Civil War "Housewife" Activity

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Updated on Apr 27, 2016

How many changes of clothing do you have? Most Civil War soldiers owned just one set of clothing, which was quick to wear out during long marches and bitter fighting. As you can imagine, mending clothes was a must for soldiers. Therefore, most Civil War soldiers carried a “housewife”, or sewing kit. This kit contained the items necessary to darn socks, replace buttons, or fix a whole in a jacket. Made for soldiers by wives, mothers, daughters, and friends, housewives were crafted from scraps of leftover fabric and typically included buttons, needles, thread, and extra fabric. When it was time to replace a button or stitch a tear, a soldier could quickly pull out his “housewife”, and all the necessary supplies would be there.

What You Need:

  • Construction paper, at least 9" x 13”
  • Glue
  • Crayons
  • Optional: two pieces of fabric (at least 9" x 13” each) needle and thread, and sewing-kit supplies.

What You Do:

  1. Cut a piece of paper into a rectangle using the measurements given below.
  2. Fold your rectangle into thirds lengthwise.
  3. In the boxes on the side, draw in items that would commonly be found in a sewing kit, like needles, thread, pieces of yarn and buttons.
  4. One the other side of the piece of paper, draw and color in a pattern that would typically be found on a piece of scrap fabric. Examples include plaid, floral or stripes.
  5. You can also use old clothing or fabric scraps to construct a real, working version. Simply substitute fabric for the paper, and lay two pieces 3” x 4” pieces of the fabric on the outer sections. Sew along the sides and bottom of the 3” x 4” pieces to create pockets to keep your sewing supplies in!

This activity adapted from The Civil War Kids 150: Fifty Fun Things to Do, See, Make and Find for the 150th Anniversary. 

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