A Little Cloth Mystery

This little cloth drawstring bag came to me in a batch of stuff from Great-Aunt Margie sometime back in the mid 90's. My guess is that my ever-practical Aunt may have picked it up at her beloved Superfluity Shop in White Rock. There was a ball of fine crochet yarn and a hook in it. (I have a faint memory of her teaching me how to crochet when I was about 9 or 10.) Anyways, for twenty years it sat in the trunk where I kept my yarn, and I never paid any attention to it. Then the trunk got water-damaged and I had to rescue everything inside before it went mildew-y.
I washed the little bag (measures 10" x 12 1/2") and for the first time noticed it had a name tag on it.
"Tony Roubenheimer". No idea who that might have been.
But aha! There is a label sewn into the side seam.
GIFT FROM RED CROSS SERVICES. I'm guessing this bag may have been sent to a member of the armed forces in a war. But which war? Or maybe it was sent as part of a relief effort. But them how would the Red Cross know the name of the recipient ahead of time? Or maybe the labels were sewn on blank and filled in as they were given out?
The seams are nicely sewn and finished with a straight machine stitch.
But the underside of the straight stitch is a chain stitch. Was it sewn on an early version of a serger? Does anyone recognize this kind of machine stitch and know what kind of a machine it would have been sewn on? And the opening for the drawstring is finished with a hand buttonhole stitch, which seems odd because even early Singers had buttonholer attachments.
And what gives with the weird orange spots? Looking at the hem on the inner casing, I can see the faint brown outlines of flowers. So the fabric was a floral print, and everything has faded except the orange between the petals.I wonder if it might have been one of those orange and brown prints common in Victorian times.

Does anyone have an idea of the vintage of this little item? The fabric could be a lot older than the bag. Maybe you have something similar from your family's past? I'd love to know more - please post or comment with your own cloth mysteries!


  1. The stitching you refer to, straight on one side and chain on the other, is made by a chain stitch machine. They are not so popular nowadays, but are still used to sew bags closed. If you can still find any bags where the top is sewn, not melted. . .
    My serger can be converted to do a chain stitch, but it is not made by a typical serger. It's used for decorative stitching. Kim

  2. I'm just guessing here, but perhaps the little bag was actually a little pillow cover, and someone added the drawstring (including the hand stitched opening) and the name tag.
    I can imagine the Red Cross distributing pillows and blankets to displaced persons after a storm, flood or fire.

  3. My first sewing machine, a miniature hand-wound Singer (circa 1958), made a chain stitch just like that. Some early machines were similar - no bobbin but a hook underneath to grab the thread from the needle and loop it through the next stitch. The disadvantage was that if you didn't finish the ends off or broke a stitch, the whole thing could pull out. Zip! That's why they invented the lockstitch machines.

    The buttonholes that the drawstring goes through look hand-stitched too. What a lovely mystery as to who the original recipient was and how he received the bag! I would hazard a guess that it is quite old. Possibly WWI? I'm just guessing though.

  4. Patricia Collins1:30 PM

    Lovely mystery - hope you can solve it. Here in England I have two patchwork quilts with labels saying they were made by the Canadian Red Cross. These quilts were all hand stitched and then sent to London during the Second World War to be used by people affected by the Blitz (bombing). My mother was given these and saved them long after the war had ended. I had one on my bed as child. How sad that the Red Cross is still having to send quilts to bombed our people across the world.


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