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! Building a hussif (housewife)

 
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A hussif (more often spelt 'housewife' but pronounced hussif) is a portable toolkit with everything needed for minor adjustments or mending clothing.  

Right now I keep everything in my sewing machine desk so I can put my hands on the tool I need in an instant... but I really want something a bit more portable.  So I'm thinking of sewing a housewife.

 
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I've seen silk versions of this sort of thing and didn't realize they'd begun as sewing kits - assumed they were were for jewelry or make-up. Personally, having something portable for keeping sewing stuff in makes sense, but I'm sure I'd accidentally unroll it the wrong way and dump everything out!

People now-a-days have a lot more gizmos that we consider "required" than 200 years ago when your table knife was a sharp blade and used for everything. If I was going to make something like this for sewing, I'd size it based on my small scissors, stitch ripper and some sort of small flat box that would hold pins and needles without risk of them poking through the hussif, my pocket, and then me! I say "flat box", but I can picture something out of leather doing the job. I've also seen similar things where one section of the roll had cardboard lining inside which would help with "sharps".

The video mentions putting this roll in her pocket - most pockets now-a-days would struggle to hold something so large, so one needs to consider that in their measurements and sew the hussif, or the clothing, to accommodate each other. I have some sort of recollection that originally most things like this were tied on to a waist strap/belt of some sort, as an "add-on" pocket because clothing didn't have integral pockets at that time.

As a rule, I've generally been disappointed with commercial "sewing kits" with poor-quality thread and lack of thimble (this would be a great place for the Japanese leather thimble described elsewhere). Making one's own makes a lot of sense, but I would think and plan what I'd put in it and work from there myself.
 
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I didn't make my "hussif," but here's what I use (constantly, everywhere I go, which -- along with the fact that we live in a place of blowing dust -- is why it's all pretty dingy despite my attempts to keep it clean): a Piddleloop large box bag set that I bought about 10 years ago. These days I would probably try to make myself one, but really, the Piddleloop folx make fine bags that last a long time. I took most everything out of it, laid things out on my desk, and put it all back in again so y'all can see what I keep handy in it. (Believe it or not, I did take a small bag's worth of less necessary stuff out of it for this "photoshoot," because for a while I hadn't been able to zip it shut.)

This is the bag I use for hand-sewing, mending, darning, and embroidery (I have another bag for knitting and crochet, and I use others to contain drop spindle spinning projects to keep them clean and less tangled, and those all have their own sets of tools). So there's:

  • a lot of embroidery thread, darning thread, button thread, sewing thread, etc. in lots of colors;
  • a pincushion;
  • fabric scissors, pinking shears, and embroidery scissors (those are hiding in the side pocket);
  • a protractor, circle stencil, and lots of different marking tools for sashiko marking (there was a compass, but it broke and I haven't yet fixed it);
  • a darning egg (one of several I have, but this one was my gramma's or grand-nannah's);
  • a double-ended wooden pressing "iron" and corner-pusher-outer my partner carved for me;
  • several seam-rippers;
  • a wax crayon for lubricating zippers;
  • a zipper;
  • a few scraps of fabric for patching;
  • several different kinds of needles, including a bunch of sashiko needles in the corked plastic case;
  • safety pins;
  • a needle threader (attached to the zipper of the pouch);
  • a metal ring thimble and my favorite leather ring thimble;
  • a wrist ruler (and there are a couple other tape measures in the round leather pouch under the thread); and
  • a bag of small buttons.

