The One That Got Away: The Sewing Caddy

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Sometimes being practical is a bad idea.

Sometimes being frugal comes back to bite you.

Yesterday was such a day. I was practical and frugal and now . . . I am repenting.

It was Saturday—garage sale day. My mother and I went off on the byways of upstate New York, to see what treasures lurked.

Not too many treasures, as it turned out, but there was one . . .

In a driveway, in a small village, a beautiful sewing case.

I’ve written about these cases in the past. They were offered, apparently as a project from the Cooperative Extension, for men to make for their wives. I’ve seen probably 20 of these over the years and have ended up owning most of them, at least for a while, before passing them along to others.

This one, though, is the prettiest and most unusual I’ve ever seen.

The fabric on the outside is a wonderful winter scene, and in great condition.

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The inside, though, is what sets this apart. All of these cases were customized by the makers, probably with input from their wives. Some have pin cushions built in, or little drawers. Many have the jars with the lids attached to the box, to collect buttons and pins, and the nails to corral spools of thread.

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But never have I seen one with the fabulous decorative cutouts evident here. The words “This ‘N That,” the initials “LC,” and the shapes of scissors, large and small, were all carefully pierced into the wood.

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And all those pierced panels are constructed to tip out, on hinges, for easy access.

So, I looked at it and I drooled. I coveted it.

The practical persona sat on my shoulder and whispered, “You already own two pretty cases like this.”

The frugal persona asked the price . . . and offered $5 less.

The seller declined that offer.

And the third persona, known forever after as the bereft, disappointed one, walked away.

I got in my car. I drove away. And I haven’t stopped thinking about this treasure since.

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66 thoughts on “The One That Got Away: The Sewing Caddy

    • I hadn’t seen a box like this until about 10 years ago, at a garage sale, and the woman there told me it had been made from project instructions from the Cooperative Extension. That makes since to me, since every one I’ve seen has been similar but customized–all very cool.

  1. Out of curiosity……what was the asking price on this?? I’ve not been aware of such by-gone days projects! This is awesome!!!!!! And, yes, “this, too, shall pass” but not without a few moments of regret. I, also, know that feeling!!! LOL!

  2. A wonderful caddy!! I can just imagine the delight the lady” whom this was made for” had when she received with the caddy .. First with the lovely fabric .. Maybe even squealed with pleasure at the inside! Glad you took time to take pictures… the only thing is I feel your pain more sharply… Pssst, the sign of a good blog writer. 🙂

    • Thanks, Deb–I’m glad I took the photos, too, but they haunt me! I have two of these, one about the size of the photo in the photo and another, smaller one. They are very cleverly designed!

    • And if this one doesn’t, I do have two others and seem to see one or two of them a year, at garage sales. I really like the design of the little cabinets.

  3. What a wonderful piece of art. How very interesting. I have never seen one. You have amazing garage sales in your area.

  4. What a treasure! So hard to walk away but glad you took pictures…and then I think, did it sell, is it still there and torture myself even more.

    • If I hadn’t had firm plans, in the opposite direction from this sale, on Sunday, I’m sure I would’ve driven back by, just to see if the box was still there . . .

    • I think I would’ve gone back on Sunday, just to see, but we already had plans to go to VT for a big quilt show and the garage sale was the opposite direction. Oh, well–I have my memories! 😉

  5. I agree with Salpal 1. You might still have a chance to get it, and I think you won’t rest easy till you give it a go – would you be able to contact the seller?

    • The seller was the brother of the owner of the box, and that was the reason he wouldn’t come down in price–he said his brother would kill him. I’m just trying to be philosophical about the whole thing . . . sigh.

  6. I am so happy you took pictures..you showed those caddies before but I have never seen one here or in Canada. Oh, that wonderful winter scene. You drove of…you brave woman!! Somebody else is very happy now, admiring that caddy. You would have regretted it too, even more probably when you would have taken it home….but it is a thing of ouststanding beauty. Xoxox Johanna

  7. It’s too bad you didn’t go ahead with her price, if you feel so sad about leaving it behind! Do you think she didn’t budge because you had made the effort to take pix? She might have thought you were in love…

    • I didn’t take the photos until I was walking away–I know my garage sale strategies! 😉 The seller said he couldn’t come down in the price because it belonged to his brother and his brother wasn’t there, etc. If I’d gone back at the end of the day and it was still there, who knows . . . .

