The Notion of Notions

By Clinton J. Holloway


As sewing moved from the strictly utilitarian function to a matter of fashion, the notion of notions entered the picture. What are notions? Buttons, baubles, lace, colored thread embellishments of all sorts, items that could be added to turn a functional piece of clothing to a garment of fashion. Today, vintage notions are sought by seamstresses and crafters to spruce up modern pieces and as collector items for those who appreciate the beauty, craftsmanship and durability of historic items.  


Booth W-412, Tennessee Treasures, recently put several lots of notions on display. They are all under $10 and include vintage scissors, buttons and wooden spools; the booth also features quilt squares and doilies, all under $20. Booth 311 has jars of old buttons for $8.50, reminiscent of the days in which every house had a button jar; Grandma saved them all to be reused.


Booth 311 also has a great 1930s figural stork pin cushion, made in Japan, for $12 (photo, above right). Most often these pin cushions are today found without their original excelsior stuffing and thus are often mistaken for toothpick holders or ashtrays. Booth 209, in addition to many great examples of handwork and vintage fabrics, features baskets of patterns ($1-$2), buttons ($1 and up) and lace trimmings ($4.50-$7.50). 


Sewing baskets are another great collectible. Almost any basket on hand was utilized for a sewing basket, as a trip around the malls will show. At the moment, Booth 317 offers one for $15 with a 20% discount. RaRa’s in Too (T-191) has a stunning red quilted plastic sewing box with drawers, fully stocked, for only $45.


S-544, in the original GasLamp Antiques Mall, has a nice wooden sewing box on legs for $45 and an absolutely gorgeous pair of giant wooden scissors for $75. These scissors would certainly be a great decorator piece in any sewing room and will illicit many comments, guaranteed! Speaking of a dramatic decorator piece, Booth 101’s mannequin is ready as a dress form or to show off your antique couture.


Vintage thread may not be useable for many sewing projects today, but it has a great look and the spool it came on is equally desirable. One hundred years ago empty spools once used by home seamstresses were given to children, who used them to make wheels for toys and stacking blocks.


Industrial size spools or bobbins have been repurposed for many things, including candle holders. Southern Junk Chic, Booth 303, offers three of these industrial wooden spools for $18. Booth 113 has smaller examples for $3. T-271 has two large examples, in a hot turquoise color, for $17; each has smaller bobbins at $8 and $12. These are nestled among big balls of wool ready to be knitted into a chic scarf (or wound on a spool!) for $8 each.


If you take a notion to look for vintage notions at GasLamp and GasLamp Too, your efforts will be rewarded. You’ll be “sew” glad you did!                  


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