  • That round leather pouch was made for me by a young friend about 12 years ago -- she was 11 at the time -- and is extremely handy, just a round of deerskin with a rawhide cord threaded all around the outside to draw it shut. She threaded some beads and things on the ends of the knotted cord. It makes a fine sewing kit on its own with less stuff in it so it can be drawn all the way shut. The wooden needle case standing up inside there has lived in it since she gave it to me and I used it as my primary kit (I think I found the case at a vintage odds-n-ends store near there that same summer).
    fullsizeoutput_11b0.jpeg
    the box bag and its contents laid out
    the box bag and its contents laid out
    fullsizeoutput_11b1.jpeg
    the box bag with its inside pocket and elastic tool holding strip
    the box bag with its inside pocket and elastic tool holding strip
    fullsizeoutput_11b2.jpeg
    the leather pouch and lots of thread and needles
    the leather pouch and lots of thread and needles
    fullsizeoutput_11b4.jpeg
    the accessory pouch the box bag came with, where all the small things live
    the accessory pouch the box bag came with, where all the small things live
    fullsizeoutput_11b6.jpeg
    the bag with everything tucked back in
    the bag with everything tucked back in
    fullsizeoutput_11b8.jpeg
    it shuts! I carry it by the loop on my wrist to keep my hands free
    it shuts! I carry it by the loop on my wrist to keep my hands free
     
    Beth Wilder
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    I just noticed that the November/Fall 2019 issue of Piecework features a housewife sewing pattern (I found it on RBdigital through my library), and the magazine's parent company also sells a "Col. Fitzwilliam's Huswife Knitting Pattern" for the less sewing-inclined among us.
     
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    Thank you, Beth! Ordered mine, just now!
     
    Beth Wilder
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    I've been thinking about how useful kits/pouches/roll-ups like these are, and how I'd like to make one for things like art tools to take on hikes/walks and one for tools like wrenches and such. The latter would be especially useful if it could either be rolled up to transport or placed over the top of a 5-gallon bucket. Maybe one for gardening tools and another for the wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, etc. (I already have a pre-made one of these in/on a bucket for gardening tools, but because it's so handy I end up cramming a lot of my wrenches etc. in there too and then it's too heavy to lug around practically, so I'd like to make another).

    Ten Thousand Villages sells this beautiful artist tool roll-up pouch from Prokritee in Bangladesh (pic below is theirs). I can't find a pattern exactly like it just yet, but I'd like to imitate it. (I think buying one to support them would also be a very good option if money was currently available.)



    This paint brush roll-up organizer seems like it has some, but not all, of the elements I'd want for carrying art tools (pic below is theirs).



    I found this tutorial to make a tool roll-up from the leg of an old pair of jeans (pic below is theirs). That seems pretty great, although I might add a couple more bells and whistles like a flap to make it go over a bucket and maybe some shorter pockets with snaps for small collections of screws and such-like.



    I have an aversion to video tutorials because our internet connection is so slow and because, even when I can get them to load, it's rare that I can find a quiet, private time (i.e. when there aren't too many other sounds in the house to be able to hear) to watch my backlog of video tutorials. So for me, your basic pictorial tutorial is preferable, especially because I can print the page to PDF and save it offline to reference when our internet inevitably conks out. All this is to say that I tend to automatically screen out videos, but if others find good ones, please share!
     
    Jay Angler
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    Beth Wilder wrote:

    I've been thinking about how useful kits/pouches/roll-ups like these are, and how I'd like to make one for things like art tools to take on hikes/walks and one for tools like wrenches and such.

    I made a wrench one at Hubby's request and submitted it for a PEP Oddball point. https://permies.com/wiki/70/97787/pep-oddball/PEP-Badge-Oddball#1138022 I prefer to make them specifically for the need because different sets of things need slightly different dimensions. I like the idea of a hussif for some of my sewing stuff that does occasionally need to travel, but I want to think about it for a while and make something sized specifically for the sorts of things I consider useful, not someone else's pattern.
     
