Last revised on March 6, 2003

My Grandmother's housewife

Unrolled kit, inside

I've no idea what Grandmother called this, or what she kept in it -- or whether she used it at all; it might have been something she found among her grandmother's things:  housewifes of this sort are well documented in the eighteenth century.  Most had more pockets than this one, and would contain pins, needles, thread winders, a thimble, an awl, beeswax, and a pair of scissors.  Such a kit fits into a pocket neatly, and when it is unrolled, all tools are ready to hand. 

Unrolled kit, outside

This housewife is three and five eighths inches wide and sixteen inches long; the pocket is two and a half inches deep.  I hear that three inches wide by a foot long is typical. 

It appears to be made of natural-color linen lined with thin white or unbleached cotton flannel.  It is sewn together with multiple strands that look like blue embroidery floss.  The two layers together are thinner than some pants-weight fabrics.

I deduce that the maker sewed the lining to the cover at what would become the edge of the pocket, folded precisely on the stitching line, ran* top-stitching to hold the crease, and bound the raw edge with a straight strip of the same linen. 

The straight strip is pieced where the straight edge that's on top in this photograph and below in the top photograph meets the curve.  You or I would use a bias strip for this, to make it easier to sew around the curve, but a straight strip is more economical to cut from expensive linen.

The binding was sewn with a fine white thread to the right side, then the blue thread was run near the fold to hold the crease, and the binding was turned to the inside and whipped down, catching only the lining.

The pocket was then folded up and the finished edges were whipped together.

*"ran" is the verb for "did running stitch".

rolled-up kit, top view

Here the kit is rolled up to put in your pocket.  On my monitor, this picture is a little more than life size.


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