Bonhams Has Christmas All Sewn Up


George III work box Among the most sought after lots on sale at Knowles annual Sewing sale this December will doubtless be a beautiful George III work box with a fascinating, if tragic, history.

The workmanship is of a quality that would suggest it was made by an experienced professional – however it has instead been attributed to Mary Earnshaw – a 16 year old amateur in possession of an extraordinary talent. Tragically, Mary died just two years after completing the sewing box, which was then passed on to her sister Jane who kept it as a ‘momento mori’. It’s exceptional condition is down in no small part to Jane’s desire to preserve her sisters work – the outer blue cardboard box that Jane made to protect it means the work box is still as striking today as it was over 200 years ago.

Made from the extremely rare rolled paperwork technique the work box has been estimated at £3,000 – 5,000. Its ornate appearance is enhanced still further by it having kept its original vivid colouring, with a turquoise central panel, the sides set with multicoloured ovals, teardrops and other varient quillwork panels in a variety of colours. The interior is no less detailed, containing a turned ivory stilleto with screw – off cover, a circular cream pincushion initialled in pink ‘E.J./H.J’ and two miniature volumes of poems made from red card with gilt foil details.

Another item that is full of charm and character is lot 1591, a Victorian tortoiseshell work box that originally belonged to Bryanna S. Klein, who diligently filled its bright pink silk interior with items remembering her ‘darling Freddy.’ Who Freddy was remains a mystery.

Contents of Victorian work box Bequeathed to the owner’s granddaughter in 1895 it is a box whose highly patterned exterior hides a wealth of fascinating and sentimental objects within. A miniature silver spoon is carefully packed in blue silk and marked with a handwritten paper label – ‘My darling Freddy’s.’ A miniature book, ‘Small Rain Upon The Tender Herb, The Religious Tract Society’ is safely contained in a drawstring bag is inscribed ‘Freddy’s…him.’ Expected to make between £400 and £800, this is both an emotive and visually stunning lot.

Lot 1645 also boasts a unique insight into 19th century social history. Estimated at £3,000 – £5,000 it is of a highly unusual and striking design. The wooden work box is in the form of a handsome looking building which was modelled on a real shop and home from the time at which it was made! The care and time that it must have taken to construct such a beautifully fashioned, realistic work box suggests it must either have been an expensive individual commission, perhaps from the shopkeeper whose store it represented, or else a labour of love by a master cabinet maker.

For those with a more modest budget there are plenty of smaller items in the sale, which with estimates of under £50, could be the perfect present. For music lovers lot 1010, a novelty tape measure in the form of a piano & lot 1031 a tape measure in the shape of a cello could be the ideal match this Christmas. Lot 1043, a charming polished brass pincushion in the form of a seated pig has an estimate of just £40 – 60 – and would make a fabulous extra special stocking filler.

These beautiful and highly individual items are just a few of the lots available to bidders this Christmas at Knowle on 13 December.

For more details visit Bonhams.com