Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Seventeenth Century Needle Case

Needle Case and Scissors, C. 1690
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This pretty little thing was made as a needle case.  It was ingeniously assembled from fragments of rich dress fabrics which would have otherwise have been wasted.  Such a needle case, made from scraps, would have been made by a woman of almost any class.  No woman wanted to waste costly fabric, and making little things like this would have been considered a suitable pass-time for her. 

Made to hold precious and useful steel needles, the needle case has been constructed as a folder with leaves and pockets inside. The outside of the case is covered in a silk and linen fabric which is striped with metallic thread. 

One side features a pear shape in semi-relief embroidery with green velvet appliqué leaves. The other side of the case has been given a pocket meant to contain scissors.  The maker of this case was very clever.  On the inside, she included a mirror, bound with gilt braid.  The interior also boasts two leaves of red felted wool, scalloped and edged with twisted gilt thread.  These are attached to the case by being sewn onto a piece of pink ribbon and would have served to hold needles.  Two pockets covered in a fragment of silk brocade also line the interior.

This was made by an unknown young English lady between 1660-1690 either for herself or as a gift.  It still contains two of its original needles, pinned inside.

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