    Carla Burke
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    They do, indeed! Wrenches wouldn't fit, at all, into one for crochet hooks, which wouldn't do well in a traditional hussif, for sewing. I have a feeling once I get going on them, the will be a long-ish one for my youngest daughter's paint brushes, a shorter one with similar sized 'tubes', for my older daughter's coloring pencils, a wider- compartment one for my step daughter's hand tools, one with a big pocket and many tiny pockets for my stepson's rhinestones, one similar, but with somewhat bigger pockets, for my son's gaming side & figures, AMD an assortment of them in various styles, for John's and my needs: my hand tools, his forge tools (easier to travel with), he could use another chef's knife roll, and I'd love one for my throwing knives - both of the knife rolls would also have space for our sharpening kits. It would be incredible to have them for my sling-bow & accessories, too. Rolled kits are great for tons of things.

    But, I think I'll start with the hussif...
     
    Jay Angler
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    Carla Burke wrote:

    a shorter one with similar sized 'tubes', for my older daughter's coloring pencils,

    OK - that one will be interesting because the length is a moving target!
     
    Carla Burke
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    Jay Angler wrote:Carla Burke wrote:

    a shorter one with similar sized 'tubes', for my older daughter's coloring pencils,

    OK - that one will be interesting because the length is a moving target!



    Good... point, lol. I've plenty of time to figure it out, but I'll try to remember to come back and post it!
     
    r ranson
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    Well, I sewed my first hussif (housewife).  It's a great way to use up scraps and an excellent insomnia buster.  I sew until my eyes get tired, then I close my eyes.  Sometimes I fall asleep, sometimes I get up and sew some more.  

    I measured some scraps I had and based the pattern on that.  
    The purple is the end of a skirt I bought long ago, before I understood I don't wear things that show my knees.  



    and for some reason, there was no paper to be found, so I wrote it down on a scrap of cloth.

    These are cabbage - scraps of cloth that are leftover from other projects and from reclaimed clothing that is too far gone to keep wearing.  Some of the pieces weren't large enough so I stitched them together using a victorian version of the Flat Fell Seam (you press the two bits the right shape before whipstitching them together - it's actually really fun and surprisingly efficient)  

    I used whip stitch as well for most of the hems because this is the stitch I wanted to get acquainted with most of all.



    You can see my old [i]housewife [/i (including needle fold thingy I made but don't know what it's really called) in the wooden box.  I actually still like this best, but it's not convenient to put in my purse.  



    The running backstitch is new to me.  But it worked great for this kind of work where the seam won't take a lot of strain.  

    Also, you can see that I'm ... not sure the word here... "pinning" the fabric in place with thread.  I'm so glad I did as it wanted to shift around on me constantly and pins were a pain in the ass.  If I was sewing on the machine, I think pins would work well.  

    again with the whipstitch because I'm finding this quickest and I still want to practice getting an even stitch.



    All rolled up



    with stuff in


    Staff note (r ranson) :

    earn a PEP badge if you make one here https://permies.com/wiki/148142/pep-textiles/sew-tool-roll-PEP-BB#1156367

     
    Jay Angler
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    Lovely job! It's great to use small but useful projects like this one to build your skills!

    r ranson wrote:

    Also, you can see that I'm ... not sure the word here... "pinning" the fabric in place with thread.

    I would use the word, "tacking", but I don't know if that's the most common term for this. Sometimes "basting" is also used, but I think of that as a "practice seam" so make it easier to do the final seam for something like fitting a sleeve in. I *always* baste zippers in before machine stitching them. Any time I've skipped the hand stitch first approach, I've ended up pulling out the machine stitches, basting the zipper in, and then machine stitching it a second time. That's why I think that practicing hand sewing is not stressed as much today as it possibly should be. It's like any other skill requiring coordination - proper instruction and practice make it functional. Without instruction and practice it can seem slow and tedious.
     
    r ranson
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    here is a video where you can hear how the word is said

     
    Carla Burke
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    That was an excellent and incredibly helpful video, for me! I'd been thinking about how I wanted to pack thread into my sewing kit, but absolutely hate those cardboard things that thread comes wrapped around, in tiny purchased kits, and I'm loathe to buy plastic, if I can avoid it. Bone makes so much sense, too me - and, on a homestead with livestock in the yard, and dogs and a chef in the house, it's one of the easiest materials for me to lay hands on! I love the leather-backed pin cushion, and how it was attached, too!
     
    r ranson
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    I've fallen down the hussif rabbit hole the last few days.  Considering how ubiquitous they were, it's shocking how few are left and how expensive they are.  It's like people paying hundreds of dollars for empty toilet paper rolls.  I thought everyone had a sewing kit or five kicking about.  

