A 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.
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.
You would normally roll up a hussif. But I have folded mine up.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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!
This 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.
This is some silk ribbon embroidery used in the Jewel tone hussif.
Finally 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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Floral themed Stitchers templates for hand embroiderers
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