needle case; textile tool


To the Inuit people of the High Arctic there was nothing more important that clothing. With temperatures frequently far below freezing and few natural resources with which to build fires, the Inuit were completely reliant on their clothing to provide protection from the cold. Clothing therefore consumed a considerable amount of time for the Inuit, and it was traditionally provided by the women of the family, while the men were more focused on providing food. It was a rare Inuit of either gender, however, who was not a proficient sewer.

Clothing was made of skins from the wiki:world_gallery:layered_info:publish:encounters:americas:arctic:arctic_hunting|hunt--caribou and seal, sometimes accessorised with fox, hare or even wolf fur, duck or goose down and sometimes even fish-skin. Thread was made of sinew, although European spun thread was adopted very soon after first European contact in the early nineteenth century. To put the clothing together however required needles. Needles were hard to make - splintered bone was often used but unreliable and not durable enough for heavy work. Most prized were ivory needles or those made of shards of copper from meteorites, which can be found in significant numbers in the Arctic. These were treasured possessions, passed from mother to daughter over generations. Since losing a needle could mean that clothes couldn't be repaired risking death through exposure, needles were treated with great reverence and care, as evidenced by this ivory needle case from the late 19th century. Beautifully [wiki:world_gallery:layered_info:linking_texts:identity:subject-1163|decorated]] with incised markings which may identify the family to whom it belonged, the case is made from a hollow ivory tube with a tight-fitting stopper on the end. This is in turn attached to a hide strap which would have been tied onto the woman's clothing so that she could keep it safe and to hand on long journeys over the ice.

The collector is Edward Lovett.

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