    I'm completely in love with these and am having trouble stopping making more.  The materials and tools to sew one, fit neatly in a small pouch I can put inside my handbag and do a few stitches every spare moment.  I might try making some to sell on my etsy shop - but it's a lot of labour per housewife, so not sure if the price for a handstitched one would sell.  Then again, a kit to sew one's own starts at about $50 CAD and can go up to over $90 CAD!  That makes my calculation of $120 for a hand-sewn housewife not so outlandish.  

    This site has some good resources: http://stitchingbyacornishseashore.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-military-housewife.html

    I like this one especially, with the pincushion at one end and a hole for the thimble to fit inside the cushion.

     
    Jay Angler
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    This last one is definitely a little fancier! The cylindrical pin cushion is like a miniature version of a throw cushion I once made. The hole for the thimble is brilliant. It would likely be made by sewing a small bit of fabric into a cylinder, sewing a cap on the end that will be the bottom of the hole, then inserting it into a hole cut in the cushion and attaching the top end of the cylinder to the cushion hole. To stop the pincushion material from moving into the thimble space, the cap would have to be carefully stitched all around the base to the side of the cushion we can't see. I can visualized the process, but actually doing so and getting it to fit wouldn't be trivial.
    That said, one of my issues with things like the hussif is actually being able to hold awkward things like thimbles that slip out too easily and would have been very valuable at the time. I've started watching a series about how the start of the coal age/steam engine age changed society in Britain and one of the first things mentioned was how things which would have been locally produced such as pottery dishes, furniture, wagon wheels etc quickly started being produced in "factories" and "distributed" by the train network. Although on the surface it may have seemed like an improvement in the standard of living, but it pointed out the fallacies in that - many people, particularly women, were better off before the coal age.
     
    Carla Burke
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    Jay Angler wrote:
    That said, one of my issues with things like the hussif is actually being able to hold awkward things like thimbles that slip out too easily and would have been very valuable at the time.



    My first thought, on this would be that the metal, and even horn thimbles in particular would have been to valuable for the vast majority of women to risk taking in it, unless it was like this last one. Those would have likely been left safely at home - for the classes who could even afford them, and the 'travel' thimble would probably have been made of leather, with maybe a bit of wood, thin, flat stone, or a flat bit of horn sewn in, so that it would lay flat, inside a pocket. At least, that's where my mind goes, even now.
     
    r ranson
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    maybe the pincushion is made of felt?
     
    Jay Angler
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    r ranson wrote:maybe the pincushion is made of felt?

    Do you mean the inside? That would certainly help and the video mentions stuffing his pincushion with sheep's wool. I've not seen felt with such a precise pattern before - usually it's a fuzzier looking finish - but we've lost so many skills. I wonder if Nicole Alderman who made your adorable Henny Penny could make a felted cylinder with a thimble hole?

    Carla Burke makes a valid point also, although I had just assumed that the hussif pictured belonged to a wealthy woman or was more modern than some we've been looking at.
     
    r ranson
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    Jay Angler wrote:

    r ranson wrote:maybe the pincushion is made of felt?

    Do you mean the inside? That would certainly help and the video mentions stuffing his pincushion with sheep's wool. I've not seen felt with such a precise pattern before - usually it's a fuzzier looking finish - but we've lost so many skills. I wonder if Nicole Alderman who made your adorable Henny Penny could make a felted cylinder with a thimble hole?

