I came across this ad in a catalog called “One Hundred Birthday Gifts,” published in 1911 by Daniel Low & Company. I was fascinated by this “sewing bird.” They were used as a third hand, to help hold one’s sewing project taut. The bird clamps to the table, then you insert the end of the fabric into the bird’s mouth, so you have your hands free to do the sewing. Some, like this one, have one or two pincushions on them, and though some are quite plain, others are very ornate. This one sold for 85 cents, which in today’s currency would be roughly $25.
Sewing birds were invented by one Thaddeus Fowler, who had other inventions like a machine to stick pins into paper, one to sort pins, and ones to make needles and horseshoes. Ads for sewing birds were first seen around 1852. There were birds also that could be used to wind skeins of thread or yarn, and were quite popular. The price then was from 20 to 88 cents, and they seemed to be most commonly sold by jewelers. Mr. Fowler, unfortunately, died destitute in 1887,