Sewing was an important part of the life of a woman during the 17th and 18th centuries. There was no sewing machine; everything was hand-stitched.
Iron “grippers” were sometimes used to hold one end of the fabric while it was hemmed or embroidered. An improvement, the first “sewing bird,” was invented by Charles Waterman in 1853. It was made of brass, iron or, later, steel. The tool was clamped to a table, and the bird held the fabric taut. It acted like an extra hand.
Improvements were added to this sewing tool, including emery balls to sharpen needles, spool holders, drawers, winding reels for thread, pincushions, thread cutters and clamps made in fancy shapes such as dogs, snakes, cherubs or dolphins. Variations of the sewing tool continued to be made by Singer Sewing Machine Co. until the 1980s.
The sewing machine was invented in 1854, but it took many years to sell enough machines, so the sewing bird was no longer necessary. Copies are made today mainly for collectors or as decorations.
Early sewing birds were sometimes given as love tokens. The groom-to-be gave a sewing bird to his future bride long before the wedding so she would think of him while she sewed her trousseau. An elaborate 18th-century sewing bird made of brass and iron sold at a Skinner auction in 2016 for $1,046. It had a feathered bird and a pincushion.
Q. How much is a Chanel tortoiseshell purse with gold chain strap worth? It’s stamped with the CC logo and “France 1997.” Sites online say it was a limited edition created by Karl Lagerfeld and rare. I’ve found high prices online, but I’m not sure how accurate they are. I have one in very good condition.
A. This box-shape tortoiseshell purse was part of Chanel’s 1997 Autumn/Winter collection. Karl Lagerfeld is the head designer at Chanel, as well as at Fendi, and has his own label. These bags were made for Chanel’s 1997 Autumn/Winter collection and are hard to find since only a limited number were made. The tortoiseshell purse sells for $3,500 to $4,500, depending on its condition.
Q. My grandmother gave me a tall coffee pitcher. It’s one of the few pieces left from her best china set. The pitcher is 10 inches tall, is decorated with blue flowers and green leaves and gold trim. The rim and base are scalloped. The bottom is marked “Haviland France” in green and “Haviland Limoges” in red. Is it worth anything?
A. Your Haviland is not a coffee pot. It’s a chocolate pot, designed to serve hot chocolate. Chocolate pots are taller and more slender than coffee pots, which are usually squat. They were most popular during the Victorian era. The Haviland brothers of New York City were importers of china, mostly from England. They moved to France to open a factory in Limoges, which was noted for its high-quality porcelain. Haviland china has been made in Limoges since 1842. Your chocolate pot has the “Ranson” shape, named after Paul Ranson, a factory employee who designed it. Ranson worked at the factory from 1890 to 1893. Ranson shapes were decorated with floral designs and were made until the French factory closed in 1931. The marks on your chocolate pot were used by Haviland from 1893 until 1926, so your pot was made during that time. It’s worth about $100 to $200.
Q. I’m downsizing and want to sell my dining-room furniture. It’s made of maple and is marked “A genuine Cushman Colonial Creation made in Bennington, Vermont.” I have a table with two leaves, hutch, six chairs and a wet sink. How much do you think I can get at a sale?
A. The H.T. Cushman Manufacturing Co. was in business in North Bennington, Vt., from 1892 to 1971, when it was bought by Green Mountain Furniture. The company was founded by Henry Theodore Cushman. The furniture probably won’t sell in antiques sales, but a house or garage sale could be good. You should get about one-third the price of comparable new furniture if your set is in great condition.
Q. I have a two- bladed pocket knife I think is quite old. It’s marked “Solingen, Germany” on one side of the blade and “Arnex, stainless” on the other side. Both side panels are embossed with three heads of racehorses, horseshoes and riding crops. My late wife worked for a horse farm owner who gave it to her for me. Is it worth keeping?
A. Solingen, Germany, is known as the “City of Blades.” It has been the center of knife-making in Germany since the Middle Ages and home to several manufacturers of knives, swords and cutlery. Arnex was in business in Solingen from about 1920 to 1940. Some pocket knives made by Arnex have handles decorated with animals, sports, trains, zeppelins and other themes. The value of your pocket knife is under $25.
Store photographs flat, in acid-free albums.
Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
2016 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.