Sewing Bird Collection

The Monmouth Museum is home to one of North America’s largest collections of 18th and 19th century sewing clamps also known as sewing birds. Sewing clamps were used in the 18th century to attach one end of a piece of cloth firmly to a table to enable a seamstress to hold her sewing taut with one hand while stitching with the other. Before the invention of the sewing machine, clothing, sheets and other household items were sewn by hand.

In America the first sewing birds were called “grippers.” Not used widely until mid-19th century, they became popular as a luxury item, which a young man would present to his intended bride months before the wedding. These were made in many varieties; birds with or without a pin cushion, on a spindle or not, deer, dogs, fish, frogs, snakes, dolphins, cherubs and people. Small thread winders, spool holders, netting hooks and rug braiders were also common.

This extensive collection was gathered by Eugenie Bijur on her travels with her husband, who was an antique collector, and willed to the Monmouth Museum. It is one of the most impressive collections in this country, and the Monmouth Museum’s only permanent collection.

A portion of this collection is on view with educational programs offered a couple times a year. This provides Museum Members and visitors a closer look at the complete collection.

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