While my foot continues to heal, I’m limited in my crafting abilities to hand projects because it’s difficult to operate a sewing machine pedal in a boot. No worries, my desire to start assembling historical ensembles means that a lot of things I want to make are perfectly suited for hand sewing due to the fact that sewing machines either weren’t invented or not widely used in domestic spheres for the periods I’m interpreting.
I’ve decided to start working on a pair of pockets for my 1850s ensemble. Have you ever heard the nursery rhyme about Lucy Locket losing her pocket?
Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon ’round it.
I was always puzzled by it as a child, but it turns out that pockets used to be detachable items of clothing, tied around your waist under your skirts. And yes, sometimes those ties could come undone and your pocket could get lost.
There are many historical examples of pockets in museums, and a lot of them have beautiful embroidery. I love a chance to practice my embroidery skills, so I’m going to embroider my pockets as well.
I’ve chosen an embroidery pattern that was published in the October 1853 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book because my 1850s ensemble that I’m making is for a character that lived in Washington Territory in 1855 and would be a little behind on fashions due to slowness of mail delivery. (Let’s be honest here, though–a middle-aged mother of four in any era of history would probably not worry about pocket embroidery at all because yeesh, feeding and clothing your family was hard back then and I wouldn’t be using my time to make my invisible articles of clothing more pretty. Or, maybe it’d be a nice little thing I’d do for myself, finding snippets of time to embroider by candlelight? I like to think about that while I’m working on this.)
I’ve been slowly working on the embroidery, and this pocket has turned into a pocket embroidery “sampler” as I figure out my embroidery likes and dislikes. It’s a good piece to practice and experiment on, and I’m hopeful that my embroidery skills will be much improved by the end of this project. I started with Pinterest tutorials, but hated how they were looking, so I dug out a book on needlepainting by Trish Burr and started working according to her instructions. I like the needlepainting portions much more than the random Pinterest embroidery technique sections.
It seems that most people wore two pockets, so I’ll eventually have to make another. Extant examples of pocket pairs tend to match, but I don’t think I have enough interest in me to do this pattern again–I’m still trying to pump myself up to mirror the image on this particular pocket and stitch it again. Another two times after that?!?! It’s a no from me. Maybe I’ll do the other pocket in that grape vine pattern sharing the page? Or maybe I’ll get lost in researching more embroidery patterns from the era and choose from those! (Probably that last one…because I really enjoy reading through historical ladies’ magazines.)
The embroidery process thus far:
More embroidery awaits! This might be set aside for a little while, though; one of my kids wants a very specific look for their Halloween costume this year, and I’m going to have to sew some of it up myself.
More info on historical pockets:
- Existing pocket from 1784 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- A pocket made from quilt blocks, early 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Plain pocket, 1800-1810, Metropolitan Museum of Art
- A really good read about pockets: The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660-1990, by Barbara Burman & Ariane Fennetaux