My Crazy Quilt Style Purse and Hussif Needlebook

Carol Lindberg 2004

   
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I have always loved to sew. Of course, much of it was out of necessity rather than pleasure. Many nights I found myself at my sewing machine or 'in my chair' sewing for my two girls, myself, my son and yes, dressing the dolls that were living with us at the time. I was able to do a little creative work on some of the things I made, but my desire to just 'decorate' my items always got left out because of time or money.

I am (ahem) at a retirement age now in my life. The three children are all busy with their families, my grandchildren and even a great granddaughter! So my love for sewing extended more to lots and lots of work with dolls. After closing my Doll Restoration Shop of many years, I am still sewing for dolls, but let me tell you how I found the most satisfying 'sewing' of my life!

Here in Wichita, KS there is a Women's Fair each year in February. Many, many booths full of all kinds of things that women enjoy fill our Convention Center. Two years ago, when I walked into the Women's Fair the first booth that I saw held the most beautiful items I had ever seen! Lovely crazy quilts, wall hangings, pin cushions, book covers, pictures, needle books, scissor holders, pillows, women's vests and jackets, photographs sewn into lovely items etc. were all displayed. I stood for many minutes in one spot just taking all of this in. Then my eyes fell onto the table in front of me, and there lay the most beautiful open book that held all kinds of sewing tools and a purse to carry it in! Now this open book was made of dupioni silk and had pockets all over it, back and front, as well as lots of lace and silk ribbon embroidery. The purse was equally decorated (embellished is the word I have learned!!). Then my eyes fell onto a magazine that was open and there were pictures of these very items I was looking at for real! By this time, the lady in the booth was talking to me and I hardly heard a word she said, as I was just spellbound by it all.

Well, this lady is Julie Craig. She is the owner of a shop here in Wichita, KS called "Attic Heirlooms." She was telling me that this was an article about her and these two items she had designed and made. She was also telling me that I could sign up for classes to make these very things myself! The rest of this story, you can already guess! The class was in April 2002 and I have nearly lived at the shop since that time.

The 'book' item is called a Hussif Needlebook. [see editor's note] The history of it is that in Victorian times, ladies did a lot of fancy stitching to pass the time. Remember, they had servants, so all those household chores were done for them. Julie Craig is a wonderful designer and teacher. She designed this Hussif and Purse. The article was in the Quilting Arts 2002 Spring Issue no. 5.

As I said it is made with dupioni silk as the basis. A silk print of a lady and her child in Victorian times is on the front. When you open the hussif for the first fold, there are the beginning of pockets and slots and wonderful little sewing articles and as you open it further, there are more! The hussif measures 25 1/2" wide when opened completely. It is 7" tall. As you can see in the pictures it is embellished all over with a variety of things from silk ribbons, beads, embroidery work, dyed to match lace motifs, and more. Each little pocket holds a sewing treasure!

The purse measures 10" across when laying flat. The height is 8 1/4". There is a pocket that goes completely around the purse that is 5 1/2" high. I'm sure the ladies carried their face powder, perfume, and perhaps a coin in the pocket. I can almost see a lovely hand rolled hankie showing out of the pocket, can't you? The purse has an oval bottom and will stand alone. Please notice in the pictures how the purse handle is made! More of Julie's designing is apparent here. Wooden spools on each side of the purse hold the handle!

I have carried the purse (as my purse) to several functions and am stopped many times when ladies see it. I feel so blessed to have found this type of sewing. Needless to say I have made many more things in Julie's needlework shop. Her designing is ongoing. She always has something new and of course, you want to make each and every thing you see. The classes are available both daytime and evening, and she is most gracious and helpful with anything you need.

Julie Craig will be teaching at the Crazy Quilt Convention in Nebraska in June. She has designed special things for the classes and you will love them!



Resources:

Patterns for both the Hussif needlebook and the purse are available as well as kits for each of them also. Contact:

Attic Heirlooms
Julie Craig, owner and designer.
1717 Briggs
Wichita, KS 67203
Phone (316) 265-4646

Assistant Editor's Note:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), hussif is one of the forms of the word housewife.  It is believed to be a Middle English word derived from Old German and Dutch.  If you look up housewife in the OED, one of the definitions "a pocket-case for needles, pins, threads, etc. In this case it is often spelt huswife, hussive."

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