September 30, 2014

19th Century Housewife

I'm currently in the middle of two big sewing projects, which you all will eventually be hearing more about, but, in the meantime, take a look at my new 19th century housewife!

What is a housewife, you might ask - not the cooking, cleaning, apron-wearing homemaker in this case -
"While not exactly a work-box or work-basket, the housewife or sewing kit should also be included as a part of an article on sewing necessities. There were many instances where the larger work-boxes were not practical; while traveling, a lady might need sewing implements for a clothing repair or a soldier would need a small sewing kit.  Patterns for these small sewing kits were included in most lady’s magazines and the  Christian Commission distributed a pattern for a soldier’s housewife...[Housewives could be made from] leather, stamped paper, silk, ribbon, satin, velvet, white dimity, Holland, or any other material, even common print" (Mescher 12).  
Excerpt from: "The Case of the Lost Thimble: Work-boxes, Work-baskets, Housewives and Traveling Sewing Boxes" by Virginia Mescher.  Fascinating and well-researched paper - totally recommended!

My new sewing kit is copied from the one the dressmaker made for the shop at the museum.  Completely hand-sewn, the housewife is made from scraps of reproduction fabric and linen.  (All of the prints were used in previous projects from shortgowns to the Sophia wrapper project!)  It features two pockets and a pincushion at the end stuffed with wool.



All rolled up.

Tutorial to make your own fast, easy & fun "flower" or "pumpkin" shaped pincushions here:

Helpful Links Referenced:


  1. Oh how darling! I LOVE housewives and will one day get around to making one! Until that time, I shall have to drool on you lovely one!! I think the pin cushion is my favorite....

    1. Thank you, Gina!! I hope you make yourself a housewife soon cause they're a lot of fun! And so are those petal pincushions, I've made enough to fill a small basket...they're quite addictive!
      Anneliese :)

  2. I like the colors, it looks very 19th century :) I made one by myself but it looks like something suitable for bathroom - mint, yellow, and blue, but still its very practical.

    1. Thank you, Magrat!! I like to have the kit out while I'm working at the museum - so I'm very glad to hear it looks the part. Ooh you can't go wrong with mint, yellow and blue - such a pretty color scheme! And housewives sure are practical - pretty and practical!
      Anneliese :)