What’s In The Box? – A Sunday Quiz

Everybody loves a box, don’t they?  It’s so intriguing to lift the lid and see what’s inside.

Antique Sewing Box

I spotted this lovely wooden box with inlay veneer – I think the wood is burr walnut – and once I opened the lid and looked inside – I just couldn’t resist it.


I think it’s quite rare to find one of these sets in good condition and also with all the original tools inside.  Love the padded lid with the bevelled mirror – what’s the idea of  a mirror in a sewing box by the way?

Antique Sewing Box Tools

It needs a bit of a clean but, by and large, it’s in good nick considering its age which I’m guessing might be the 1930s perhaps, maybe a bit older.

As even I am not that old, I can’t identify some of the tools so, in case you don’t have anything better to do on a wintry Sunday, maybe you could help me.

I’ve numbered the tools in the photo below and have filled in the ones I already know – scissors anyone? 😉 – but some of them I have no idea.  I think those little spools are maybe boxwood and the tools themselves appear to be some sort of bone.

Any help to fill in the list below would be appreciated.


  1.  This is all metal with a hollow top that unscrews and a hollow tube inside – a retractable pencil?
  2.   A flat tool with cut out shapes at either end – one slightly wider than the other – and a slit at each end.
  3.   A pointy thing that looks like a little awl.
  4.   A pointy thing with a tiny hook at the end.
  5.   A thimble   (there are no flies on me)
  6.   Scissors  (I’m getting good at this!)
  7.   Needle Holder
  8.  Scissors
  9.  Flat tool with one pointed end and one rounded with a slot.
  10.   A little hook – but what is the proper name/use
  11.   Mini Knitting Needles
  12.   A doubled oval shape which is open ended.
  13.   Bobbins/Spools

As you can tell, I don’t have many of these tools in my sewing box so although I’ve a vague notion of what some of the unidentified ones are for, I don’t know the proper name or the exact purpose.

By the way, the tray lifts out and there is a storage compartment beneath which holds some pieces of old lace .  Lace is something else I know nothing about so there might be another quiz next week 😉

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  1. #1 by cruisingblogger on January 8, 2017 - 12:49

    I think 12 is a tatting shuttle. The photo won’t enlarge for me, so don’t have a clear view of the others.

    • #2 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 13:11

      Yes! Have two votes now for a tatting shuttle. Thank you.

  2. #3 by claire93 on January 8, 2017 - 12:51

    what a lovely find.
    I think n° 12 is a thread winder, for darning thread.

    • #4 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 13:09

      Ooh! I have two votes for a tatting shuttle for no. 12 – no wonder I had no idea!!

      • #5 by claire93 on January 8, 2017 - 13:33

        now you mention it, it does look like a shuttle ^^

  3. #6 by cruisingblogger on January 8, 2017 - 12:53

    and I’m fairly sure number 10 is called a button hook.

    • #7 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 13:10

      That’s it! I sort of knew that one but didn’t want to commit.

  4. #8 by nanacathy2 on January 8, 2017 - 12:55

    Absolutely love love love your box.
    1 A needle case?
    2 A macrame tool?
    3 An awl for broderie anglais
    4 a gadget for lacing?
    I am going to have a look through some old books. What a fascinating box. Perfect winters day project.

    • #9 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 13:12

      It’s fun isn’t it!

  5. #10 by katechiconi on January 8, 2017 - 13:04

    Here’s the ones I know: 2. A ‘toothbrush’ needle for making rag rugs. 3. It is indeed an awl, originally used for punching through the round end of a handmade buttonhole, but I’d be using it to hold my fabric edges together as they pass under the sewing machine foot. 4. Hook for crochet lace, using very fine cotton yarn (the Dowager uses one!). 9. Threading bodkin for feeding elastic through casing. 10. A button hook for old fashioned buttoned boots. 12. A tatting shuttle. I have a couple of those myself! Hope this helps.

