Needle Books, Boxes and Pin Cushions

A pin cushion and pins and clasps donated to the Galt by Laurie Davis.   Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19900017010

A pin cushion and pins and clasps donated to the Galt by Laurie Davis.

Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19900017010

Sewing is one of the oldest survival skills and textile arts in human cultures. Different cultures and groups have different techniques of sewing and stitching that change over time. The first sewing machine was patented in 1790 by Barthélemy Thimonnier. Isaac Singer further refined the technology of sewing machines in the 1850s. Today sewing machines have been a household item for many families for decades.

Making needle books was a trend that began in the 1800s and grew in popularity until around the 1950s. These needle books were designed to hold the different needles a person would need for different fabrics and projects. Usually the needle book was made out of scrap fabric or a fun creative fabric. They were used to organize and secure needles.

The Galt has no needle books in our collections, but we do have other objects similar in function including a pin cushion made in the 1920s or 1930s. The pin cushion was donated to the Galt by Laurie Davis along with five sewing needles, a thimble, four brooches and some clasp pins.

A needle box that originally belonged to Edith Kirk’s mother. Donated to the Galt by Katherine Ives Twiss who received the box from Kirk.   Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 20090016001

A needle box that originally belonged to Edith Kirk’s mother. Donated to the Galt by Katherine Ives Twiss who received the box from Kirk.

Photo courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 20090016001

Another object similar in function to a needle book in the Galt’s collections is a needle box that was donated to the Galt in 2009 by Katherine Ives Twiss. Twiss received the box from Edith Kirk. The box originally belonged to Kirk’s mother who passed away when Kirk was young. Kirk brought the box to Lethbridge when she moved here in 1918 at the age of 60.

You can make a needle book of your own and hear more about the history of sewing at our hands-on history program for adults and seniors on Thursday, September 19 from 7–8:30 pm. You can also read more about these objects in our collections at www.galtmuseum.com/research.