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Tied-On Pockets Hung From Waist

Skirts in the 18th century had no pockets. Instead, women wore separate pockets, either one or two, tied around their waists, over or under their skirts. The pockets carried what the housewife needed to have handy - such items as needles, keys or scissors. And some pockets collected miscellaneous oddments, just as attached pockets still do. Newspaper clippings, the baby’s bib, or a packet of seeds might be tucked away in a pocket.

These tie-on pockets were quite large, usually 15 or 16 inches in length and as much as a foot in width. They were made of plain linen, chintz or cotton. Fancier ones had embroidery, cross-stitch, crewel work or were of patchwork. Some were elaborate enough to actually be mentioned in wills.

Often found rolled up in the pocket was a “huswif.” This oblong fabric pouch contained the small items, such as a paper of pins, that might get lost in the larger pocket. These were plainer than the pocket, and usually made of calico or chintz.

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The Long & The Short Of Historic

A Scottish ell.
A Scottish ell was mounted at the corner of a building, to used as a standard.

Where did some of the measurements we use today come from?

Many of them came from early England. In the 14th century, King Edward the Second decreed that the inch was the length of three barley corns, taken from the center of the ear and laid end to end.

Even earlier than that, the yard was used as a measurement. It was used for measuring cloth, the most important trade product in Britain around a thousand years ago. It consisted of the length from the middle of the body to the end of an outstretched arm. However, you’d want to buy your cloth, or “yardage,” from a long-armed merchant. You’d get more that way.

King Henry the First settled the question of the length of a yard, however, in the 12th century - at least for as long as his reign lasted. He decreed that the lawful yard was the distance from the point of his nose to the end of his thumb when his arm was extended.

How long is a rod? Today, we say it’s 5.5 yards, or 16.5 feet. But in the 16th century, the lawful rod was the length of the left foot of 16 men lined up as they left church on Sunday morning.

Many villages adopted their own measurements. In use of some Scottish towns was the ell, which was adopted in 1661 and by today’s standards measured 37 inches. Town market places had an official ell mounted in the town square, against which merchants tested their own measuring ell sticks. Ells were used until 1824, when a British act of Parliament imposed the British standards and the ell drifted in to obscurity.

The Roman “foot” of 12 inches became part of the yard when the yard was standardized as the length of three feet. A bronze yard bar, measuring the lawful yard, was kept in England as the Standard of Reference in the King’s Exchequer.

Eventually, as the Industrial Age emerged in the 19th century, other units had to be standardized. They were completed in England in 1855. The yard was one of the first, and copies of the British yard were presented to the United States where they were accepted by the Office of Weights and Measures as the standard of the United States.

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Jewelry Made Of Human Hair Fashionable

An excessive sentimentality seemed to be one characteristic of the mid-to-late 1800s. One form this took was jewelry made of human hair.
At first, the hair of a deceased person was arranged in a design which was placed under glass in a ring, brooch or locket. Later, the jewelry itself was made from the hair.

In hair work, the hair was first braided or woven. Then the pieces were cut to the desired lengths and fitted with the necessary mountings of gold or gold plate. Hair work was used to make necklaces, bracelets and watch chains, and the pieces were considered to be very fashionable.

Do-it-yourself instructions were given in many of the issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book through the 1850s. Women could spend many hours following the patterns given in the book, preparing the hair and then doing the braiding. (Sometimes beginners used horse hair for practice, since it was coarser, easier to get, and easier to work with.) The completed pieces were sent to jewelers to have the fittings attached. One could also purchase completed pieces of hairwork jewelry. Godey’s Lady’s Book, for instance, offered several items; a lady could send in the hair and it would be made into bracelets, pins, necklaces or earrings. The cost ranged from $1 to $15.

The popularity of this type of decoration died out by the turn of the century. Fashionable sentimentality became less popular as the 20th century began.

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