The skill of sewing with a needle and thread was required in the centuries before the sewing machine was invented. A machine, probably the first, was used in England in 1715, and another was patented in 1844. But the Elias Howe (1845) and Isaac Singer (1851) machines were the ones that gained fame and sold by the thousands. Women were expected to hand-embroider monograms on bedding and towels, cut and sew parts of a dress properly, and be able to mend. The mistress of the house was expected to sew in the evening, and equipment and fabrics were stored in a table in the living room near a warm fireplace. The wealthy of the 19th century had tools, scissors, bobbins, tape measures, thimbles and more made of gold or silver, stored in a fancy case. Twentieth-century housewives had metal or plastic tools and a sewing machine.
At a January Theriault’s sale, a collection of sewing utensils brought high prices. A tape measure shaped like a sewing machine sold for $504. An English silver piglet topped by a purple velvet pincushion sold for $224. And a cash-metal thimble with brass finish sold for $112. Look in grandma’s sewing basket or junk drawer. There may be sewing treasures hidden in a corner.
Q: I have a pottery casserole dish stamped with a Wilkinson Royal Staffordshire mark. I think the casserole dates to the 1890s from what I have learned about the mark. It has a gold-colored pattern around the edge of the base and lid. I’m wondering what it’s worth.
A: Arthur J. Wilkinson took over the Royal Staffordshire Pottery in Burslem, England, in 1885. The company, known as A.J. Wilkinson, Ltd., continued to operate for more than a century. Some Royal Staffordshire casseroles, even from the 1890s, sell for under $20. Others sell for prices in the hundreds.
Q: My mother bought a rocker at a Goodwill store in the 1960s for about $10. When we brought it home, Dad found a crest and date under the seat. It says “S. Bent & Bros., Inc., Gardner, Mass., 1867.” It’s still sturdy, although the arms have been imperceptibly braced where they meet the seat and the paint is worn down where the hands rest. Can you tell me something about the maker and an approximate value?
A: S. Bent & Bros. was founded in 1867 by Samuel, Charles and Roderic Bent. The company made Colonial-style furniture. The company closed in 2001. The furniture was mass-produced and a rocker sells for about $50 to $75 today.