Print Friendly and PDF With Strings Attached: Tales in a tin

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tales in a tin

I dropped off a box of “miscellaneous household goods” at the back of the Zion Salvation Army store – and then I drove around to the front entrance and went in to see if there was anything interesting.  There was!   

This 13” tin was marked $1.54. From the artwork on the lid I estimated that it dates from the early 1960’s. I shook it – it rattled. Buttons?   I took a peek, and decided the tin needed to go home with me. 

At home I found that the Scotch tape canister had loose buttons, many with thread attached (taken off garments to discard). The plastic Corina cigar box had corroded straight pins and an aluminum thimble with the message, “Star Cleaners HUMboldt 9321.” There were spools of thread, cards of buttons, and “extra button” packets. (How many of us are able to find that spare, matching button when it’s needed? How many of those little button packets are in our button boxes, the garments they accompanied long gone?)

Why would a made-in-Germany needle threader be called Witch?  
The Service Button bag held….buttons, one of which appeared to be from a Navy uniform.


Apparently her family's zippers never broke because these fancy “magic dial” zipper pulls were never used.   

I imagine  the woman who owned this tin.  Perhaps the tin came filled with cookies one Christmas.  She thriftily cut buttons from old clothing. She was prepared to mend (the cards of snap fasteners are partially used, even if the zipper kit wasn’t).  There was at least one Navy man in the family.  In my story she passed away in 2013 at a ripe old age. Her children didn’t need much that was in the house and the grandchildren took what they liked.  The sewing tin was among the leftovers given to the Salvation Army.      

I’m sure I’ll eventually add some of her buttons to my collection (which is stored in practical transparent, rectangular plastic boxes rather than opaque, round tins).  But for the time being I’ll keep the tin intact – and embellish my story about the woman who filled it.


  1. Your posting reminded me of my mother and grandmother's sewing boxes. Also good to read that you were in Zion. I met a lady today at the 150th anniversary of my husband's home congregation. She and I both grew up in the Milwaukee-Racine area and traveled with our parents to Zion for oleo. Thanks for all your great postints and today for the memories you stirred.

  2. i love finding old sewing boxes!! what a great find!! it's like finding a small time capsule. i like to look at the prices..

    but i have to issue a small word of caution- a friend found an old sewing box at a garage sale and accidentally poked her finger with a rusty, corroded needle while going thru it at home. she got a horrible infection that required a lengthy hospital stay....she got better but it took along time to clear the infection out of her system.

    i immediately throw out any loose needles and pins...i only keep needles that are still on their cards....

  3. We sewists are historically a thrifty lot, what a wonderful treasure! Think of the activities her children had, playing with the tin of goodies ~


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