Hollow sewing cases or housewives seem to appear during the mid-nineteenth century and continue through the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, we will look at different examples. Note: this is one item where there are few examples with images publicly available. I recommend looking at your local collections for additional pieces.
To the right is a sampling trio of hollow sewing cases. The top is the accompanying illustration for a housewife published in Peterson’s Magazine in 1862, Arthur’s Home Magazine in December of 1863, August 1864, and Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1864 (directions follow). The bottom left is an undated sewing case of similar construction that I suspect is late 19th century based on the sewing and accompanying advertisement. (The image in Pinterest links only to a Flicker account that I have not been able to find the original image or location in.) To the right is another broken Pinterest link. This one is noted as an early twentieth century example attributed to Shakers. The use of this material can be found earlier. The seams appear to be hand sewn.
To the left are three examples attributed to Shakers from Willis Henry Auctions, sold in 2011. (Note the examples are not to scale.) Notice each is a single, solid color interior silk. The blue example is 9 1/2″ long. Just the very edge of the binding can be seen on the open tube center. This example has a single pocket, a scissors holder, and embroidered wool needle pages. The red one is 5 3/4″ long. This image allows us to see a spool inside the hollow tube. Note: I do not believe these scissors go with this case as it will not easily roll closed with those handles. Both of these appear to have had ribbon tie closures. The yellow example is a later piece. Notice the snap closure. This small case has three spools and needle pages. This one is 3 1/2″ wide.
Materials.—A piece of black cloth, eight and one-half inches long, five and one-half inches wide; a piece of toile circe the same size; one and one-half yard of blue sarsnet ribbon; one skein of coarse black purse silk; a few needle-fuls of various colored silks; buttons, etc.
The stars are worked either of one or in several bright and varied colors; but out pattern is made in the latter style. The stars of the same color form slanting lines; those in a light shade are white; then two lines farther , yellow; the two intermediate lines are one red and the other blue; then after the yellow stars, one line of green, the other of lilac. When the embroidery is finished, line the cloth with toile cirle, and bind both the outside and inside together with sarsnet ribbon, stitching it neatly on. Cover each of the round pocket, or housewife with a round of crochet work in black silk. To do this, make a chain of four or five stitches , join the first to the last so that as to form a circle; take some fine cord, and over this cord work crochet 8 rounds, increasing here and there, so that the round may be a little convex. When finished, it should measure about two inches round. Sew these rounds on to each side of the embroidered cloth, beginning at one of the ends. The rounds form the sides of the pocket and the embroidery is sewn round them, leaving a space of about one inch for the opening. The handle consists of a piece of bright blue ribbon, 10 inches long, fastened on each side in the middle of each round, and finished with a small bow. Two buttons (see illustration) are then added, and at the edge of the work two button-holes made to shut the housewife. To make the house-wife . To make the house-wife still neater and more complete, a piece of ribbon may be stitched inside to hold scissors, bodkin or knife, without putting these things into the pocket loosely.