Inside the Collection

Inspiration #1: craft sewing box

Collection: Powerhouse Museum
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Museum collections are inspiring.

They spark the desire to create. Sometimes inspiration ignites your imagination and sends it soaring off out into the stratosphere and back. Sometimes inspiration is the slow quiet kind which subtly seeps into daily life.

As the desire to create became more important in my life, so grew the desire to create my own sewing box. The years spent working with our collection had unconsciously shaped my ideas of this – a plastic box could never suffice.

There are many sewing boxes at the Powerhouse – fancy wooden cabinets with elegant shell inlays, small carved ivory cases, rough wicker baskets with bright fabric interiors.

Dolls house sewing kit. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

They are all so evocative. Personal, intimate containers of family history. They hold the fragments of off-cut material and scraps of trim too gorgeous to throw away. There is the spool of thread which brings to mind a favourite dress. There are the buttons, which despite good intentions were never sewn back on. Finally, somewhere there, under the tangle are the only pair of sewing scissors which ever feel just right. Those same special scissors you swore (and lied) to your mother that you hadn’t used to cut the cardboard for the school project

With such an influence my sewing box could never just be a box. It need to be something timeless. Something crafted with care. Something which would insinuate itself into my children’s childhood stories.

The inspiration for the materials and look was again the collection. Hours of my life have been spent in the textile store. I have stored away countless quantities of haberdashery items – cards of buttons, wooden spools with coloured thread and swatch books. I love these objects. I wanted the subdued elegance of men’s suiting samples with that quiet beauty of muted colours and obvious weave.

Photograph by Nicky Balmer

My sewing box pays homage to these. I chose a wool suit fabric from Tessuti’s off-cut bin and lined it with a man’s shirt salvaged from the markets. There are compartments for those scissors and buttons, a pocket for ‘notions’ and a sleeve in the back for the pattern of the moment. It is modest, quiet and bit wonky – it feels just right for me.

Photograph by Nicky Balmer

Finally, I must point out the pin cushion. Surely it is star item of any sewing box, so I thought carefully about this item too. Inspiration comes from many sources and I must admit that my pin cushion does not derive from our collection, but instead is very deliberately crafted after one on the craft blog I find the most inspirational – 6.5st. But that is another story…

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