Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Housewife

A housewife is portable sewing kit that was popular during Civil War times.  Women made them for their husbands, sons, and brothers  to take to war so they could make repairs on their clothing as necessary.

A month or two ago Starwood Quilter shared photos and wrote about a housewife she'd made.  I wanted to share photos of my own housewife and tell how I came to have it.

Many years ago we were at a Civil War reenactment at the Ohio Historical Society's Ohio Village.  There were several sutlers there with reproduction items for sale.  My young daughter saw this housewife and we looked it over.  I decided it would be too small for my little scissors and forgot about it. 

Unbeknownst to me she bought it and gave it to me for Christmas that year.  To my surprise the scissors fit perfectly and I've been using it ever since.  Even after 18 or 20 years of use it is still in excellent condition.  It was a perfect gift!

It measures about 8" long and 4" wide.  It has 2 pockets that have small pleats so they can expand to hold items that are a little bulky, such as spools, a thimble, a little tin of pins, etc.  It also has a piece of flannel stitched at the bottom for pins and needles.  I usually have a threaded needle there waiting to work on whatever project I have in progress.    

My housewife folds into thirds to make a flat or puffy roll (depending on what I've put inside) and is held fast by a tie so that nothing falls out of the pockets.  It's the perfect size to fit in my handbag or any other bag when I'm taking projects to work on.

I started to "collect" housewives and will add more as I find ones I like.  Google images shows many images of housewives.  There is a tutorial and a pattern for making a slightly larger housewife at Victorian Sewing.

Do you have a housewife or do you have some other convenient way of transporting sewing tools when you want to work on a project while you're travelling? 



  1. What a nice idea and an interesting name. Have you ever heard of those wedge shaped bed pillows (the ones that allow you to sit up in bed and read) being called husbands? Sort of reminds me of that.

  2. I had not heard of the housewife, thanks for sharing yours! I recently made some sewing project books for my Etsy shop, I may have to add housewife to the keywords!

  3. What a sweet story about your daughter's gift. I love the name "housewife" and love love that it's associated with sewing, and not some drudgery like laundry, or scrubbing a floor.

    I saw that Becky Goldsmith had put a "needle" case to download on her website that had a lot of similarities to this one. Maybe she was tapping into the past for her ideas?

    Elizabeth E.

  4. This is a fun post. I loved seeing some of the ones on Google. Really there are just too many to look at. I do like the idea that scissor will fit in them too. Your daughter sure was sweet to get that for you.

  5. I actually do have one which you made for me! It is perfect to keep all my little sewing items together.


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