    Carla Burke makes a valid point also, although I had just assumed that the hussif pictured belonged to a wealthy woman or was more modern than some we've been looking at.



    I was thinking the outside of the pincushion as well.  I imagine it would frey less so it would be easier to create the insert for the thimble.  But now we are getting away from the "using up scraps" to "I gotta buy felt".

    And yet, I really want to make it.  

    I haven't a clue how to make it.

    But I want to.  
     
    Carla Burke
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    Jay, I think you're absolutely right, that the last one was most likely owned by a wealthy woman, and I'd even go so far as to bet the thimble protected within would have been made of silver. The ones I was thinking of, were those more like in the previous video, with the simple pockets. Interestingly, some of my favourite thimbles have been of leather. I have a couple of tiny leather single strip ones, reinforced with plastic guards, at the finger. I'm not sure yet, how I feel about them, as I'm often a bit clumsy, as my fingers tire, and must pay very close attention to finger placement, with them, or the needle will miss, and my bare finger gets it, instead.
     
    Carla Burke
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    r ranson wrote:

    Jay Angler wrote:maybe the pincushion is made of felt?

    But now we are getting away from the "using up scraps" to "I gotta buy felt".

    And yet, I really want to make it.  

    I haven't a clue how to make it.

    But I want to.



    Maybe you could felt some of your own wool scraps? It's a very simple process, and can be don't, for something like this, in the washing machine.
     
    r ranson
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    It looks like a housewife would be a place a person would carry valuables as well as sewing supplies.  In the start of the video on the first post, it talks a bit about this.  
     
    Carla Burke
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    I think I might need a harem of them!
     
    Jay Angler
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    r ranson wrote:

    I was thinking the outside of the pincushion as well.  I imagine it would fray less so it would be easier to create the insert for the thimble.  But now we are getting away from the "using up scraps" to "I gotta buy felt".  

    I've heard of people knitting wool and then felting the knitted product. I'm not a knitter, but the same technique might work with crocheting which I did years ago. I'd already been thinking I should find the hooks (in a blue bin, know which room, but stuff will need to move... I've got to get rid of stuff, but hard to choose what...you all likely know the problem). This would be an interesting project to try.
     
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    Even felted tightly, the wool will fray some...at least mine does, and I try really hard to pack it down tight. On my "fulled" (knit things that I felted after knitting), are still fuzzy.

    The one in the picture doesn't look fuzzy at all, which tells me that it has fabric sewn around it. If I were making one, I would probably felt the cushion "stuffing" into shape, and then sew fabric over it on all sides so it doesn't get all fuzzy. Also, by adding fabric all around it, you can use that fabric to attach it firmly to the rest of the hussif. You can literally sew the fabric onto the cushion stuffing if you felt the roving down tight enough.

    I wouldn't use felt to make it. I would use raw wool and needle felt it into shape.  You could also probably welt felt it into shape. Put the thimble you want stored in it, in there as you felt it, so it leaves that hole there. Once you've made the cushion stuffing, then cover it with fabric. The need thing about this, is you can sew right into the felt cushion stuffing. You might not need to cover the thimble hole inside with fabric (that seems complicated. It's probably optimal to fabric line the thimble hole, but not necessary if the felted cushion stuffing is tightly felted.)

    I think I rambled there. Here's what I would do:

    (1) Needle felt the cushion stuffing into the cylinder shape, making sure to leave a thimble shaped depression--either by stuffing a thimble in there (be careful not to bang your felting needle against it too much, or you'll break your felting needle) or stuff some cotton fabric in there, because cotton doesn't felt. I'm thinking you could also wet-felt the cushion "stuffing", too.

    (2) Sew fabric around and onto the felted wool "cushion stuffing." Make the fabric cover longer than it takes to roll over the cushion, that way you can use the extra fabric to attach the cushion to the rest of the hussif. Remember, if your wool "cushion stuffing" is tightly felted, you can sew directly into it. This might make some tasks a lot easier.

