A Seamstress’ Bird of Paradise: The Antique Sewing Bird

The Allure of the Sewing Bird

The Allure of the Sewing Bird

When you’re on your honeymoon,you might be thinking of the birds and the bees, right?  Well, the birds at least, took on a whole new meaning when Bill and I were traveling in New England on a honeymoon trip.  In a lovely old antique store, under the rosy-colored glow that only a honeymoon can bring, I fell in love with sewing birds.

“What the heck is that?” you may ask.  According to Monmouth Museum, the home of the largest collection of antique sewing birds, a sewing bird is a figure usually made of wood or iron that has a “thumbscrew to which a vise or clamp is added, topped by a bird-like figure.   Pressing on the hinged tail of the bird opens its beak, which when released, clamps down to grip the fabric placed there.” A sewing bird held fabric to a table so a seamstress could hold it taut with one hand and stitch it with the other.   (http://monmouthmuseum.org/sewingbirds.html

Sewing birds were also called “grippers,” and were widely used in American in the mid 1800’s.  The decorative, but practical tools were often given by a fiancé to his betrothed several months before the wedding since she would be creating her trousseau at that time.

With the advent of the sewing machine and the ability of Walter Singer to bring sewing machines door-to-door to the masses, sewing birds fell out of favor.

But not with me.  Sewing birds are still my all-time favorite notion.  Highly collectible and hard to find, those old birds are out there somewhere.  Check your attic.  Go through your grandmother’s trunk.  Take a honeymoon trip.  (Who says you have to be newly married?)  If you’re lucky, you’ll find a bird of sewing paradise.


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