattern maker, only to change careers two years later… :(
    I find it hard to find time to sew as a mom now, but know if I’d had a little girl (I have a boy), she’d have had a LOT of cute little girlie things! I can’t wait to see what you make!

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  4. sarah wade

    09/19/2011

    What a lovely post. I inherited a friend’s grandmothers sewing machine (cause no one else wanted it) the thing is a beast, definetly an antique but works better than any other “modern machine” I’ve used. Best of all it came with all the bits and bobs included. Admittedly the countless tins of rusty pins and a few other random I’ll never use that pieces did get tossed but most else was practical enough for me to use. And after 10 years or pecking away at the sewing suplies I’m having to buy new notions. Sadly I havne’t made enough time to sew anything but hems and minor alterations but now that my youngest is in preschool there might just come a time for me to fire up the beast and let the creative juices flow again. :)

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  5. Keri M.

    09/19/2011

    Oh, my! I’ve got a similar story. AND pics! See link. Blessings to you and your sewing :)

    http://mykitchenmyvice.blogspot.com/2010/02/i-never-expected-to-own-this-much.html

    [Reply]

  6. April

    09/19/2011

    OOOH I love this post.  My grandma was a sewer, too. I got her sewing table but I don’t sew (and I already had a sewing machine – I sew on scrapbook pages!) I was able, at least, to give the sewing table to my aunt (my grandma’s daughter-in-law) for use in a beautiful place in their home… and that way I was sure it stayed in the family. I have two other items of hers….. I have her old mixer (and yes, it still works) but I love it just because it’s so nostalgic looking – it sits on top of the cabinets in my kitchen to dress them up. I also have her china cabinet. I’ve contemplated getting rid of this and/or refinishing this piece… I’ve kind of decided that I want to get rid of the TOP of it (the glass shelves and glass doors with wood frames) so that I can have some beautiful WALL space (my dining room has ZERO walls (two big entry ways, a huge floor to ceiling window and a fireplace/mantle) so keeping the credenza portion and ridding myself o the other will give me some decorating space.  And, that’d be nice. Finding time to do that, however… yeah… Besides, I wonder who would buy just a china cabinet top? Hmmmm

     Thanks for the stroll down memory lane today!!! 

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Oh, I would definitely get rid of the hutch to create more wall space. Just donate it to a thrift store and someone will pick it up! Your room will feel much more open and you’ll love having that extra space {we did the same think in our old house!}

    I think it’s WAY better to keep a few select memorabilia items that you’ll actually use than everything “just because”.

    Good luck with the refinishing!

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  7. Robin

    09/19/2011

    I too have received sewing items from my Grandmother in addition to her SERGER that I still don’t know how to use. In addition I inherited my Singer sewing machine. When I took it into have a repair done, I was told it’s better to repair an older Singer sewing machine vs. then the purchase a newer one. The newer ones just aren’t made as well as the older ones.

    Lastly, part of my Grandmother’s items I obtained were PATCHES! Patches from all the places my Grandparents traveled too. I’m thinking of making a throw or quilt with these.

    Andrea here again another items we have in common. :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Ooooo and serger — I’m jealous! I’d love to get my hands on one of those, however, I probably wouldn’t use it enough.

    And so funny that you mentioned “patches” — my grandma had a bunch of those too, but I tossed them b/c they were so old! Not only are holes now “in style” but we are also such a different generation and would simply buy new before we patched the old!

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    When she said patches, she didnt mean patches to repair clothes, she meant ‘location patches’ simular to ‘boyscout patches’ to commorate a location and/or event. I just wanted to clarify :-)

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  8. Laurel

    09/19/2011

    I have that same sewing machine!! Got if for my high school graduation (tells you I’m a bit older than you!). I love the machine and your story. Can’t wait to see what you make.

    [Reply]

  9. Robin

    09/20/2011

    Laurel – were you speaking of the Serger? I’m not sure on the age situation. I graduated from HS in 1983, what about you? Both my mother and grandmother obtained Sergers at the same time and received classes on how to use them, etc. It’s been many years….I phoned our local Meissner Sewing store and they welcomed me to come in and they’d be happy to show me how to use it – which I thought was very nice of them.

