Sewing basket


Categories Threads
Theme(s) Arts and crafts
Collection Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) Object Collection
Object number 67/81/1-2
  • Description

Made in Orkney, this straw coil-type basket was used to store sewing supplies. Scorch marks are visible within the basket, which is evidence of the basket being ‘toasted’ to remove protrusions of twine and straw from the inside.

A straw sewing basket such as this would have been much more common in remote, rural areas, as the techniques used are reminiscent of baskets historically used in farming tasks. This suggests that rural people would have been less likely to own a sewing machine, principally in the nineteenth century, when many such machines would have come with their own sewing box to store accessories such as buttons and needles.

Before the age of radio and TV advertising, sewing machines would have been sold door to door, and sending these salespeople into the countryside would have been an inefficient marketing strategy. Sewing machines did eventually catch on in the countryside, particularly when mains electricity became ubiquitous around the UK. By this time, the craft of making sewing baskets would have diminished significantly.