A piece or two of history

At the beginning of the month I mentioned on my facebook page that I’d found something in the charity shop that I said was quite odd and that after some research I discovered that there was a complete set of this particular thing on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

I hesitated in sharing exactly what it was because I wasn’t sure whether some people would be offended, outraged etc.  But they are a piece of history and lots of nasty, horrible, awful things happened in the past and they don’t go away by ignoring them or pretending it didn’t happen.

So if you think you are of a sensitive nature and easily offended look away now.

I found 4 reels of cotton;

No, not ones like these (but I would love some of those cottons on wooden spools):

sewing thread
But these:

Go and read the V&A’s description, I’ll wait for you…

Now, that to me is just incredible and I am delighted that we have moved on from thinking that this sort of product packaging is acceptable.  I also find it quite bizarre that someone even created this.  Maybe that shows my ignorance of sewing history but to cover thread in pictures gummed ready for sticking into a scrap book?

If you are concerned that they were for sale in a charity shop, I was surprised too, when I mentioned it I was told to quickly pay for them and get out!  It had been a busy day for them and I guess they weren’t checking every item with a magnifying glass and had just chucked them in the tub of threads.

I’d love to hear your thoughts especially if you’ve seen these before or if you have any suggestions of what to do with them.  My local museum has been closed for the last few years for a major refurbishment and is due to open again in December so I may just wait until then and see if they are interested.

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5 Responses to “A piece or two of history”


  • 1
    Clare says:

    Mary, that is really interesting, not at all offensive, just a product of its time. Something worth keeping and finding out about for sure

  • 2
    Gill says:

    How interesting! I would definitely have bought them if I had seen them

  • 3
    Flaming Nora says:

    I Love these little reels of cotton and would have snapped them up in an instant! I am absolutely fascinated by acceptable and casual racism of our past. A kind of malevolent benevolence. I own the most outrageous set of salt and pepper shakers. They are carved wooden figures of what I suspect were supposed to be cannibals. Little Black figures with grass skirts and bones through their noses.But the worse part is they had little squeakers in the bottom of them so as you shook the pot to get the salt or pepper out they grunted at you! Thankfully this had long since perished when they were given to me. Thankfully all from times long gone.

  • 4
    Ann says:

    I would have jumped to buy them too (and I’ve been lucky enough to find a few of those wooden reels in charity shops too). They come from a different time and I’m sure the needlewomen who bought this brand at the time would have been astounded to think such images were thought racist 50 years later. And I don’t suppose the artists or manufacturers thought they were being racist either – people are so much more sensitive to race issues nowadays.

  • 5

    I defo would have bought them Mary, they’re from a different age and thankfully times have changed.

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