Victorian and Edwardian women, those with the leisure to make things by hand, had a different view of what textiles were necessary in their daily lives or what was worth their creative effort. . . . Look through old copies of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, and your jaw will drop.
You would have had a handmade pincushion in every room in the house (because you never knew when you might need a pin). Not just the boring tomato-shaped ones with a strawberry filled with emery on top either. Your pincushions might take the form of a rooster, a fan, a bow, a doll, a cream jug, a leaf, a witch’s hat, a hassock, an egg, a spoon, a beechnut, an acorn, a folly! (And what’s a folly? A pincushion that is “merely fantastic in shape.”) You might knit, crochet, sew, or embroider your pincushions, and they would require some investment of time. What would you be thinking?
A Wall Pocket? Why Not!
Pincushions were by no means the only household necessities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You would have needed wall pockets, too. And these wall pockets—macraméd, crocheted, knitted, stitched—would have been expressions of your creativity as well as your diligent housekeeping. You would have had them in your parlor, in your bedroom—where else would you hide the little bits that accumulate around the house? The scraps, dust bunnies, string balls, spare keys, grocery lists, and whatnot? (A question to ask yourself: What do you do with these oddments today? Put them in the trash or tuck them behind a couch cushion? Would you consider spending several hours crafting a special pocket for them, and then hanging it in plain sight on your wall?)
Most homes, then or now, need a doorstop or two. Those plastic wedges work just fine, and are pretty unobtrusive. But your great-grandmother would have had something else in mind, such as a brick covered in knitting. She might have knitted it in “very bright colors, to contrast sharply with those of the carpet.” Well, if you went to the bother of knitting a brick, you certainly would want people to notice!
Linda Ligon is the founder of Long Thread Media. She once made a felt cover for her hi-fi turntable, embellished with elaborate cutwork designs.