Military sewing kits: Sewing for survival.

- 10 / 11 / 2014 -

We have had an overwhelming response to our Bright Buttons campaign to keep craft on the curriculum, and not just emails and lovely messages from teachers and parents. One email that stood out was from the father of a client who served in the forces. He kindly sent me a photo of his standard issue sewing kit. Mr. Robert Wright of Colvennor, Cornwall said, “This is what we were issued with in the early 1960s”.

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“You will note that this version of the ‘Soldiers Housewife’, or ‘Hussif’ as usually pronounced, contained grey wool. At that stage, socks were made of grey wool and holes were darned – I bet that’s a skill even you have not practiced!”

I’m ashamed to say that I have never darned a pair of socks in my life! Robert went on to say, “I’m sure that a similar repair kit was carried with appropriate contents from the time of Roman Legionnaires, (for running repairs to cloak and tunic) right the way through to modern times. Certainly items exist dating back to the American Civil War”.

Robert Wright

Robert very kindly sent us a link to a fascinating article cataloging the standard issue kit for soldiers for some of our most famous battles including the kit our soldiers are issued with today. Have a look, it really is a fascinating peak into the history of how sewing was and still is considered a survival skill in the Military.

1244: Mounted knight, Siege of Jerusalem.
Item 7 includes a white cloth with a snip for cutting small items, a leather box of needles and a roll of thread.


1815: Private soldier, Battle of Waterloo.

Item 32 is a sewing kit, containing linen and sinew thread, spare buttons, wooden thimble, wooden needle case and scissors.


1944: Lance corporal, Parachute Brigade, Battle of Arnhem.

Item 36 is a Groundsheet (underneath) with a sewing kit and thimble on top.


2014: Close-support sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmland Province.

Item 18 is a Housewife – a basic sewing kit; a soldier has to repair his own rips and tears on the ground.


For me, this highlights yet another reason why sewing should be considered a valuable skill and be taught at primary school level. It helps cognitive development and enables children to not only express themselves by designing and making things, it also gives them the skills to consider mending and cherishing their own clothes, toys and accessories.

In a throw away world, I think this is the greatest gift we can give our children so if you want to help keep craft on the curriculum then please pledge your support of the Education Manifesto by tweeting #FutureInMaking

You can read all about it here: Education manifesto

Your children’s future is in the making!

Sources: Military kits – Telegraph online

A massive thank you to Robert Wright of Colvennor, Cornwall for his wonderful insight and research.

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