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Maker(s):Cook, Matilda (attributed)
Date Made:1784?
Type:Personal Equipment
Materials:textile: white plain weave linen; polychrome wool embroidery; polychrome printed cotton
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Hadley
Measurements:overall: 19 in x 13 in; 48.26 cm x 33.02 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2008.4.9
Credit Line:Museum Collections Fund
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Linen pocket made of bleached linen, crewel embroidered in light and dark indigo blue and undyed wool yarns in a flowering vine design with the initials "M" and "C" at the bottom center in cross-stitch in dark brown or black thread on either side of the central vine, which is attributed to Matilda Cook of Hadley. A handwritten note came with the pocket: "This pocket was owned by Matilda Cook, mother of Ebenezer Brewer, and grand-mother of Annie F. Goddard Whitmore. It dates back to 1784. Tape woven by hand." Before the late 19th century, pockets were not built into women's clothing in any regular way. Often initialed, a woman’s pocket or workbag was an extension of her self-worth, pride, and fine skill with a needle even though it was usually out of sight. Pockets were worn over the shift (the basic linen undergarment) and under the petticoat, tied around the waist and accessible through specially positioned slits in the petticoat. Pockets could contain such items as small personal items, sewing work-in-progress, scissors, pin-cushion, and small publications. There is a slit opening in the center front, and the edges are bound with brown linen. The cotton edging on the sides and bottom is a brown and white cotton print with red accents; the cotton binding on the top and slit opening has a brown ground with dark brown stripes and a white, dark brown and red abstract floral motif. There is a blue and white woven tape, 6 mm wide, for tying around the waist. The pocket was acquired from Historic Northampton (accession # 01.202).

Label Text:
During the 18th century, pockets were rarely sewn into women’s clothing. Instead, pockets were a separate accessory worn tied around the waist, under clothing. A corresponding slit provided access to the pocket that might contain money, sewing tools, or other personal items. Since it is quite common for pockets to be fifteen inches or more deep, women could carry many objects at a time. This example is embroidered with crewel (wool) yarns in various shades of blue and white. While decorative needlework served to enhance the beauty of the pocket, the cross-stitching that forms the maker’s initials served a practical purpose, and would be used to mark household linens and other textiles.

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