Sunday, 18 November 2012

Spools - making do and mending

I woke up this morning with a childhood memory I needed to share - wooden cotton reels, which were found aplenty in my toy-box, once my mother had used up the thread. Two things stand out from this memory.

One - the culture of making do and mending. My mother knitted most of the woollen jumpers worn by my brother and myself, sewed a lot, by hand or else using a manual Singer sewing machine, which she still has. Clothing that wore through - including socks - would be darned. The relative cheapness and disposability of clothes these days has put an end to the need for darning; for darning, my mother would use Sylko cotton threads made by J. Dewhurst and Sons. Below: the very image I woke up with this morning! Isn't the internet a wonderful thing!

The reels would be affixed to the top of the sewing machine on a chromed rod, pushed through the centre. The  reels would also have on them a notch, which served to attach the end of the thread after sewing. My mother kept (and keeps!) threads in large wooden box on four legs that opens at the top; inside are pins, needles, scissors and all other accessories required for stitching, darning and mending.

Once the thread had been used up, the wooden spools were not thrown away - they turned up in the toy-box  and served alongside square wooden blocks of roughly the same size (painted red, blue, yellow and green) in the creation of buildings. Wooden columns to grace the frontage of castles and palaces, or bastions behind which plastic soldiers would hide.

Back in the 1960s, people were less throw-away than they are now. Plastic (the ideal material for cotton reels) was too expensive then, but by the 1970s it had supplanted wood. The latter is sought after by collectors!

1 comment:

scrapiana said...

There was a Ladybird Book (or possibly more than one...) published mid-twentieth century, featuring toys one could make from empty wooden thread spools. I agree that they are extremely redolent of childhood and mother's sewing box for anyone brought up at that time. I remember my own horror at the manufacturers' shift to lightweight, plastic spools (late '60s/early '70s), which seemed infinitely inferior. Anyway, I am a Sylko enthusiast and that's how I found - rather belatedly - this blog post. I've also been running a community sewing group in Bath, UK, since April 2012, imparting the almost forgotten delights of darning etc. It has proved surprisingly popular.