Needlework has been a part of my life since around the age of 8 when my mother thought me a few simple embroidery stitches. My love of handwork has grown, continued and has always been more enjoyable than working on a sewing machine. In the mid-1990s I fell hard for counted thread embroidery. The variety of designs and stitches, the history (young grrls and women have been taught the techniques of counted thread for centuries) and lovely fabrics and threads, drew me in. The items I love to stitch most were neccessairés and needlebooks.
The picture above is a small collection of needlebooks I've stitched (one was a gift from a friend) and the picture belows shows the inside of two. Needlebooks are a place to keep needles together and safely stowed. The first holds paper packets of needles and the second, more elaborate, case has linen pages to hold the needles, scissors (beneath the needle pages) and pincushion, that also acts as a pinkeep (the white dots around the edge are pins). It is also a keepsake of the occasion in which I took the class with my name and date included.
Neccessairés are collections of decorative items, usually in a case of some sort, that have a purpose. Elegant antique apothecaries, travel sets and sewing cases are very collectible in todays market. Many a young woman through the ages were presented with a neccessairé of sewing tools when she came of age. Woman of all walks of life could make up a sewing roll (sailors also made neccessairé to take to sea) either of elegant fabrics, or of scraps, and safely keep the needles and other sewing tools together, always at the ready. Todays designers create with the past in mind, but use ideas of their own. For several years I (almost) obsessively stitched one piece after another and have quite a collection of needlebooks and neccessairés. Several of my handstitched neccessairés are in the picture on the side. The pictures below are of the contents housed inside: scissors with fobs, needlebooks, pinkeeps, beeswax, thread winders (to hold the precious silk threads) and rulers of ivory.
One of my favorite neccessairés is the Swan Lake Sewing Case. Five of us, friends and/or acquaintances, headed to Phoenix, I believe it was late 2001, to take the class. We were all in the same guild and knew we were around the same age. As we traveled we shared stories, chatted the hours away and found we were all born in the same year. Many other similarities were found and we all became closer friends on the trip. Before we sewed our stitching into the finished shape we made sure all our names were included on each and every one of our neccessairés.
There are many mementos tucked inside this little bag and each one brings back the nostalgia of the trip, the class and each and every friend who shared the event. They are dated 2002 as it took a long time to stitch all the pieces.
N is for Neccessairés, Needlebooks and Needlework.