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Detail, pair of pockets. Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall, Manchester City Galleries. MCAG.1922.2150

This image is from the fantastic VADS site‘s  gallery of pockets. I need new pockets, or a pocket update and overhaul, so I went looking for inspiration.

Child's Pocket, 1720-1760. RIHS 1985.1.9.

Child’s Pocket, 1720-1760. RIHS 1985.1.9.

This is a dangerous path to go down if you are as unskilled with a crewel needle as I am.

Sew18thCentury can do it– so, sew, lovely. Me…well, everything I knew about embroidery I learned as a child, and promptly forgot with puberty. So my skills remain appropriate for reproducing this, from a Rhode Island collection. The pocket is child-sized, at 14 inches, and the embroidery has a crabbed, angry look, as if the girl would much rather have been outside, chasing her dog or brother.  I can relate, at least to the dog part.

My copy, on the clearance-bin frame.

My copy, on the clearance-bin frame.

I  made a pattern of the embroidery, traced it onto linen, and started working on dredging up those long-forgotten skills. As a child, I had a sewing or embroidery book, but what I remember most about the projects I made was how far their finished form was from what I had envisioned.

Jane, and the Oldest Inhabitant

Jane, and the Oldest Inhabitant

This is not an uncommon experience for children; my son has certainly experienced this, and even adults are subject to it. I think the best rendition of it, sewing-wise, is Eleanor Estes’ portrayal in The Middle Moffat of Jane Moffat attempting to make a “brocated bag” for Mama’s Christmas present.

The image of Jane sewing or crocheting under a tree while talking to Cranbury’s Oldest Inhabitant, a Civil War veteran, sums up every reenactment I’ve ever been part of… but I digress.


A detail. Sigh. I know, practice, but…

My embroidery stitches lack a lot, but most of what they lack is practice–and that’s what makes reproducing that RIHS pocket a perfect project for me. Pockets were “sampler” projects, and suitable for girls to learn on. This combines plain sewing with embroidery, and ends up as something useful and authentic, so what more can I ask?

Pocket, single, embroidered. Snowshill Costume Collection, National Trust (UK). mid 1700s. SNO1452

Pocket, single, embroidered. Snowshill Costume Collection, National Trust (UK). mid 1700s. SNO1452

The VADS site has tons of images to inspire me, and with practice, someday I could manage something as beautiful as this. I need only make sure that it fits my time period and station–and for some events it will, but for most, the plain pocket or the crabbed-stitch embroidered pocket, are probably far more appropriate.