Reproduction Housewife by Donna Di Natale
Donna's housewife buttoned up.
See the pattern for this sewing kit in Confederates in the Cornfield by Edie McGinnis.
"I suppose you all know what a housewife is? It is a long piece of cloth with a number of small pockets sewed along one side, and made to fold up like a pocket-book, having separate places for buttons, thread, needles, pins, &c., such as some of you may have seen your mothers or grandmothers use."The Reformed Presbyterian magazine. Sept. 1, 1864.
Reproduction housewife by Susan of the Homespun Quilts blog
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These reproductions were made with scraps from my Civil War Reunion collection for Moda---a great use for charm squares.
Vintage Roll-up or Housewife: Oilcloth or leather on the outside
Some, like this vintage example, were made in red and blue wools
Moth-eaten wool and silk from the Kansas Memory websiteSee more at Kansas Memory
"Each soldier will carry one greatcoat, one blanket, one forage cap, one woolen shirt, one pair of drawers, one pair stockings, one towel, two handkerchiefs, one line and one coarse comb, one sewing kit, one piece of soap, one toothbrush..."General Orders 1862. General Orders, Headquarters. Dist. Of Southern California, No. 3. J Los Angeles, February 11, 1862.
A South Carolina soldier's sewing kit
"...a housewife which Helaine's uncle had carried all through the Civil War. The outside was made of oilcloth, and this was lined with silk. The pockets were also of silk, and bits of black flannel formed leaves for the needles. The edge was bound with narrow black silk, and it all rolled up into a compact case, which was fastened with a rubber band." New York Observer, Sept. 29, 1898
The roll up with pockets was a traditional form used for centuries.
My favorites are the scrappy versions
Fastenings included buttons, ties and elastic bands.
Roll-up from about 1830
It's important to realize that housewives or sewing roll-ups were used by women for centuries, so not all roll-ups were for soldiers. The kits were known as housewives, husswifs, etc.
Silk roll-up with seam covering embroidery from about 1880.
Contemporary soldier's sewing kit
Soldiers still go off to war with sewing kits.
Links to more information about reproduction and antique sewing kits. Scroll down the pages to see some great examples.
Donna Finegan Antiques has two kits for sale. http://www.donnafineganantiques.com/shoesandaccessories.html