Recycling isn’t a new idea. Our ancestors reused bits of cloth for quilts, made clothing out of flour bags, and used old cigar boxes to make chip-carved picture frames and boxes. Their rule was “waste not, want not,” so it’s not surprising that the bare wooden spools left after thread was used seemed too practical to ignore. Sewing machines were introduced to the general public in the 1840s, and a machine needed commercial thread on a spool. A lathe developed about 1815 made turnings that were probably cut apart to use as wooden spools for thread. Until about 1900, uncut turnings were used to make spool furniture. But another type of spool furniture was made from the empty thread spools that were saved by sewers. A chair or table was constructed of straight pieces of wood, then decorated with dozens of applied spools either left round or cut in half lengthwise. The finished furniture looked like traditional Victorian pieces with elaborate jigsaw decoration. Today “sewing spool” furniture is considered folk art.
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