HSM #2 is Done – and it’s not what you’re expecting.


Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2: The Blue Housewife.

A “housewife” is a portable sewing kit that folds or rolls into a small size, therefore making it easy to carry. The sizes and dimensions varied, but the basic design featured small pockets for thimble and thread, plus a fabric “flap” that held the needles and pins.

Using the term housewife to refer to a sewing kit appeared in print for the first time in 1749. But they were also known as huswife, hussive, or, most commonly, hussif, which appears to be the contraction of the word “housewife” in the dialect of Lancashire.

My housewife for this challenge represents the years of the American Civil War, hence the name “The Blue Housewife.” It has four cotton pockets and two flaps of boiled wool (for securing needles and pins). It folds into a rectangle of 4 1/4 inches x 3 1/4 inches and ties with a thin black ribbon.

Please note: the colors of the red wool flap and the pink fabric on the inside ends did not photograph well. They are not neon, but that’s how they came out. In reality, they are deeper and more subdued shades.

Outer Fabric

Outer Fabric

Blue Pinwheel lining fabric

Blue Pinwheel lining fabric

Inside, opened

Inside, opened…









HSM #2 – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.

Title: The Blue Housewife

Fabric: 100% cotton, boiled wool

Pattern: My own creation

Year: 2015

Notions: Thread and a bit of ribbon for tying

How historically accurate is it? Very. For this “housewife” I used 100% cotton and boiled 100% wool. It is hand sewn. The cotton fabrics are reproductions of American Civil War era prints. The patterns in the wool would also have been available at that time.

Hours to complete: about 4

First worn: Not yet used.

Total cost: $1.00 for the spool of ribbon. Everything else was in my stash.


(I’ll be brief – I abandoned the reticule. I couldn’t get it to hang straight and it was driving me nuts. So I set it aside until sometime down the road when we’ve both had a chance to take a deep breath and settle down a bit.)


5 thoughts on “HSM #2 is Done – and it’s not what you’re expecting.

  1. I really like the colours you’ve used, it makes a change from the heavily embroidered ones you see so often. Despite being an embroiderer I’ve never been all at keen on heavily embroidered embroidery equipment so I think I prefer yours

    Btw, in England there’s no such place as lancastershire, it Lancashire – pronounced lan-ka-sha if you’re from the north ( only southerners pronounce shire)

    • Oops! I thought I’d gotten the “shire of Lancaster” conundrum figured out. I guess not (it’s very confusing for us Yanks). Thank you for the correction. Very much appreciated. 🙂

      I do like many of the embroidered embroidery cases/covers, but some are waaay over the top. Almost to the point of making them unusable except by the daintiest of ladies under the most delicate conditions. I can appreciate the aesthetics, but only as an object of art.

      During our Civil War, fabric was a luxury – especially for women living in the South. Economizing was crucial and every scrap was used. Embroidery, if done, was often basic. Some of the extant examples I’ve see are stunning in their interesting combinations of prints and colors.

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