    I can’t wait to figure how to create something with those patches….a little research is in order and sounds likes a winter project to me. :)

    Andrea – sorry I think I need to clarify about the patchs. These are not the patching patches, these are like souvenir patches when they RV’d. Yes, you are right we are a different generation and most would probably buy new before patching. IMO if items were better quality and made to last longer, people wouldn’t be so apt to buy new. But, then corporations wouldn’t be so happy about $$$. Enjoy your day ladies. :)

    [Reply]

  10. Ann

    09/21/2011

    I love this post!! I love to sew and by co-incidence, I have the same machine as your Grandma had and now you have it! I have 3 Kenmore sewing machines…the one DH gave me just before we were married, the one like you have ( we bought it for our two girls to learn to sew) & the one my mother had, which was fairly new when she went to assisted living. NOW WHY would anyone need 3 sewing machines? Well, one of our daughters uses one occasionally, and I teach 11 yr. old girls in this community how to sew, so its nice to have more than one machine. (we do have a nice size sewing room)
    A side note, I wish we could be a little closer….Andrea, it is very simple to make your own crib sheets and the advantage is, you can choose your own fabric!! Two years ago we went to our daughter & son-in-law’s home for a long week-end and I helped her do crib sheets, bumper pads, changing table pad cover, etc. It was/is our first grandchild!! (boy!)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Ann!
    I’m not sure if you mis-read the post or not, but I actually AM making the bedding for our crib! I already made the bumper and the bed skirt and I’ll be working on an adorable eyelet quilt over the next few weeks. I’ve never made a quilt before, but I’m sure I can manage to make something cute!!
    Oh, and I think it’s great that you’re using your extra machines to teach others how to sew. That is how I learned how to sew too — believe me, a little instruction goes a LONG way!!

    [Reply]

  11. Suzanne E

    09/22/2011

    Yes I do and it is exactly the same sewing machine that you posted above. I also received mine from my grandmother.

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  12. Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles

    09/28/2011

    I just love this post, Andrea. Everything about it. You have a small box, big on memories. I LOVE that you have your grandpa’s war sewing kit, wow! I see this sewing box getting passed on to your little sweetie-on-the-way. :)

    I have a dining room set and an old 50′s diner set from my grandparents, that I’ve updated with either paint or upholstery. I just love to sit at them. My mom’s mom has been so good with handing things down to me & I have alot of smaller things, too, as she knows that I appreciate and care for them. One of my biggest treasures is a very tall canning jar that Grandma layered harvested crops (soybeans, corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, flax, etc.) from Grandpa’s farming. It’s like a rainbow of his work life.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds lovely Brenda — and with all the time you probably spend in the kitchen, I’m sure you see that canning jar several times each day!

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  13. Jen

    08/22/2012

    What a treasure!

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  14. Jodi

    10/26/2012

    I have a box just like yours sitting in my art room. It’s blue and I never knew what it was originally used for. It was given to me by my mom’s old friend. She had macrame beads stored in it. Years ago she gave me her old box because she knew that I loved to get crafty. Well, I’ve kept the box ever since! I love your box too!!

    [Reply]

  15. Jodi

    10/26/2012

    I also own a very old 1970′s sewing machine my self. It’s very similar to yours. My mom doesn’t sew but I do. My grandma also sews as well. I love my sewing machine and I would never trade it in for anything else. Sewing machines are made cheaply nowadays and I think metal sewing machines are the best. They last longer than plastic ones. I have a hard time getting rid of things sometimes too. When something has meaning to me, I do keep it and put it on display.

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  16. Jen

    12/17/2012

    I thought I had read every post in your archives, but somehow I just saw this one tonight. Crazy timing, as I just got my first sewing machine—a (newly serviced) hand-me-down from my mother-in-law! She set me up with everything I need to begin very basic projects and I’m SO excited. This post made me even more excited to pick a project and go to Jo Ann’s for fabric!

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