    • #11 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 13:13

      Thanks Kate. I wondered about the threading doodah as it looks fit for purpose – it would come in hand actually rather than the safety pins I usually attach to each end of a piece of elastic.

  6. #12 by Heather Wadsworth on January 8, 2017 - 13:08

    All the ones I know have already been identified!! 3, 9, 10, 12 I agree with Kate.
    What a wonderful box.

    • #13 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:36

      I feel a bit embarrassed I didn’t know more of them straight off.

  7. #14 by PendleStitches on January 8, 2017 - 13:20

    What a delight! Such a thing of beauty…and not a little mystery.

    • #15 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:35

      It’s certainly given a few people something to think about today.

  8. #17 by nanacathy2 on January 8, 2017 - 13:29

    12 confirm from picture in book as a tatting shuttle.

  9. #18 by nanacathy2 on January 8, 2017 - 13:36

    Found this website-http://www.bleasdalesltd.co.uk/antique-sewing-tools/

    • #19 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:37

      That’s very interesting. What a great thing to collect – such lovely items and most of them small so not too space hungry.

  10. #20 by sewchet on January 8, 2017 - 14:19

    Ooh, what a find, and in such fantastic condition, too! I’d love to happen across something like this – i think I’d do a little dance of excitement:)

    • #21 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:38

      I think I might have done actually.:)

  11. #22 by Frivolous Monsters on January 8, 2017 - 16:40

    I see now you’ve had other suggestions, from knowledable people, but before that I did wonder if some of those were crochet tools. Is the little hook a Crochet Hook? And is Number 2 a Darning In Needle?

    • #23 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:44

      Apparently, the consensus of opinion is that the little hook is a buttton hook for doing up the buttons on your boots (imagine having to do that every morning!) – unless you mean the teeny tiny hook (no.4) which is indeed a crochet hook for very fine lace apparently and number 2 has been identified by somebody as a ‘toothbrush needle’ which is used for making rag rugs. It seems to be a box of tools for various sewing tasks.

  12. #24 by onecreativefamily on January 8, 2017 - 16:50

    12 is a tatting shuttle for making lace. 1. I think holds your needles (that is what my mother used hers for) 4. a darning tool (for darning socks)

    • #25 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:51

      I think we’ve definitely got the tattle shuttle identified now but number 1 is still a problem. It can’t hold needles as the screw on lid is also hollow so they would all fall out. I think number 7 is the needle case. It has been suggested that number 4 is a crochet hook for very fine lace. Thanks for joining in and all your suggestions.

      • #26 by onecreativefamily on January 8, 2017 - 19:46

        Just got to looking at Mom’s sewing kit and it is a hole punch for fine fabrics. Like linen to put a crocheted edging on. Remember the pillow cases with the crochet edges?

      • #27 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:41

        Aah, that would make sense as the hole on the outer tube is slightly larger than the one inside. Thanks for that 🙂

      • #28 by onecreativefamily on January 9, 2017 - 17:11

        How many more do you need? I will be going to quilting club tonight and some of the wonderful ladies are in their 80’s and older. I can pick some brains.

      • #29 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 18:48

        I think we might have them all – no.1 was outstanding but I think you solved that mystery. You could ask if they have any idea about how old it is as I’m not sure about that.
        Have a good evening!

      • #30 by onecreativefamily on January 9, 2017 - 19:58

        Okay, will do. Have a great day

      • #31 by onecreativefamily on January 11, 2017 - 04:43

        I found out that this may have been from the early 1900’s. Susie said she wasn’t real sure. Do you have Anitque Road show come to your area? if so take it to them.

