Sewing clamps or sewing birds were devices used by a
seamstress to assist with hand mending and fancy needlework. They acted like
third hand, if you will. These
patented devices were typically fastened to a work table by a thumb-screw or other clamping
action. The working portion
was designed to hold the fabric so that it could be held taut with one
hand and her other hand would be free to do the stitching. They are sometimes
referred to as "third-hands" even though
some were designed to help with numerous sewing tasks beyond just a third
hand holding the fabric. Some were multi
featured and had pincushions, thread cutters, small drawers,
scissor sharpeners or other features to help with the sewing related tasks at hand. Some can be quite elaborate, others
very plain and utilitarian.
are just a few examples of some unusual & figural sewing
clamps we are always looking for, can help you sell, and are
currently offering for sale at our sales site
examples made of ivory, wood, brass, silver, steel, and cast
iron. We are especially seeking unusual and
elaborate figural examples, or those with attached holders or boxes to store threads, wax, needles, emery,
Note: There are currently a flood of reproduction
sewing clamps on the
market, most notably the brass bird with the 1853 patent in its wing.
You can always find them listed for sale on eBay if you care to look. Be Aware!!
Some of the rarest, most desirable and hardest to find are
figural examples in the shapes of animals, bugs or other critters.
Pictured just above is a "sewing dog", who obediently lays on top of his
pincushion bed and helps out by gripping the fabric in his mouth. It
can be found in either a nickel or lacquered brass finish. It is a
very desirable piece.
fabulous figural elk clamp show here is all cast iron with two thread-winding spools made
of bone on either side
of his incredible rack. To hold the fabric
you gently pull back on his delicate antlers to open up his jaw, insert
the fabric, then release. This figural clamp is extremely rare, probably
a one-of-a-kind, and crosses over from the category of sewing into the
realm of Americana and rare American folk art.
If you have sewing clamps of this caliber
you would like to sell we
can help you sell them and help you realize the most value for your collection.
There is no other site on the internet that has as nice a selection, and
gets the volume of traffic or search engine positioning that our sales
Another great figural
animal sewing or needlework clamp is the butterfly clamp
shown here. It is an example that is rarely seen. In addition
to the butterfly body opening and acting as a clamp, this figural butterfly clamp also has 2
pincushions to hold either the fabric, or additional pins or needles.
The cherub clamp at the top of the page is
another nice figural sewing clamp. It also has a pin cushion and
clamping feature as additional features. Cherubs were a favorite during the Victorian era,
and that is when this clamp and most of the others shown on this page date
Manufacturers of the day
promoted the health-related benefits of these needlework tools, claiming
eliminated rounded shoulders and stooped backs developed while
sewing. But clearly for the lady of comfortable means, who could
afford it, these needlework tools were pieces of art that were treasured
symbols of status and were often given and received as tokens of love.
Some sewing clamps were made as almost little portable work stations and a very
interesting and desirable model that we are looking for is known as the
"Lady's Companion". It has all sorts of accessories and features that the
typical clamp does not. Some of these devices came equipped with
their own thimbles while others had scissors or thread cutters
incorporated into their design. We have several of these multi
feature clamps for sale on our sales page
favorite image or theme for figural antique sewing "birds" /
sewing clamps is
that of the fish, dolphins, or
other mythological underwater critters
including dragons and monsters. Some are so elaborate and detailed
that the scales show. At left is a neat one
that we have seen a lot of different variations of, some with pincushions
and the tail wrapped around the post, some
without a tail at all. Others with just the face or head, with some more grotesque and
others simpler and more stylized.
all sewing clamps were designed with a clamp or "vise" for holding the
example shown here is designed to be a thread winder with 4
individual spools that the seamstress could use to keep 4 different colors
of thread within easy reach. The pincushion on top could be used
simply to hold extra pins, or the fabric being worked on could actually be
pinned to it to serve the same function as the vise-style sewing
clamps. A clamp like this would be very handy for embroidery.
All of the different styles we have shown so far can have their origins in
either America or Europe. The butterfly and the dog
sitting on the bed are American origin that were a patented design, while in general most of the other
figural monsters and creatures are considered to be European.
unusual sewing clamp is this unique design, which actually consisted
of three clamps. The center one is a pincushion and the two on the
ends are thread winders. All three are attached to each other, and could be adjusted in width with an accordion-style
mechanism. There are many different styles of these antique
needlework devices, even ones that have a place for a pair of scissors, or
ones that have a thread cutter or sharpener worked into the design. The variations are about
Sewing clamps can
range from incredibly ornate and elaborate to very simple and plain.
The clamp pictured above on the right uses a simple swinging arm
mechanism to secure the fabric. This particular one is a bit
bigger and heavier-duty than the typical light duty swing arm Victorian design
clamps you can find, and it was probably used for leather, wool, canvas,
sewing birds and clamps that you see pictured on this page are from the
collection of Robert M. Soares, an extraordinary collector and friend.
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We can help you sell your Antique &
If you have antique sewing clamps, Victorian needlework tools
or very early antique sewing machines that you want to
sell, please see the
page or email us at AntiqBuyer@gmail.com for more info
We are active dealers of
sewing birds / clamps and other antique and Victorian sewing and
needlework accessories---such as pinking machines, chatelaines, tape
measures, fancy scissors, darners and more. We are always interested in
helping you sell your collections through the Consignment Program we offer.
We are currently handling three different
collections of antique sewing related accessories for different
consignors, and have those collections listed for sale on our antique
sales website www.Patented-Antiques.com
Larry & Carole