Early sewing needles were precious items that were easily lost, therefore, needlecases were a necessity for storing these fragile objects. Example are found in cultures around the world. Tubular bronze needlecases are common finds from Viking-age sites in Europe, cane needlecases were found in a Peruvian grave dated to 1000–147, and bone, leather, and metal needlecases have been found from Medieval London.
Needles date to the dawn of time, a necessary and vital tool for a host of purposes. Needles were not an expensive item to purchase (the industry in England alone was so perfected that by the 18th century over a million were produced each year) but their constant use meant keeping them safe and close to one’s person. Needlecases were often decorative (as seen in the examples below) and often one part of elaborate sewing kits. Other needlecases were attached to the chatelaine worn by the lady of the house or housekeeper, again the purpose to have a needle readily available.
Above needlecases, left to right:
a French Palais Royal needlecase in Mother of Pearl dated 1820;
a Mother of Pearl case shaped as a parasol dated 1810;
a Georgian Perpetual Calendar Needle Case c.1820;
a circa 1840 needlecase of carved bone.