Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A recent Saturday morning antiquing trip yielded a unique find—a Victorian-era wool flower shadow box. It didn't get much attention from other passersby, who probably just thought it was just odd, but it certainly caught my eye. I must admit I tend to gravitate toward the unusual, but normal is boring, right? The price was right at $28, so I took it home with me.

Being an avid crafter, I feel an affinity with Victorian women, whose pastimes exercised their creativity. I also share their tendency for being frugal. They saved their leftover scraps of wool yarn to fashion into flowers for fanciful displays under glass domes or in shadow boxes. Many of the popular magazines of the day featured instructions on how to make them. In fact, one of my old volumes of such magazines happens to have a tutorial for making these woolly blooms. As a wool lover, I'm mesmerized by their artistic beauty. For more detail, click on all the photos.

They used beads to embellish the flower centers.

These fluffy cream-colored flowers are among my favorites. I also love how they created the yet-to-bloom buds (above the fluffy cream flowers) by threading the yarn in an artistic way. 

This isn't the first of these shadow boxes I've purchased. Several years ago, we picked up the larger one (below) at an antiques shop. It is 46 inches square and hangs at the top of our curved staircase. The cross motif is particularly meaningful to us. We purchased this particular one in memory of loved ones who are no longer with us. I think I must have been a Victorian in an earlier life! I seem to share their sense of sentimentality! 

When we had an antiques appraiser out to our house a couple years ago, he dated this to the 1880s, so I'm guessing my latest find must also be that vintage. The vibrancy of the flowers might make it hard to believe they're that old but they're remarkably preserved under the glass, which is wavy just like 19th-century glass. They don't make it like that anymore!

Here's a detail shot of some of the flowers in this one—even more exquisite than those in the new shadow box I found. 

This shot shows the beautiful handiwork that went into each little flower. It almost looks like beadwork, it's so fine.

And here are those fluffy flowers again. I love the way they wove different shades of green into the leaves.

We saw a similar Victorian wool shadow box when we visited the Rensselaer Russell House in Waterloo, Iowa, four years ago. This is a photo I took of the exterior. The house was built in 1861 for $5,878. 

This is the Victorian wool shadow box that hangs in the home's upstairs hallway. It really captured my heart, so I had to take a photo of it. I have many other photos of this grand old home that I will share with you someday.

If any of you happen to own one of these delightful framed treasures, I'd love to hear from you. I always enjoy learning more about these lovely remnants of the past!


  1. It's a little quirky and a little beautiful!! How fun to have added to the one you had. Two makes a collection right? ;)

  2. Wow! Those are just gorgeous! I couldn't have passed that by either! It's beautiful. I love everything about wool and those flower shadow boxes are something I've never seen before.
    Thank you so much for giving us the privilege of seeing these beauties!

  3. Those are gorgeous! I wouldn't have passed that top one by either. You got a great deal and a beautiful piece to show for it!

  4. You win!! You are the queen of antique finds. Simply stunning! Thank you for sharing with us.

  5. Beautiful wool work - it is very difficult to find anything quite like that here now. Amazing workmanship!

  6. My Grandmother had two of them when I was growing up. They are Funeral boxes. They were made by a member of the family for use in the winter time to be taken to homes where someone had passed away.Flowers were not available for use at funerals because of the winter months. Then they were returned to the family after the mourning period was over with.Most of the time a body was layed out in a parlour and the Funeral boxes were placed on walls or easels around the room.Since many were made with wool they were subject to moths over the years and were destroyed. Some are really in details as yours is. It is a good example of the workmanship used to make something life like. Just a little bit of history about your floral shadow box. Chris

  7. What lovely pictures, I have never seen any like that but I wouldn't have been able to pass them up either. I like the story about them that Sewing Junkie posted, very interesting.

  8. I've never seen anything like this before, or if I did, I didn't realize what it was. I'll be on the lookout now! And what a steal!

  9. I have 3 of these and I love them. I also have a fragment that I'm carefully taking apart to try and figure out how to make them. Do you know of an Victorian publications that have a how to?


  10. We recently found one of these floral shadow boxes when clearing our my mother-in-law's house. The floral horse shoe shaped wreath is exquisite - very tiny petals of fine woven thread. But the box is in poor shape and the background is stained. Would it be a terrible thing to change the background and put it in a new shadow box frame?


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