During my recent convalescence I spent a great deal of time resting because any movement brought discomfort. However I was becoming quite antsy on the couch, a sure sign of some bit of healing and recovery, when I remembered that I had several 18th century needlework kits in my sewing stash. I'm usually so busy with big projects of laying out fabric and patterns, which I have not been up to at all, that a little project sounded perfect! Thus I collected all my kits and shared them here and chose the needlecase as my quiet little project.
I lost the buttons that came with the kit, so I dug out some buttons from my button collection that looked like mother-of-pearl which seemed more historical to me than plastic buttons. The rosettes and buttons were sewn on to allow the petals to pivot open.
Now for those who might be asking, "How historically accurate is this?"...well, here we go! I bought this kit at Poplar Forest and when I saw it, I immediately recognized the similarity to an extant needlecase I saw in Gail Marsh's 18th Century Embroidery Techniques. If you have a copy of the book, there is a lovely photograph of one on p165. The needlecase shown there is from Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire, UK. Their needlecase is made of silk, with embroidered flowers. Although the back is not shown, the book says that needles are stored on "little squares of chamois leather." Mother-of-pearl buttons are used for the rosette pivot...hence my choice to use my mother-of-pearl looking buttons.
This kit came from The Posy Collection, which creates many needlework kits for historic sites across America. I asked them where the inspiration for this cross stitch design came from. The designer replied that she worked very closely with the Poplar Forest staff and also with one of the ladies at The Hermitage (President Andrew Jackson's home in Tennessee) who sews historical clothing for museums!
The similarities between the extant silk case from Gawthorpe Hall and this one from The Posy Collection for Poplar Forest are:
- both are petal shaped
- both are bound by ribbon
- both are decorated by lovely needlework
- both use a rosette with buttons to allow the 2 petals to pivot
- both have chamois to store needles between the petals
Cross stitch was done in the 18th century. Monograms were cross stitched on shirt and shifts, known as laundry markings. Also I took a pinball class at Colonial Williamburg's Costume Design Center and one of the designs we learned used cross stitch. Cross stitched samplers were worked by the young ladies of that time. Whereas my son is often asked about his Latin studies when we visit Colonial Williamsburg (asked by the interpreters in 18th century character), my daughter is asked if her sampler was completed yet!
In the kit from Poplar Forest, it said that Thomas Jefferson's grand daughters often visited, often did needlework, and most likely had needlecases such as this. (Poplar Forest is Thomas Jefferson's private retreat, which we have enjoyed visiting, even while Thomas Jefferson himself was there, entertaining historical guests like King George III and Benedict Arnold!)
I have a needle in the chamois for illustration...and I might add it was quite difficult to stick in there!
I did find the blog, Gawthorpe Textiles Collection here. Although I did a search, I couldn't find their needlecase there. However I am now following them in case they ever do share more photos of their lovely embroidered 18th century needlecase!
If I learn any more details about the history of stitched needlecases, I will add it to this post! =)
But now, time for the HSF details, because at the last minute I decided to use this for this month's Blue Challenge, since I might not have time to complete my original "blue" project. Also, I thought other historical seamstresses might be interested in this little needlecase!
What the Item Is: Needlecase
"Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre." -The Dreamstress
Fabric: aida cloth, cotton, chamois
Pattern: Kit from The Posy Collection
Year: 18th Century
Notions: embroidery floss, cotton batting, ribbon, buttons
How historically accurate is it? Quite accurate.
Hours to complete: About one month, off and on
First worn (used while wearing an 18th century gown, in this case, with the needlecase ): Forthcoming...
Total cost: $22.95