Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Housewife For My Civil War Soldier

A few years ago I happily found a reprint of an original United States Christian Commission pattern for making a Civil War era housewife (sewing kit). The Christian Commission was an organization very much like the Sanitary Commission with the added function of ministering to the soldiers' spiritual needs as well as their physical ones.

The patterns were distributed on the home front by the Christian Commission so that women and children left behind could make these housewives for their beloved soldiers. Included in the instructions were the following words:
It is said by many soldiers and sailors that a well-filled house-wife saves them from Five to Fifteen Dollars in cash. It enables them to mend their clothes, sew on buttons, &c., and thus preserves what would soon be destroyed, and have to be replaced by new. Beside this, the moral value of one of these little articles is often unspeakable... The following is the most simple, convenient and serviceable style we have seen...Housewives, thus made, are much more convenient and serviceable than comfort bags.

I have made several of these housewives for my son and his reenacting friends and many have told me that the Christian Commission had it right...they work extremely well and are very handy.

What I find especially interesting is that the original pattern called for an elastic cord fastener. I had no idea that elastic was even around in the 1860s but it was actually patented in 1820 by an Englishman, Thomas Hancock. When I make these for myself and my "modern" day friends, I don't usually include the elastic cord because I like the finished look much better without it. But my son and his friends always get the most authentic version I can manage, calico button and all!

That's the last of my Civil War postings for now...I hope you have enjoyed them!



Monica Johansson said...

Hi! I really enjoyed these history insights! These needlecases are wonderful. The printed calico is beautiful! Monica

Corporal Dalton said...

I purchased a housewife off your son some time ago, and I still use it! Fantastic stuff.

The Humble Stitcher said...

Glad to hear you are still enjoying the housewife, Corporal! I guess the Christian Commission really did know what they were talking about :)

hron said...

Just learned what a "soldier's housewife" was and, as a result of my research, I came across your very interesting post. Thank you SO much for this amazing information and for the photos.