A great friend of mine turned me onto her latest obsession: Vintage string dispensers. Now, with the advent of eBay and then Etsy, they’ve never been easier to find (although some of the rarer ones can cost you a pretty penny). They’re so wonderfully camp and sculptural, and I can just envision the pretty little collection that a bunch of them hung on a wall would make. I just had to pay homage.
A little about their history:
Just as we do now, people in the 19th century also struggled with corralling wily bits of string. So they devised an ingenious yet attractive way to store it wound up without tangling and knotting as it was dispensed. Enter the cast iron holder.
The openings around the sides enabled you to see whether your string supply was running low.
Image by FunSizeVintage via Etsy
Some of the most popular 19th-century designs were ones made to look like beehives.
A hundred years later, they became much more fun and decorative, as folks began to see them as novelty items. Animals, fruits and vegetables, cartoons, storybook characters (check out Cindrella's ugly stepsister, Drizella, below), you name it—most were composed of chalkware, commonly known as gypsum, or molded plaster.
Image by TextilesandOldThings via Etsy
Some are also ceramic.
Image via santashauntedboot via Etsy
So why did string dispensers suddenly drop off the map after the mid-century? Blame science. In households and businesses ‘round the world, unwieldy twine gave way to adhesive tape. Duct, surgical, mending, waterproof, and self-sticking tapes were all appropriated for everyday use—and achieved near-total supremacy.
But can we please go back to this?
Image by Third Shift via Etsy
And who wouldn’t love to stare right back at this helpful guy on their kitchen wall every day?
Are you collecting anything that you’d like to know more about? Perhaps you want to start collecting? Tell us what it is! We’ll gladly cover it here.