Sure, eBay can be a depository for people's unwanted junk, but it can also be a good source of design inspiration if you look in certain areas. If casting about for more examples of purpose-built furniture like the sewing desk I showed you in the last entry, you're bound to come back with a netful of interesting images. Sewing-related furniture, it turns out, is quite the treasure trove of primitive design innovation.
Unfortunately the average Joe helping Aunt Nettie clear out her attic is unconcerned with design provenance; pieces are nearly always undated, unattributed and/or unnamed, leaving you to guess at their country or decade of origin, to say nothing of the original designer. But at least then you can just focus on the object, unfettered by the minutiae we were forced to memorize in History of Industrial Design class.
Something I see a lot of are these "sewing baskets" pictured here. The legs and lack of for-scale items in the photos make them seem coffee-table-sized, but I believe they're closer in volume to actual picnic baskets.
They're intended for storing sewing "notions"—the dorky name given to buttons, needles, bobbins, and sewing gear in general—and because those items are small, they beg for shallow storage with a broad surface area, so you can see everything at once and find the little gewgaw you're looking for.
The staircase-like drawers aren't a perfect solution as they obscure portions of the lower drawers, but it's a nicely low-tech way to get the job done; aside from the bentwood handle, production is uncomplicated, using screws, spacers and bolts for pivot points. I'm tempted to buy one of these, but it's screaming out for DIY.