Friday, September 19, 2008

Bodkins from the Park-McCullough House

This is an ivory bodkin, photographed laying across oak flooring - it's about 4" long.

A "bodkin," you say? As in, Shakespeare's "Odd's Bodkin"? Yes, it's one and the same.

Bodkins were essential for dressing, before the inventions of buttons, hooks and eyes and of course, zippers. The bodkin is used much like a needle, to pull ribbon (or a leather strip) through a hem. The ribbon then becomes a tie to hold clothing together, such as on a cloak, chemise, laced vest, petticoat, or an apron. Only later, when we had other, more familiar ways to close clothing, did ribbons became merely decorative.

This bodkin is part of one of the needle kits owned the Park and McCullough ladies. It has a nice round end so it won't snag on cloth, as well a wide eye for the ribbon.

The reason for my sudden interest in bodkins is that I just spent 3 weeks helping put together the first needlework tour at the Park-McCullough House. We invited visitors behind the ropes to see over 150 years of work, some in-progress, hand-made and bought patterns, tools and threads. We offered magnifying glasses and white gloves for seeing quilting, dressmaking, mending, crochet, embroidery, white work, filet, counted cross-stitch, needlepoint...

And although I can quilt and knit adequately, I'm no expert on needlework, so I learned a lot working on the exhibit. And now I've held a bodkin.

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