An Occasional Stitch in Time – Teresa’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Yup…tea tins


Maybe your first thought on seeing the picture above is to wonder what a couple of old tea tins have got to do with any kind of stitch in time…

Fair enough. Another anomaly, if you know me, is that I don’t drink tea. I was 11 years old when I finally stamped my little foot and told my mum and dad that I hated tea and would never drink the stuff again. Nor have I. To be honest, I don’t even like filling the teabag caddy for my husband, so utterly do I loathe the smell.

I am a coffee girl through and through.

The tins pictured above I originally thought came to me from my late husband’s mother, now long departed. However, my current husband assures me they are his, even if I have appropriated them for my own purposes…

I would say that regardless of where they came from, the tins have a look of the 1950s about them, but don’t quote me on that, tin collecting and dating is very specialised and something I know absolutely nothing about – although come to think of it, I remember tins like the oriental styled one on the left being in use when I was growing up in the sixties.

Anyway, sewing, let’s get back to sewing.

My mother couldn’t sew, not to save her life. In fact she did such a terrible job of stitching the name tags into my school blazer that I told everyone that I’d done it, somehow that was less embarrassing than letting them think those childish criss-cross stitches belonged to my mum!

Strange that I was willing to be mocked in her stead, because I liked sewing as a child and spent many happy hours stitching together the colourful fabric off-cuts given to me by a neighbour.

Yes, this is the sewing machine I used as a child – maybe 7 or 8 years old

In the 1970s, newly married and strapped for cash having just bought our first home, I discovered a liking for better quality clothes than I could afford. My mother-in-law of the time (the one I originally thought passed on the tins, before my husband put me right 🙂 ) trained as a seamstress so, with her in the wings should I get into trouble, I started making my own clothes.

Quite early on I made this fully-reversable cape. It was a challenge but I loved it. In fact the first time I wore it out (Christmas shopping in Bury St. Edmunds) a complete stranger stopped me in the street to ask where I’d bought it because he really wanted to buy one for his wife…

Yes, this is the very pattern – well, not the actual one, that disappeared years ago, but this is the  cape…

Alas, as is my nature, by the mid-eighties I was in the grip of a new enthusiasm (antiques) and so the sewing was put aside.

The years ticked by, then in 2010 David proposed. Hmmmm I thought, this time round I want a more interesting wedding dress, I think I’ll go for gold and crimson. I went off to search the dress patterns again and made my choice. I’d not done any dressmaking for well over 20 years and I had never done any boning – so I chose the pattern that had a boned bodice, that was sensible, wasn’t it?


Here we are, signing the register – and no, I didn’t make David’s outfit!


I know, I know, I started talking about tins then wandered off into the realms of the sewing bee. That’s because these days the tins are stuffed to the gills with sewing paraphanalia: scraps of lace and ribbon, buttons and thread and who knows what else I’ll find when I dig down to the bottom.

Every time I look at them, I experience a little pulse of joy.

Because I do have some dressmaking plans, although what with writing blogs and novels and my counselling work, those plans get pushed aside, but when I see the tins sitting on the shelf, I know that one of these days, I will revive this sleeping skill.

  1. Victoria Osborne-Broad

    We have a tin identical to the one on the left. It used to belong to David’s mother – my David that is, not yours. I think she was born around 1910 but I don’t know when she acquired the tin.

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