Collecting Vintage Needlework Kits
Ask any collector about their collection and in all probability, you will receive a
passionate discourse regarding the “whats,” the “whys,” and the “how – tos,” that are
responsible for the initial awakening of their inner collector.
From any point that I can remember, I have loved most forms of needlework in an
Observatory – isn’t that pretty to look at … I wonder how they did that … I would love to
create that – manner. In the early 1970’s I received my first crewel embroidery kit. That
kit transformed me from an observer of needlework into a participator in needlework.
That first kit also awoke the inner collector in me. Since that awakening, I have been an
enthusiastic amasser of vintage needlework kits.
Needlework collecting enjoys a devoted, but relatively small, audience. This
“small but devoted” status currently provides a favorable market that is reasonably
balanced in affordable supply and demand. Whether you search on an online global
market or a local garage sale, you can still find gems that won’t make your wallet cringe.
Regardless of where you search, it is helpful to have a mapping set of guidelines that can
help you navigate the collecting terrain. As your gain experience in collecting, you will
also gain expertise. But while you are experiencing the collecting learning curve, here are
some initial guidelines to map your beginning collection:
Stick with a price point. Whether bidding online or perusing a local sale;
know the comfortable price boundary and stick to it.
Learn about the designers and manufacturers. There are some names that you will
see with frequency. These names can be indicators of the kit’s style, era, intricacy and
difficulty of design, and overall product quality. Depending on their current level of
production, there are some names that could indicate current and future monetary value.
Question the plans and possibilities with the kit. Will this kit be created, or
collected or sold to fuel other purchases? Can you take some creative license with the
design and function of this kit?
Be picky when inspecting the kit’s condition. This is particularly important for
online purchases. Regardless of any perceived standard of terminology, (i.e.
mint, very good …) condition is still subjective “to the eye” of the observer. Using the
kit’s packaging language as a starting guide; begin your inspection.. Has the kit been
opened. Are all of the contents present as packaged. Determine the condition of the
thread, fabric and other supplies. Ascertain the needle’s placement and the presence of
any metal rust. Occasionally you will find a needle that has become rusted and affixed to
the design area which could destroy a kit’s usability. If the kit has been started, assess
the quality of stitching. If the stitches need to be removed, make sure that this “de-
stitching” doesn’t affect the integrity of the fabric. Inspect the subtle language of the
package, which will include any tearing, soiling or clouding of the package exterior. This
exterior damage may indicate that there is also damage to the interior contents.
Think “out of the original purpose box.” Even kits with condition issues can
occasionally be rescued and repurposed. Kit contents can also be salvaged
and repurposed for another kit, or project, or for supply “stash.”
Pay attention to what your nose already knows. Aromas are great story tellers.
While some aromas can dissipate; many aromas will indicate a deeper problem which
may never resolve. A good rule of thumb to follow is, “if there is an aroma (including an
intentional over perfuming) that catches your nose, then there is an issue that needs to
catch your attention.”
Know when to say “no.” Even a nicely priced kit is not always a good value.
Keep in mind that when you say “no” to an iffy kit, you trust your inner “knowing” that a
better kit is just around the corner.
This final guideline is probably the most important of all of the mapping techniques. This
guideline encourages you to make those purchases that to move you from creative
observer to creative participator. Buy the kits that remind you of the “whos” the “whats”
and the “whys” that initially stirred up your inner collector and inspired your collecting
WC 709 CPR Karen Glasgow Follett 2014