Here's the scenario. New recruit gets a brand spankin' new pair of breeches and is running around in his first action when -- riiiiiiiip! -- he blows the crotch out going over a fence.

Old guard will be nodding knowingly; the ripped breeches story is an old and sad one.

For the 18th century soldier, this problem was a non-issue. That's because the 18th century soldier knew the basics of sewing and mending.

Although it's not required, having what's called a "housewife" in your haversack is a handy thing. Having the skill to use it is even better.

If you've already tackled the leggings project, a great second project is making oneself a housewife mending kit out of scrap linen. Housewives are great because you can practise many of the basic stitches during construction, even cross stitch marking.

The housewife to the left has been made by Elizabeth McAnulty. It has been made with a variety of scrap fabric, arranged into an attractive portable sewing kit and trimmed with green twill tape.

A typical soldier's housewife would contain:

selection of linen thread on winders
selection of good needles
extra buttons
small linen or canvas patches
twill tape


*Bodkins can be like gimlets for piercing holes in fabrics or can be the kind for threading tapes through things (such as the modern metal one that is attached to the housewife binding tape in the pictures).

Although the skills to make a housewife can often be gleaned around a campfire or by asking someone who you know is capable of threading a needle, you can find further information on housewives, basic stitching, and tailoring, the following publications are excellent:

Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing, Kathleen Kannik
Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing II, Kathleen Kannik
Workman's Guide to Tailoring Stitches, Kathleen Kannik
Tidings from the 18th Century, Beth Gilgun
Rural Pennsylvania Clothing, Ellen J. Gehert

A good source of 18th century mending materials are available from Wooded Hamlet.

Once you've tackled the basics and become as deft with the needle as with the musket you can move on to actually making stuff!

Imagine the power!




The King's Royal Yorkers