What Is A Hussif? – Sewing In History

what is a hussif

I was scrolling through my YouTube shorts feed when I came upon this video about the hussif, which is a small, long strip of fabric used to hold sewing supplies.

If you're interested in historical clothing, I highly recommend the channel. I think her work is a great example of some of the high-quality videos out there today. I've always been a big reader and follower of history, and being able to see what people really would have worn and used hundreds of years ago in motion is very cool.

The Origin of the Hussif

The hussif, also known as a “housewife”, originated in the United Kingdom, dating back to the 18th century. Though the exact time of origin remains uncertain, the etymology of the term points to its essence. Derived from the word ‘housewife', the hussif embodied the role of a woman in managing domestic chores, including mending clothes.

The hussif is essentially a small, rolled-up kit, often made of fabric or leather, designed to hold essential sewing tools such as needles, threads, thimbles, and small scissors. In the past, these compact kits were the hallmark of the diligent homemaker, always prepared for a quick stitch or repair.

The Hussif in the Military

Perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of the hussif is in its association with the military. In the 19th and 20th centuries, during the World Wars, the hussif played an essential role in every soldier's kit. Soldiers were given a hussif containing basic sewing items that they used to mend uniforms or sew on buttons in the field.

Many soldiers even embroidered their hussifs with intricate designs, names, or dates, transforming them into keepsakes or mementos. These wartime hussifs often serve as poignant reminders of the personal, human element hidden amidst the larger narrative of war and conflict.

Modern Day Adaptations

As society evolved, so did the humble hussif. Today, it continues to be a cherished item for many sewing enthusiasts and is popular among people who travel or enjoy handcrafts on the go. Modern hussifs come in an array of sizes, materials, and designs, reflecting personal style and function. They're seen as convenient kits, perfect for holding not just sewing tools, but also knitting needles, crochet hooks, or embroidery items.

If you want to learn more about sewing history, check out some of our favorite articles here:

Traditional German Dress

Traditional French Dress

Spanish Dress

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I didn’t know they had a special name. I made myself one a while back for my needle lace.