Today I'd like to show you a lovely item known as a "sewing bird". The example pictured in this post is mine, and it appears there is some glue residue around the pincushion that I need to remedy somehow. But anyway, a "sewing bird" is not always a bird, in which case it would be called a "sewing clamp". Sewing clamps may be figures such as cupids, horses, frogs, or deer.
The sewing bird or clamp is a helper for the hand-sewer, as it will hold the fabric to the table leaving both hands free to work on the item one is sewing. Most sewing birds have a pincushion on top which makes them extra-helpful. What is in the bird's beak (below)? That contains emery grains, which help sharpen pins and needles.
Sewing birds were in use as far back as the 1600's in England. In America, they became popular a bit later, during the mid-1800's, and were often presented by a young man to his future bride as a special gift. Americans often referred to sewing birds as "grippers".
Once sewing machines became staples in every home, there wasn't a need for sewing birds or grippers, and they were only produced as a novelty/collectible. Today a nice example of a sewing bird will sell for over $100. Unusual examples will far exceed that price.
While doing a little research for this post, I stumbled upon The Monmouth Museum's website. They have one of the largest collection of sewing birds in the country, donated by a woman who traveled extensively and collected them throughout her life. If you are in the New Jersey/Monmouth area, it might be a fun stop!