Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Gaskella’s Midweek Miscellany #13

Rather than give you a Midweek Miscellany about books today, I’d like to share with you a few of the things I’ve found while sorting through my late Mum’s stuff. Don’t worry, I’m not getting morbid, these are curiousities and things of happy memories.

Firstly, this is an unopened packet of sandwich mats!  Doilies shaped to fit those rectangular plates people used to have for presenting sandwiches on – quartered on the diagonals, crusts facing down, all regimented in a neat row on a special plate.

Does anyone apart from my mother-in-law, who has the appropriate crockery and cutlery for absolutely any need, still use a sandwich plate?  Can you still buy them even?  But most importantly, would you use a mat under the sandwiches?  I’ve not found a sandwich plate in my Mum’s cupboards, so maybe this is why this packet was found in the back of a wardrobe!

But now to turn to something that brings back many happy memories…

My Mum’s sewing box contains a cornucopia of riches.  For a start it’s one of those 1960s plastic coated paper woven boxes, with cushions inside the lid for needles and pins.  The contents are wonderful:

In the front of the photo are cards of thread for mending your nylons – from the days back when nylon stockings were luxury items and couldn’t just be thrown away.  The colours are more subtle than the later disposable tights – not a hint of ‘American Tan’ there! 

There are lots of packs of bias binding too.  The only place I’ve encountered it used lately is on the hems of my other half’s dress trousers.  Given the quantity of different shades and widths in her box, she used it rather more widely.  There are also cards of darning wool for socks, enough hooks and eyes and poppers (metal press studs) to last a lifetime.

Then there are the tins.  An elastoplast plasters tin full of pins, and oodles of buttons – in assorted old tins from car travel sweets, and strepsils for sore throats in the pic, plus there were more tins from the festival of Britain in 1951 and some Irish toffees full of buttons too.  I loved playing with all the buttons as a child.   There are also assorted needles, crochet hooks, unpickers, a few zips and lots of odds and ends that may or not be useful one day.  Add to that a another big box crammed with a rainbow of reels of Sylko thread, and I’m very well equipped for the future. 

By the way, I can sew – just in case you were wondering. Although I don’t do quilting or cross-stitch, I’m a whizz with blanket stitch, ribbons and beads. Before I started blogging, I made pocket-money crafting embroidered felt Christmas decorations (see right). However they’re too labour intensive to make any real money, so I gave up spending every evening sewing Christmas things in spring through to autumn to have enough stock for later in the year.  I still make them for presents, and on request though.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back with more curiousities from my Mum’s cupboards soon – she has some interesting kitchen gadgets.  Back to books next post!


  1. What period pieces in that sewing box! I can’t wait to see the kitchen gadgets that you unearth!

  2. I had similar experiences clearing my Mum’s house out.
    I knew she was a hoarder, a trait she has passed on I’m afraid, so I knew that it was never going to be a quick job but it still took me the best part of two weeks !

    I found button boxes, though from the age of the tins (one had pictures of the Queen and Princess Margaret as very young girls on the lid!) I suspect that they had belonged to my Granny originally, but the only kitchen gadget was the sort of old fashioned mincer that had to be clamped to the edge of a table to use!
    Lots of lovely china and pottery though, which is one of my passions, including a china coffee set which she and my Dad received as a wedding present in 1950 and never used.
    I just wish I had room for a huge dresser to display a lot of the things as it is such a shame to have to store them away in cupboards again!

    • They did make lovely tins in those days didn’t they. My Mum was a gadget freak, so she has virtually the whole of the Lakeland catalogue in there somewhere, but also some lovely old things of which more another day!

  3. We had a similar thing going through my nans stuff from hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of little shampoo bottles she had taken from from various hotels around the world to every TV licence she had ever brought.

    I love the sewing box and love all those buttons.

    • … and the soaps and hotel writing paper, plus clippings, clippings and more clippings – it goes on and on doesn’t it. Of course I’m missing my Mum hugely, but I can’t help being fascinated by her bits and bobs.

  4. I hae to say its fascinating the trinkets you can find. I remember going through all of the stuff of my great grandma and grandpa and the things we found were incredible.

  5. I love how sewing boxes become a little time capsule – my mother’s button jar contained some buttons I can remember from my childhood outfits.

    But we never had a sandwich plate!

  6. I just about fell off the keyboard when I saw what your Mum had in her sewing box. My Mum has the exact same Strepsil tin in her sewing box and I can still rememer digging in to all her bits and pieces when I was a girl. My girls still find the same joy that I did by asking Mum about the different buttons. It has made me feel rather nostalgic and a bit slack for not having a proper assortment of odds and ends.

    • Hi Robyn! Tins of buttons and stuff are magical to children aren’t they. Juliet is fascinated by all the bits too. She was overjoyed at finding a zip and now wants to sew a pencil-case! I used to spend hours sorting out the buttons as a child, then putting them all back and doing it again another day.

      My Mum also had a tin of shells her aunt brought back from South Africa – I’m hoping to find them sometime soon, as they were even more magic than the buttons…

  7. Ah! I remember so well those enchanting days of sorting through the button tin. My mum’s collection was very similar to yours – including the thread for stitching ladders in stockings, the hooks and eyes etc. Did she also have any knicker elastic? That was essential years ago!

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