Silk winders – vintage & modern

Silk winders are now very collectable, particularly the mother-of-pearl varieties. The most famous and sought-after are come from Palais Royal sewing boxes.

As with all things stitchy, I do love to collect little silk winders and have just recently had a range made for me (that does sound rather grown up, doesn’t it?) More of this later. 

Silk winders are now very collectable, particularly the mother-of-pearl varieties shown. The most famous and sought-after are winders that came from Palais Royal sewing boxes, originating in Paris during the eighteenth century. (‘Palais Royal’ refers to an area in Paris around the Royal Palace that specialised in producing elaborate works of art on a miniature scale.) These boxes were full of exquisite mother-of-pearl tools, sometimes with an added enamel pansy by way of a signature. The three mother-of-pearl silk winders pictured would have been from a very good quality sewing box, if not a Palais Royal example. As you can imagine, many of the tools have been split from their sets over time. If you – or hopefully me! ­– were to discover a complete one, it would fetch a very high price indeed.

Winders may be made of all sorts of material other than mother-of-pearl including ivory, steel, glass, wood and even straw-work. The examples in the picture are very collectable as they are in very good condition and generally known as ‘snowflakes’ for obvious reasons. 

To carry on the tradition, I have researched and commissioned my own set of winders. I asked the very clever Ethan Danielson to draw up some shapes for me (traditional but with a little bit of a twist), then I set about finding a supplier of lovely ‘faux ivory’ material which can be cut and polished in the same way as ivory. With help from Lynn Walsh of History Craft and her amazing laser cutting machine, I now have a small collection of silk winders which are both useful and very decorative. And, of course, I want to share them.

It was tough to decide which shapes to have made into winders. I have settled on two trios ­–  the ‘Snowflake Trio’ and ‘Whimsy Trio’, all based on research and of course, hunting around in shops for inspiration! 

I can’t provide a Palais Royale box to keep them in, but I have enjoyed making small linen bags to keep the winders safe. After a little experimentation with a wonderfully slubby vintage linen sheet, I made neat little bags that tie with a ribbon and stamped them with a lovely faded version of my logo. No two bags are quite the same size but that is a benefit of them being handmade. (Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…) 

I do hope you like my silk winders and will want to add them to your treasures. 

Other Jottings  you might enjoy…

And down came the trellis

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Over the last week, Bill and I have tidied up after the chaos. My reward was a visit to Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.