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View Full Version : What's a house wife?



kodyharrell
07-28-2006, 11:04 AM
What is a house wife?Before I knew you put it in you knapsack or haversack I thought it was just when you take your wife to the reenactments,haha. I'm only 14, so HEP MEH OUT please,haha.

theknapsack
07-28-2006, 11:17 AM
Kody,

A housewife is the soldier's term for a sewing/hygenics kit. Usually they were made of cloth, tape, oilcloth, leather sometimes, and many soldiers carried them. Typical features of period housewifes are pin flaps (two or three flaps of flannel to put your pins or sewing needles in), several pockets, sometimes they had a pin cushion at one end. Typical things kept in a housewife include, among other things: Needles, Pins, Thread, Scissors, Pocket Knife, Comb, Toothbrush, Extra Buttons, etc.

I recommend that you read Hardtack and Coffee by John Billings. You can get it off of amazon.com or some other book store. It is a memoir of soldier life, with various illustrations, including details on camp life, housewifes, tentage, corps badges, and all types of great stuff. I read it when I was two years younger than yourself so get to it. Another good book which is also a fun read is Corporal Si Klegg and His Pard by Wilbur Hinman. They have it on Amazon as well. One who is trying to be confederate such as yourself should also read Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins.

Here is some pictures of an original housewife:

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y40/theknapsack/MyPictures059.jpg

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y40/theknapsack/MyPictures061.jpg

cjdaley
07-28-2006, 01:43 PM
Riley,
That was a nice and informative reply to help a new guy out. Way to go!;)

I just read an account that referred to a sewing kit as an 'embryo tailor shop'. I thought that was a very cleaver term.

Rob Weaver
08-01-2006, 06:50 AM
I have a pair of folding scissors in my housewife, and a little roll of heavy wire, in case I have to repair my glasses. More new soldiers should get a housewife when they start out. You shed buttons in the field, not to mention the occasional seam rip. A sewing kit is possibly the best buy in reenacting for under $10.

Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers

vmescher
08-01-2006, 08:33 AM
I have a pair of folding scissors in my housewife,
Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers

Housewives are very easy to stock, some thread, needles, buttons and maybe some scraps for patches.

As for scissors, I would not suggest using folding scissors. In the most of original housewives that were rolled tight, there was no room for scissors. Some housewives were folded flat or were a large roll and could accommodate a small pair of scissors. On page 13 of my article "The Case of the Lost Thimble" is a picture of a housewife with a pair of scissors in it. The article may be found on the website www.raggedsoldier.com in the Virginia's Veranda section in the archived link.

A knife would work just as well for cutting and would serve other purposes. Small embroidery scissors would only serve one purpose in the field.

I've done considerable research on folding scissors. The first folding scissors were patented in the US in 1861 (#31,032) and also found an 1872 patent (#127,207). With the 1861 folding scissors, the blades were attached to a "U" shaped spring and the spring was squeezed to perform the cutting action. The design is very similar to simple kindergarten scissors, except in the 1861 design, the blades would fold into the the spring. I do not know if or when this type of folding scissors were first produced commercially. The 1872 patent is very similar to the folding scissors today and the patent drawing looks just like the folding scissors used today.

I did not find any folding scissors in period hardware or notion catatlogues but did find a large number of small scissors and other types of scissors similar to those we use today.

Rachal
08-01-2006, 06:32 PM
I cannot remember the last event that I did not have to repair someones gear. A well stocked housewife is the item that I wind up using the most. Buy up a few buttons that are common in your impression and store them inside the kit and you will never be stuck trying to find one at the last minute. I also carry a few feet of waxed linen for leather repairs and have had to make some pretty drastic repairs that I never would have thought that I would have to. I actually made housewives for my unit last year and passed them around so in case I wasn't available, somebody else might(?) have one. Good luck with the hobby.

vmescher
08-02-2006, 07:01 AM
The article may be found on the website www.raggedsoldier.com in the Virginia's Veranda section in the archived link.


I forgot to post the title of the article. It is "The Case of the Lost Thimble."

Rob Weaver
08-02-2006, 03:36 PM
Housewives are very easy to stock, some thread, needles, buttons and maybe some scraps for patches.

As for scissors, I would not suggest using folding scissors.
There's a pair photographed in one of the volumes of Lord's Encyclopedia. IIRC, they're of English manufacture. They're a bit bigger all around than the pair I have, but the same folding sequence. My housewife has a slightly oversized pocket to accomodate a spool, so it doesn't roll up that tightly or flat. This is actually a good thing because a couple of uniform buttons are a useful thing to keep onhand, too!

Sgt Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers

Army30th
08-02-2006, 07:59 PM
I have two types of housewives (three, if you include the missus)... one is a standard fold over tied with tape kind with needles, thread, buttons and patch material. The other is just needles, a thimble, and buttons with a card of thread, all kept neat in a bamboo shoot topped with a cork.

Mint Julep
08-02-2006, 09:36 PM
Virginia,

You gave the title of the article in the first post.

I've used those little scissors to trim my nails, so there is more than one use.

Mister,

Here's yer mule!

Say, do you know how to roll up a gum blanket yet?

Mint

vmescher
08-03-2006, 10:52 AM
There's a pair photographed in one of the volumes of Lord's Encyclopedia. IIRC, they're of English manufacture. They're a bit bigger all around than the pair I have, but the same folding sequence.

Sgt Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers

I have heard about the pair in Lord's but I don't think that they were that common in the US, except as souveniers from abroad, The following quote comes from the Sept. 9, 1876 issue of _Scientific American._ "Novel Folding Scissors. Many travelers from abroad bring home to their friends, as a novelty, a pair of folding scissors. But travelers can no longer anstonish their friends with this novelty, for Marx Brothers, of 480 Broadway, New York city, are manufacturing, under patent issued May 28, 1872, a superior quality of folding scissors, which are five inches long when in use, but fold into a length of two and a half inches for the pocket, highly finished and neatly put up in leather cases, which they offer in competition with the imported articles."

After that quote, there were a number of mentions of folding scissors in period newspapers, magazines, and journals. The cost was $1.00 to $4.00 per pair.

I would expect that a few people might have had them but for a large number to carry them in housewives, would probably not be correct.

Rob Weaver
08-03-2006, 02:41 PM
Admittedly, an uncommon and gadgety little item. Given that so much of a military reenactor's gear is circumscribed by history, one of the challenges the reenactor has is putting a live person with likes, dislikes and preferences inside that uniform. I like gadgets like that and have built that quirk into the material items that I use to reenact. I also use a combination folding knife/fork/spoon and a nesting mess-kit to cook in. These things are pretty rare in the circles I run, so they don't have a wildly "over-represented" presence.

Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers

toptimlrd
08-04-2006, 01:35 AM
[QUOTE=theknapsack]Kody,



I recommend that you read Hardtack and Coffee by John Billings. You can get it off of amazon.com or some other book store. It is a memoir of soldier life, with various illustrations, including details on camp life, housewifes, tentage, corps badges, and all types of great stuff. I read it when I was two years younger than yourself so get to it.

Just a note that I was in Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago and they had "Hardtack and Coffee" on their bargain table.

John Legg
08-18-2006, 08:25 PM
like riley said its a soldiers sewing kit, rob, i have seen housewifes over 10.00

ive seen them in the 60 dollar range too!