    (3) Sew caps onto the ends of the "cushion stuffing" cylinder. This will help hold the wool cushion stuffing into it's shape.

    (4) Optional do pretty stitches all around the cushion to really hold that fabric onto the wool "cushion stuffing." I'm thinking maybe that's why the original has the pretty stitching on it? Though maybe they just used super pretty fabric there.
     
    r ranson
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    Needle felting contents - I'm game to try that.

    Should I have a single needle or a punch?

    trying to decide how big to make it.  I like the housewife to be about 4-5" wide, so that gives us the length of the cylinder.  Now for the decision on the depth.  Thimble hight plus...???
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    r ranson wrote:Needle felting contents - I'm game to try that.

    Should I have a single needle or a punch?



    I've never really used a punch. I use a pen that holds three needles. That make it felt faster. But, you can totally do the whole thing with one needle. I've made a lot of creatures with just one needle.


    trying to decide how big to make it.  I like the housewife to be about 4-5" wide, so that gives us the length of the cylinder.  Now for the decision on the depth.  Thimble height plus...???



    The nice thing about wool is that you can always add more felt onto it, or felt it down more (to a degree. Your needled felted chicken named Egg was supposed to be smaller, but I couldn't felt it down any smaller!). You can also cut off wool if you find it's too big, but that seems to make it have a bit less integrity. But, I think this project is pretty forgiving, and probably be a good beginner felting project. I love how forgiving needle felting is as a medium!
     
    master pollinator
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    Although I already made my 'vintage look needle booklet', which has the same function as the 'hussif', Now I think of making one like in the video, the simple type. To take my repair stuff with me on my next bicycle-camping-tour. It looks much better than the plastic card-size set I got somewhere for free. And I can make it exactly right for the spare things and materials I think I need.

    This subject made me think too on the question: was there an equivalent of this here in the Netherlands, how is it called? I know ladies had a 'chatelaine' of fine chains attached to the waist belt, with their scissors, keys, etc hanging from it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatelaine_(chain) ). But that was an expensive possession, not something for ordinary women.
     
    Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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    No BB for this. I already made a tool-roll for my crochet needles. But I made my small hussif too! To take with me on bicycle-camping-tours. So I can repair clothes (maybe even other textile things) if needed.


    Square pin cushion filled with wool


    All different parts: pin cushion, two pockets, closing ribbon and the backside that will hold all. Halfway the sewing  


    hand-sewing all together


    Now I can put the things in it: small scissors (embroidery scissors) in the 'large' pocket, a few buttons and an embroidery needle in the tiny pocket, sharp needles, some pins and a safety pin on the pin cushion, two kinds of yarn will be wound around it and the a strip of fabric (can be used for patches)


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    Beth Wilder
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    Oh, Inge, I love your Koh-i-noor tin of steel pins! That's one of the things I love most about the supplies I inherited from my gramma and grand-nannah. The containers themselves are works of art. I think part of it is just the colors!
     
    Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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    Beth Wilder wrote:Oh, Inge, I love your Koh-i-noor tin of steel pins! That's one of the things I love most about the supplies I inherited from my gramma and grand-nannah. The containers themselves are works of art. I think part of it is just the colors!

    Hi Beth. I never thought of my tin of pins as something special. I probably bought it new in the 1970s (or maybe my mother bought it for me). Now I looked it up on the internet and I see it's even in the museum!
    https://museumrotterdam.nl/collectie/item/80264-A-B

    I think I'll handle it with more care and respect now!
     
    r ranson
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    well, I found my new hobby.
    I don't know why I keep on sewing these, but there's something incredibly soothing about it.  And I'm using up scraps of fabric.

    So many hussifs that I started selling them: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/crowinghenfarm?section_id=30357778

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    Our first order of business must be this tiny ad:
    Rocket Mass Heater Plans - now free for a while
    https://permies.com/goodies/7/rmhplans
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