Historical Sewing Challenge #6: Travel

Housewif all rolled up
I'm excited to have finished another historical sewing challenge! I finished this one in July in time for my best friend Mairi's birthday present. She had embroidered these lovely 18th century pockets for myself, my daughter, and done an adorable initials patch for my son's 18th century shirt as Christmas gifts, so I wanted to make something for her in return! She didn't have a housewif, so it was the perfect gift idea! A housewif is a foldable or rollable traveling sewing kit. It's small, so it's easy to stuff in your pocket, and from what I've learned, many women in those times also used them as coin/money purses.

I had a lot of fun selecting the fabrics for this. I only had two options in my stash that I felt would work, so gosh dang it, I had to go get some more! haha! The one from my stash that I used for the outside of the housewif was one I found at my favorite fabric shop - Needle & Thread in Gettysburg, PA. It's a print taken from the Winterthur Museum collection (a lovely museum in Delaware). I'm not sure what the print dates to, but it's such a gorgeous fabric! Love at first sight! :-)
The beautiful Winterthur Museum collection fabric!
For new fabrics I selected two brown prints that look about 1850s-60s (Mairi loves brown!), and a blue print that's an 1830s reproduction print. The rest of the fabric I used is pretty general and could pass well for historical. While my fabrics aren't tied to a particular decade, I wanted to find historical prints that had meaning behind them.

I decided to hand-sew the whole thing which I thoroughly enjoyed! I've been doing a lot of 1940s sewing which is all on the machine, so it was a nice change to slow the pace to a simple needle and thread - while watching North & South! I have a good idea about how long it took, because I started and finished sewing the housewif with the movie which is 4 hours. Nice!

Here's the break down.

The Challenge: June - Travel

Material: 100% cotton prints, cotton homespun

Pattern: Housewif - hand drafted from studying originals and tutorials

Year: early-mid 19th century

Notions:  cotton quilt batting, cotton thread, cotton tape, mother of pearl button

How historically accurate is it? 90%. A housewif is pretty straightforward, but I didn't bind the edges like all the ones I've seen in my research. I wanted it to look more tidy and I'm horrible at binding. :-p

Hours to complete: approx. 4.5 hours

First worn: Gave it to a friend as a gift for her to use

Total cost: about $10 for fabric. The rest was in my stash.

Enjoy some more photos!

The light blue is the 1830s reproduction print.
Both browns I felt were good 1860s options, as well as the plaid.

I love the blue and gold print and the gold print is one I've had in my stash and used in a quilt.
Here you can see a peek at the beeswax I stuffed in one of the pockets.

The back of the housewif
Rolled up and tidy with button and cotton tape ties
The button doesn't actually button. It's just to cover and anchor the ties, as well as give them something to wrap around if desired.


  1. I love the fabrics you selected! You did an amazing job. I'm glad you got to watch North & South too. ☺️

    1. I'm so glad you love it and hope it goes with you on many sewing adventures! :-)


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