      • #32 by tialys on January 12, 2017 - 10:43

        I think she’s probably not far off the mark. I think there is a version of the BBC show in France now but I don’t think it’s as big as it is in the U.K. – although it might explain why prices have gone up in the flea markets over the past couple of years 😉

      • #33 by onecreativefamily on January 12, 2017 - 16:40

        People know more, but not always take care of their items and want a lot because it is old or they saw one that brought a lot. My mother in law was like that, but sadly everything was in the basement and not cared for and got mold. We did get it cleaned up, and are cherishing them now. Your lucky to have found a great piece.

      • #34 by tialys on January 13, 2017 - 09:14

        It’s always sad to see items that have survived for years and were obviously once well cared for neglected in a dark and dusty corner somewhere. I like to rescue such things so they can be enjoyed again.

      • #35 by onecreativefamily on January 13, 2017 - 10:03

        Me too

  13. #36 by Thimberlina on January 8, 2017 - 18:41

    What treasure! I’ve no idea what anything is, except the thimble, scissors and knitting needles. Love reading your post and all the comments 😃

    • #37 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:47

      You’re as bad as me 🙂

      • #38 by Thimberlina on January 8, 2017 - 18:50

        I hope you’ve a flight booked to England for when the antique road show is next in tour! 😂

      • #39 by tialys on January 8, 2017 - 18:55

        Lordy! I’d have to practice my ‘surprised face’ or perhaps my ‘really, a thousand pounds?, well of course I’d never sell it anyway’ face.

      • #40 by Thimberlina on January 9, 2017 - 12:31

        Bit of a delayed ‘lol’, there was a lot more ‘lol’ ing when I read it to my hubby 😂😂😂

  14. #41 by magpiesue on January 8, 2017 - 20:23

    Are you sure those tools that look like bone aren’t ivory? If the kit is as old as it seems they could well be. What a treasure! I would definitely take to to Antiques Roadshow if you ever have the chance, if only to educate the rest of the world!

    • #42 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:40

      I think (almost hope, really) they are bone. When you look through a magnifying glass at them the surface is quite pitted and the pits have gone a bit brownish with age.

  15. #43 by Dartmoor Yarns on January 8, 2017 - 20:42

    Beautiful find. Of course I know nothing about what the contents are!

    • #44 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:39

      Perhaps you recognise that pair of longish pointy things with ‘buttonish’ endings? 😉

      • #45 by Dartmoor Yarns on January 9, 2017 - 18:19

        Ha ha! Yes, and if I think really hard I might be able to name the silver pointy things with two round circles at the other end and the small dimpled silver thing in the middle.

      • #46 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 18:46

        There you go you see! You knew as much as I did 😉

      • #47 by Dartmoor Yarns on January 9, 2017 - 19:15


  16. #48 by The Snail of Happiness on January 8, 2017 - 20:47

    Believe it or not, I have a pair of shoes with buttons and use a button hook to fasten them!

    • #49 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:38

      How interesting! Are they vintage?

      • #50 by The Snail of Happiness on January 9, 2017 - 15:52

        No, I bought them new about 20 years ago… they are smart, though, so I don’t wear them often now I work from home!

  17. #51 by sew2pro on January 8, 2017 - 23:49

    I love a mystery, me. What a great post to begin the year with. Just goes to show how much there’s still to learn.
    (but seriously, why the mirror?)

    • #52 by tialys on January 12, 2017 - 10:45

      If you read jendavismiller’s comment a bit further down you will see that my worst fears were confirmed.

  18. #53 by Pat T. on January 9, 2017 - 02:52

    Such a beautiful box! A treasure of a find!… Congratulations!!
    (It looks like the “tray” of items would lift up and out… Is there a storage space under it???)
    Thank you for sharing!
    Pat T.

    • #54 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:26

      Yes Pat, the tray lifts out and there is storage underneath which, at the moment, has some old lace in there which came with the box. Lace is something I know next to nothing about so I might photograph that and have another quiz 😉

  19. #55 by Pat T. on January 9, 2017 - 02:57

    (The little hole below/near #12 could have been a little “knob” or ribbon to act as a “lifter”/helper, to access a space below the items tray????)
    Love the mystery!
    Pat T.

