Work-Baskets and Bags (American Agriculturalist, 1867)
Prize Essay by Miss Eva M. Collins, Rochester, N.Y.
Every lady, whether a woman or a little girl, should have a convenient receptacle for the implements which are necessary for her use in sewing. A household work-box, basket, or bag, is a household nuisance. Each person should have her own thimble, wax, thread, needles, scissors, etc., and a place to keep them; and the manner in which she keeps the latter is a pretty sure index to her habits of neatness and order in other respects. So great a variety in the style of these articles lies within reach of each of us, that our individuality can in no way be better discerned than in the choice we make. Our minister tells us that copying is a suicidal act, and that the spirit of the aphorism is applicable to the commonest incidents of daily life. Why not, then, to our selection of an article which presents so great a variety of forms? – not that he can mean, in this case, that we should each have a work-box unlike those we see about us, in order to express our individuality, for it would be but another form of the same act, and equally suicidal in its nature; rather than each should sufficiently understand her own needs and preferences, as to have a choice even in so small an item as this. Grandmother things there is nothing quite so convenient as her work-bag, fig. 1, the magical properties of which are universally acknowledged; though none of us would think of constructing such another with the hope of it wonderful properties being inherent in bags of that description, as everything that belongs to Grandmother partakes of the same nature. It consists of a round piece box-board, covered, and surrounded with pockets. Turned wrong side out, (fig. 2.) and emptied of its contents, it is easy to see how it is made. The pockets, fig. 3, are eight in number. These, and the inside bottom board are of gray merino. The upper edge of the pocket is scalloped with dark blue saddler’s silk, which is the outside color. A rubber cord holds the gray pockets so tightly drawn up that the bag stands of its own accord, outside from opposite directions, are loosened.
Mother’s work-basket is made on the same principle. It is a basket lined with pockets, fig. 5, instead of a bag. The inside is made separately, and afterwards fastened firmly into the basket at the bottom of the pockets. The tope could be simply made fast with coarse thread to the basket, though that would not look so neatly finished as it would wound with ribbon over the top of the basket, and through the material of the lining, with bows tied over between the pockets, where the strain upon the lining is the greatest, in the way mother’s basket is finished off. The pockets, fig. 6, are made in a straight piece just long enough to fit the bottom of the basket. The bottom of the row of pockets, fig 7, is slightly gathered to fit a circle of the same material which fits the bottom of the basket.
Katie has a standing work-basket of willow, with three compartments. She has various nice little contrivances to hold her work, among which are “crabs.” A crab ** like this is composed of three pieces of stiff pasteboard of an oval shape, two inches in width by three inches in length, neatly covered with silk, and sewed together at two of the edges. By a slight pressure at the ends it opens, and reveals a cozy little room large enough for small work, and convenient to carry in a dress pocket. IN this crab, which is brown on the outside and blue within, I see Katie has a bunch of tape trimming, and a spool of thread, No. 50. In another gray and pink one there is some ruffling, narrow lace and 100 thread; while stowed away in the drab crab I discover her tatting shuttle, fig., 8. It is one Grandfather made from the centers of two old fine-tooth combs, placing a couple strips of ivory between this outside places, and riveting the whole firmly together. Katie says it is entirely owing to her supply of crabs that she always has a variety of light work ready for any emergency. Her needle-book, figure 9, although large is appropriate to her basket, which is large and roomy. It is of bronze morocco, bound and lined with blue, with leaves for needles at one end, and a place for the thimble in the other side of the broad flat cushion at the other end of the case, fig. 10,. There is a morocco pocket between the silk pocket and cushion.
My needle-case, fig. 11, is smaller, and therefore better suited to my work-box, fig. 12, where every inch of space is precious, and accordingly economized. It rolls up into quite a small compass and lies under the tray, or sometimes in the tray, beside my button-box. Between these and the cushion, is a narrow depressed division for knife, pencil, stiletto, buttons, tape, needle-book, etc. The scissors, tape-measure, emery, thimble, shuttle and pin-case belong in the division opposite the thread; while under the tray is a ball of welting cord, box of hooks and eyes, case of skeins of silk, fig., 13, scissors sharpener, sticks and roll of tape, papers of floss and French cotton, Afghan needles, a crab or two, and a dozen little bundles of work in various stages of development, besides a thousand and one other articles, which do not legitimately belong to the box, yet are most conveniently kept here.
Jennies’s work-box, fig. 14, which is a tidy little affair, is a hexagon of stiff pasteboard covered with silk—gray on the outside, and scarlet within. On three of the side pieces are fastened pockets of the same material with which the basket is lined. On one side a covered strip of thin paste board, fig. 15, is fastened for a thimble case over which hangs an emery, fig. 16, made from two round pieces of strong linen, stuffed with emery and wool, covered with scarlet silk. The tomato shape is produced by drawing double thread of green silk six times thought the center of the emery—each time passing over the surface at an angle of sixty degrees from the last thread. A tuft of green is fastened with the string to the center of one side of the emery to increase its resemblance to a tomato. Jennie made several such boxes for her little friends a few months ago, some of which were very delicate in color—light blue and salmon— sea green and gray—and were prettier than her’s though scarcely as well adapted as hers for daily use.
** Also known as a Button Keep or Balloon Bag.