My great great grandma's awesome stash

Back from our holidays. We enjoyed incredible thunder storms and didn’t enjoy the many, many flies. I am glad to be away from the spiders and the mouse poo that mysteriously appeared every morning, but miss the night time frogs, the morning kookaburras, the cheeky horse out the window and the kind ladies in the post office who were so helpful when I took the odd order of christmas cards down to mail. It took Amelia about four days to settle in and to stop being incredibly frustrating in that frustrated-toddler way. Once she got into the groove, she started to smile and play happily and run through the garden in the late afternoon screaming at the top of her lungs into the wind just for fun. She loved all the animals and was particularly keen on the puppies but couldn’t stand going out in the heat of the day because of the flies that insisted on buzzing around her face. I have a very keen memory of her standing in chin high dry grass in the paddock behind the house in her funny little sun hat bawling as the flies hung around her in a huge cloud. They were so annoying.
I hit a bit of a jackpot. Mum had mentioned that there was a fair amount of thread, fabric, buttons, lace and other miscellaneous bits and pieces in the back sleep-out which had been shut up in cupboards for years and years. So I went for an investigate and apart from having to dash from the room from time to time due to a black spider emerging from some nook or cranny, I discovered a cornucopia of embroidery thread – I guess because my great great grandmother lived out in this house in the country and would probably have only visited the city occasionally she must have stocked up on her threads. And boy did she stock up! Instead of one or two hanks of white she has a whole three boxes of white DMC thread – want blue? There are about 15 shades of blue to choose from. And she also used a lot of very fine, beautifully glossy silk thread – which there is less of but still enough to use here and there. It all smells quite musty so I am going to hang it all out in the sun to see if that will help — otherwise I might have to gently wash it which scares me a little.

There was also a few useful bits of fabric, cards of ribbon, buttons and lace but an added bonus was stumbling upon a huge box of exquisite iron on transfer patterns for embroidery from the 1920s and 30s. Ah wow! There is enough there to keep me going for the rest of my life. While not quite as hip as the stuff that Jenny Hart produces and while a lot of it is useless and rubbishy some of it is elegant, some of it is beautiful in it’s simplicity and some of it is fabulous in all it’s tackiness. I felt truly lucky to have found my own Aladdin’s cave out there. I want to use some of the threads to make two cushions – one for Amelia and one for my little nephew James. I think they might treasure these cushions in years to come knowing that the threads came from their great great great grandmother’s stash.

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22 Responses

  1. says:

    That is such a treasure trove. I cannot wait to see some of the transfers.

  2. Ah, lucky you – things like that doesn’t happen often, but when they do, you can live on them for a loooong time and smile about it! 🙂
    Take care!

  3. What a lovely find! I think the idea of making the cushions is a very good idea. I am very curious about the transfers… will we get a sneek-peek at some stage?

  4. You should have no problems washing these threads just run under warm water and dry outside and they will freshen. Lucky find!
    By the way thanks for the great blog

  5. Wow, that is so incredible! Lucky you! That’s awesome that it was not only free but that it has some special meaning, too.
    When it comes to musty fiber, I’ve never risked washing but I’ve had a lot of success with laying it in the sun. Afterward I keep the once-musty stuff separate from the new stuff, since if there’s any mold or mildew remaining I don’t want it to spread.

  6. says:

    I wish I owned anything of my g.g grandmother’s,how lovely.You ought to make something heirloomish for your daughter with it.Do not put the threads in the sun as they will lose there colour.

  7. What a lovely Christmas gift for you from your great-great-grandmother! I’ve sent off the Xmas cards I bought from you and everyone here in the Netherlands loves them!

  8. says:

    Welcome back, Claire. I managed to get addicted to your blog over the last week and need my fix. (scary, no?)Unfortunately I’ve also managed to get addicted to some other blogs too, although I’m trying to be really discriminating and only read the best – life’s short after all.
    BTW: When I was about 8 I discovered this hoard of needlework treasures in an old white, paint peeled wardrobe at my Nana’s house. I wasn’t interested at the time in keeping any of the goodies, but to this day I carry the love of mothball scent with me.
    Must go now and turn on the Christmas lights for my son to ooh and ah over.

  9. says:

    I don’t know if you have febreeze in AUS (here in the states it’s a spray bottle of liquid that gets all odors out of fabric without harming it), but if you have something similar I know that will help.
    Good Luck!

  10. says:

    I’m a lurker….peeping in to say “Place a white Downey dryer sheet in each box/bag of thread.” Do not wash unless that doesn’t work.

  11. Could you freeze the threads (kill any latent spores if they are there)? If your climate is dry it shouldn’t be as big a problem as it would here (very humid in the summer). The treasure trove sounds awesome!

  12. says:

    ooh, I just had a thought about getting rid of the musty smell.You could always try popping them in a bag with some bicarb – soda. That’s supossed to be really good for getting rid of odours.

  13. What a lucky lady…and you can use them on your softies and dollies!

  14. says:

    When I come across a really tough odor, I plop whatever it is that smells into an air tight container with some activated charcoal (it’s for fish tanks). So far, it has a perfect track record. Although the next musty thing I stumble onto is going into the freezer, just because it sounds like fun.
    Congrats on the find! If I ever came across my gr-gr-grandmother’s stash, I would probably fall over dead from the excitement.

  15. Ah, your a lucky girl finding all that beautiful stuff. When my grandmother died I received all of her embroidery threads and some very old books with patterns. Still have some of the threads left and I take special care of the little books, not because they have very special embroidery-patterns but simply because of the idea se used them for her work.

  16. Glad you are back Claire, we missed you!

  17. I often dye my own embroidery floss and this is what I would suggest in order to clean them. I would get a StitchBow ™ Floss Holder, made by DMC. Stretch the wound floss around the stitch bow and soak. Don’t agitate.I barely agitate, I sometimes need to rewind, but rarely and only do it when I need a calming, dead brained thing to do.

  18. Wow! What a find!
    Careful of old thread though…I had some even from my Mom’s younger days and they dry-rotted in the heat. Make sure to test them well!

  19. That is a RAD stash, lucky you!

  20. says:

    No such thing as rubish Textiles =)You can make the smallest of scraps into the most lovely objects – with Easter coming you could wrap blown out eggs and set in some of your drawings as little presents. Very sweet!
    In the shop we take a large paper bag and fill it with lavender and small cedar blocks and set the textiles we want to “freshen” in the bag. Then Shake but not stir and leave for a few days and the musties seem to vanish.
    Baking Soda works in the same fashion with whites.
    The direct sun can bleach out any organic colors but works so well on whites.
    What a wonderful trip story and treasure!!

  21. claire, your encounter with this stash of yore is way cool! i had a similar experience just a few weeks back when i opened a trunk that’s been laying around for sometime and found cases of crochet thread and vintage fabrics left by my great-grandmother.
    i did not, however, find any iron transfers. wow! have fun with those!

  22. long time reader, first time commenter! :)when i got married, i inherited my grandmother’s sewing box and also discovered a treasure trove of little goodies. the best part is, she is 102 and alive to tell the stories! gorgeous buttons, a leather needle book, perfectly sharpened scissors . . . isn’t it great to come across these finds, but also have them be sentimental?