    • #56 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:25

      Yes, I don’t even think I noticed that little hole at first but, when I did, my husband suggested the same thing and I think you are probably both right.

  20. #57 by anne54 on January 9, 2017 - 03:27

    What a treasure! I am so glad there are more knowledge people than me, because I only knew the obvious ones too! In my ignorance I am even wondering why there are two pairs of scissors. Does #6 have pointy ends for embroidery and #8 for more general cutting?

    • #58 by tialys on January 9, 2017 - 14:24

      Yes, the pointy ones would be for embroidery – not sure if the others have a specific use or would be just for more general usage as you suggest.

  21. #59 by dezertsuz on January 9, 2017 - 05:46

    Whatever they all are, it’s a wonderful box and set of tools. Closed, it’s a beauty to look at. I think you were smart to pick it up.

  22. #61 by jendavismiller on January 10, 2017 - 13:36

    Well, I knew the same ones you did (yay us! knowing about scissors) but I actually remember sewing boxes with mirrors and wondered at the time “why in the world is there a mirror in here?”. But now we can all know the answer – one must always be assured that one looks lovely while sewing. What if, for example, one’s hubby walks in the room? 😀 Check out these Singer Sewing rules from 1949, verified by Snopes:


    And this is the loveliest sewing box ever! It is truly a treasure.

    • #62 by tialys on January 10, 2017 - 14:09

      Do you know – I was going to suggest that. I remember tearing out a clip of something similar from a magazine and displayed it on the kitchen noticeboard which said something similar along the lines of, ‘apply fresh make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and pour him a drink to welcome your husband home from work.’ But I couldn’t quite believe it. If I put a ribbon in my hair he’d have me carted off to the local institution and rightly so. He might get a glass of wine though if the sun’s over the yardarm. I must ask my Mum – she was a young wife in the 50s – if she did such things. I know Dad always expected his dinner on the table as soon as he got home from work but I’m not sure she went down the fresh make up and ribbon route 😉

      • #63 by jendavismiller on January 10, 2017 - 16:30

        Haha! “…carted off to the local institution…” My mom was always coiffed and pressed, but I think that was just her way. I used to be coiffed and pressed, but now I’m lucky to be out of my jammies before noon. (well, not quite, but I do feel rather unkempt these days). Hair ribbons? Never!

      • #64 by sew2pro on January 15, 2017 - 19:52

        Well I don’t recall ever coming across “the sun’s over the yardarm” and thought at first you were referring to some kind of sundial you had outside (antique of course). Then I googled. Gosh it’s been fun!

  23. #65 by poshbirdy on January 10, 2017 - 15:15

    How gorgeous. I think you have answers as to what the tools are/do. What a lovely find though and a lovely exchange of comments (love the hair and make up tips etc!) x

  24. #66 by Born To Organize on January 11, 2017 - 02:07

    What a gorgeous box! I’m sorry I’ve missed all the fun of guessing. I would have only known the tatting shuttle, other than the most obvious (scissors and such). Wherever did you find that box? Did you say and I missed that somehow? It’s gorgeous.

    • #67 by tialys on January 12, 2017 - 10:40

      In a local Depot Vente – which is where people take things (usually vintage or antique things) they don’t want any longer or the results of a house clearance and the shop sells the stuff for a whopping 30% commission. More expensive than a flea market but you can find some good things from time to time.

      • #68 by Born To Organize on January 12, 2017 - 22:36

        It sounds like my kind of place. What a treasure.

        I see that my Etsy package is on the way. I’m so excited to see that too. Thank you.

  25. #69 by Anne on March 23, 2022 - 02:08

    #2 is actually a netting needle/shuttle for making hairnets/snoods, as well as netted purses and bags. An example of netting needles and gauges can be seen here https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/ornate-antique-carved-canton-netting-1728164951

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