A needlebook’s tale

In 1979 my step-mother gave me an old needlebook – as a daily sewer, I’ve used it often, even taking it around the world where ever I went. It’s so useful, and yet, I’ve never come across another and I didn’t even know what it was called until recently.

It’s hand-sewn out of old upholstery linen, probably surrounding a cardboard insert (it’s quite stiff) and is lined with cotton sateen. I estimate the linen dates from the 1930s and the cotton sateen might even be a bit older. It’s faded on the edges from where it’s been exposed to sunlight.

Inside is a piece of worsted wool, into which the needles, pins etc are stuck. You can see how well used it is – some of these pins and needles go back to my earliest days of sewing in the early 1970s. They’ve stained the wool in places!

I use my needlebook a lot, and recently I’ve been wondering why I haven’t seen any others – so I showed it to Pene Durston of Cottage Industry, as she’s knowledgeable about these things. It was Pene who told me what they were called, and said that she was sure that she had a similar linen. Lo and behold – on Friday she brought me a present:

Pene’s version is lined in a cute paisley print – and is also hand-stitched.

You’re probably feeling the need of a needlebook of your own by now, so I can tell you that they’re available for sale at Cottage Industry, 67 Gertrude Street for only $28! And they come ready loaded with a few needles and pins, which came in very handy when I had to patch the dress I wore to a wedding on Saturday and found that my own needlebook had been left at the stock room (you can see the remnants of my black thread if you look closely).

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11 comments

  1. I have my grandmother’s needlebook, very similar in linen pattern. I think they were a project the girls of yesteryear were expected to make.

  2. I have one from my mother that was passed onto my sister and then me. I have used it for the past twenty years myself and always considered it a standard piece of kit in my sewing box. It’s nice to know there is a history behind them. I’d love to post a photo of mine.

  3. Being a fanatical sewer myself, I still use my mums Black Mammy politicaly incorect sewing wallet great way to store needles to stop them rusting.

  4. Imagine that, a little piece of history. It’s a cute nifty trinket and a good gift for anyone with a little reworking, u can also sew photos into make a little needlebook scrapbook or something.

  5. In 1966 in first class primary school ‘old Mrs Evans’ came in and gave the girls embroidery lessons, on top of the list was a needlebook. Mine was made of head cloth and embroidered with basic running stitch with interlacing. From my mothers scrap box a piece of Oliver B Bommel and Tom Poes flannel bought to Australia when my parents immigrated from the Netherlands in 1956 was retrieved and used for the pages. Yes, I still have my book.
    In 1990 I gave embroidery classes to the children of North Strathfield Primary school, you guessed it, I taught them to make their own needle books at a cost of $2.50 each.
    An item every sewing kit needs.

  6. Oh My,
    I am so happy you blogged about this as I have one my grandmother gave to me and at first I thought not much of it- wow you really do learn something new everyday, thanks nicole

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