    • I think that’s why I loved it so much–the detail that was so carefully crafted into it. As I said, I’ve seen quite a few of these boxes and each one is delightful–all special with little details. I tried, once, to find the old project directions online (since it seems like everything else is online!) but never did come across them.

  8. I didn’t know about these. I’m so glad you took pictures. I have seen that winter scene before and have been wracking my brain to figure out where. It’s on something my mother has. Goodness, if I figure it out I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I’m sorry you’re regretting your decision. Sometimes we just go against our instincts.

    • Oh, I’m over it! If I bought every pretty thing I see at garage sales, I’d be overwhelmed. In some ways, having the photos makes me almost as happy.

  9. I’ve never seen one of these and I love to sew and prowl around antique shops and vintage fairs. I wonder if they are more common on the east coast? This is a beautiful piece, both clever and practical. You find the most interesting things to blog about.

    I’m sorry this one got away.

    • I wonder if it’s a Northeast thing, too. The first time I bought one, the woman said it was made from instructions that had been distributed by the Cooperative Extension in the 1950s, as a project for rural men to make for their wives. I go to a lot of garage sales and come across one of these every year or so. And I’ve seen a few on Etsy, mostly from sellers in the Northeast.

      • Kerry, that’s probably what it is. I’ve never been to a vintage shop or sale on the east coast, but hope to do so one day. I love that snapshot of history.

  10. What a painful and wistful story! Owning and not owning treasures can be such a challenge, can’t it and I am reminded of a sad story of my own. I was once doing one of my many ‘life-laundry’ exercises and came across a box apparently containing nothing of much interest. But I did not look properly and several days after it had gone out with the rubbish, I realised that it held my treasured collection of antique buttons passed down from my Grandmother. Sob! I have thought about trying to re-create the collection with other antique buttons, but I don’t have the heart to do so. 😦

  11. Our practical selves just aren’t much fun sometimes!
    Keep your eyes open, maybe they’ll list it on Criagslist if it didn’t sell at the garage sale?

  12. I am so sorry you regret your decision Kerry. I hate it when I make wrong decisions like that – even as I’m rejecting/disposing of/giving away some treasure a voice inside me is saying ‘You’ll regret this, you know!’ and I always do. As I’m typing this a whole list of things that have ‘gone but not forgotten’ are floating (metaphorically) before my eyes.

    • At least I didn’t have any sentimental connection to this particular item, like you did with your daughter’s christening gown! That’s the stuff I had the most difficulty parting with–anything I connect with family.

  13. Like so many others I’ve not come across a sewing caddy before, but I sure know about regretting a decision not to buy, perhaps this time it wasn’t meant to be

  14. that is beautiful! ive never seen one with all the cutouts either! now im drooling! hahaa! yes its a great find but its possible like you said this one just wasnt meant…a person may have come along five minutes after you that has never been so lucky to own one and it made them feel that feeling you know the one hahaa! or you could jump in your car right now go knock on their door and offer them five dollars more than they were asking hahaha! they might think you are nuts but who cares?! they might still have it! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • yes and the photos came out so nice! btw the second i clicked onto your blog and saw that pinecone i knew i was gona like it! hahaa i have a huge collection! i dont know what i will make with them all but i cant stop collecting them! ❤ 🙂 ❤

  15. Oh, dear. What a treasure. You feel bad enough already, so I will not go on about how lovely it is.
    I will say instead that I can relate. I remember the handmade centennial quilt, in perfect condition, that I didn’t buy. It was beautiful and was made by several women,with all Canada’s provincial flowers quilted on. It was at a reasonable price, too. But I had a young family. Years later, I realized that I had passed up a genuine treasure. It’s definitely ‘the one that got away’. But that money was put to good use, and I always end up saying the quilt was not meant for me.

      • Why is it impossible to know at the moment whether it will be something that will be unforgettable? There are many items I’ve coveted, but walked away from and almost immediately forgotten – and aI few that I still remember with regret.

    • I had never seen a case like it until, maybe, 8 years ago. Since the first one, I’ve seen a few and almost always purchased them. I’m not sure why I didn’t do the same with this one . . . . sigh.

  16. Pingback: The One That Didn’t Get Away | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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