What is a Hussif?

What is a Hussif?

photos of 2 hussifsA hussif or huswif is an 18th-century term for a basic sewing kit.  If you look up the word Hussif, you will see it described as an alternative form of ‘housewife’ which originally meant a sewing-case. Traditional hussifs were a long strip of fabric 6 to 8 inches wide, with pockets stitched across the width of the fabric to hold sewing tools. You can roll the hussif up or fold it in order to store it. The pockets contained sewing items such as needles, pins, and small sewing tools such as scissors, etc. Simple sewing kits used to be given to soldiers as their “housewife” right up until the first world war.

Modern-day Hussifs or sewing kits

Making a hussif for yourself or a friend is a great project. You can really personalise them. You can keep a hussif small and simple or make them very complex with all sorts of pockets to store sewing tools. They make great gifts and yet are not a huge project. I have made a few and thought I would share these two hussifs with readers. You can see them folded in the photo above. I have opened them out for the photo below so you can see the back. Victorian colour scheme hussif back

My hussifs are a bit of a strange contrast as the back is usually a traditional technique such as the two here. They are both crazy quilt projects, yet inside I have made modern adaptions. The hussifs I have made have always been a cross between a traditional hussif and a modern organiser as I actually use them.

Jewel toned hussif open

You would normally roll up a hussif. But I have folded mine up.

Jewel toned hussif front

The photo above is the front of my Jewel-toned hussif. Below is the back. For most of these photos if you click on them you will see a larger version of the image.

Jewel toned hussif back fold

Using the Hussif

Usually, hussifs have a pocket at each end which I included but I also knew I would need more. Inside I added a strip of press stud tape in order to add a couple of zip lock bags to the hussif. Below you can see the inside of the Victorian colour scheme hussif with a matching pin cushion. It has a traditional pocket, yet also zip-locked bags secured with press stud tape.

Inside the Victorian colour scheme hussifThe zip-lock bags can be swapped out and replaced if they get a bit tatty. I usually carry items I am using on my current project, such as threads or small packets of beads. I would not recommend carrying loose beads in the zip lock bags in case the press-studs puncture the bag.

second view of the Victorian colour scheme hussif open

More design features

Another design feature is that I add a couple of elastic loops for quilting pens, and pockets for my templates. The other thing I did, was to line the inside with fine wool felt. Both linings are from the same wool skirt that I found in a charity shop.  I washed it on a hot wash cycle then plunged into cold water to shrink and felt it. I am pleased I did — I lost my first hussif’s needle case. Now I just use the lining of the hussif to carry a few needles.

Inside the Jewel toned hussif
You can arrange the zip-lock bags to open either left or right of the studs, so they sit in different directions. I stuff mine a bit too full! So I secure them to enable me to still fold the hussif. I let them flap about too, but you could secure them to tuck into the end pockets if you wanted. I have not lost the needle-book for this hussif!

Inside view of the Jewel toned hussifFor those who love crazy quilting here are some of the details on these.

detial from the Victorian colour scheme hussifThis detail from the Victorian colour scheme hussif  I picked out how I used Feather stitch to secure some eyelash thread. I  laced the thread in and out of the feather stitch.

Jewel toned hussif silk ribbon embroidery detailThis is some silk ribbon embroidery used in the Jewel tone hussif.

Jewel toned hussif inside pocketFinally here is a close-up of one of the inside pockets in the jewel tone hussif. The spray of flowers above the fan, on the left-hand side, is created with Woven trellis stitch, using a hand-dyed silk thread.

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19 Comments

  1. Those are lovely and are making me re-think my idea of working one from a recent Inspirations article. I really need to have a small thing to hold all the needles etc I need for my slate frame project (I’ve started doing RSN Certificate) at any given time and your ideas may work better for me. Hmm, lots of ideas to play with. 🙂

    Hope all’s well with you and yours??

    1. Hi Elizabeth yes I can see the sense in re-working something to fit all the sewing stuff – we are so lucky today as our sewing things although have not changed much and we can get by on a minimum we do have other bits and pieces to make life easier. After writing the article I too was thinking of making another!

      sharonb
  2. I worked at a living history museum and this is the first project that we all had to make when we started to test our sewing skills. This would make a great project for 2022 Sharron! Maybe even a whole Sewing Basket, scissors cover, tape measure cover, needlebook. oh my…….

    1. Lianne LOL great minds think alike I was considering a modern hussif and bag – even have a list of things that it could accomodate running on my computer. It really is at the thinking stage only at the moment.

      sharonb
    1. Thanks Bernadette I am always trying to up the photography on the blog we (as my husband Jerry helps me with this) learnt alot when we worked with the C&T the publishers for both my books.

      sharonb
  3. Your hussifs might be needle cases and sewing kits, but they are actually jewel cases! So beautiful are they, real gems!
    This is also a great project for someone who is not ready to make a full scale crazy quilt. On such small items as these you can really cram in the stitches, lace, beads and ribbons.

      1. Sharon, mine will have to start simple because I’ve never done any crazy quilting. But these huswifs have peaked my interest because all of a sudden I could see an application for a technique that I thought I never would go near, and that is brilliant. I’m also thinking jewellery rolls and bottle gift bags, not just huswifs. I suspect I will get very creative in the run up to Christmas. Thank you for your lovely TAST posts, they opened my mind to stitch craft again in all its glory.

        Mon
  4. These are the most magnificent huswifs I have ever seen. Embroidered quilts are not my thing because we have pets but I can see myself starting to practise on huswifs, small and eminently giftable. Maybe there is a Baroque lady slumbering in me after all that has now been suddenly woken up. I am so excited by these huswifs and their possibilities. Thank you for putting them in front of my eyes.

    Mon

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