However, I came upon a poem called Dorothy: A Country Story, in Elegiac Verse by Arthur Joseph Munby (1882). It's about a young servant girl on an English farm, and although it would be dated later than my time period, some things don't change all that much. I focused on the third chapter, which describes Dorothy's clothes and few possessions. There is so much in there, I could make a long list of projects! One object mentioned is her "housewife", the common name for a small sewing kit made of fabric and rolled up to carry. Also called a "huswif" or "hussif", every woman had some version of one, and soldiers were given one to mend their uniforms. Here is one from the 1830s.
See the handy pockets for holding sewing tools and notions, and the wool flaps for pins and needles. Each pocket and piece of trim is made from a different piece of calico, scraps from clothing made by the seamstress.
Below is the one I made, rolled up and ready to tuck in a drawer or pocket. Unrolled, it has a backing of a flowered print, bound with green and tan floral bias tape. The inside is lined with yellow wool cloth, has three pockets, and an extra layer of wool for needles and pins.
I put a little book with it called The Complete Country Housewife, published in 1770, and no doubt it was the go-to book for many hard-working women for many years.
I'm sure I'll use my "housewife" often!
Historical Fortnightly Challenge #18 – Poetry in Motion
Sept. 28, 2014
Object: Housewife, a portable sewing kit
The Challenge: Poetry in Motion, to create something inspired by the poem, Dorothy: a Country Story, by Arthur Joseph Munby. (See exerpt below).
Fabric: Printed cotton calico, yellow-dyed wool.
Pattern: Self-drawn from extant item.
Notions: cotton thread, cotton embroidery thread, cotton twill tape.
How historically accurate is it? Completely. All hand sewn.
Hours to complete: 5
First worn: Immediately used for sewing kit.
Total cost: All scraps from previous sewing. $0.
From “Dorothy: a Country Story.”
Arthur Joseph Munby (b. 1828)