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Needle Case (USA)

This is a Needle case.

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of the American Indian as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

It is dated Created before 1947. Its medium is carved, incised, painted wood; incised tundra swan wing bone (humerus).

A Yup’ik woman’s ability to sew was critical to her family’s survival—just as men had to master hunting, women had to learn to sew and mend before marrying. This case housed a woman’s essential needles, made of bone and with or without eyes. These bone, ivory, or deer horn awls were used to pierce gutskin or animal skins, then to stitch the seam closed.
This case was made of a hollow swan wing bone and has wooden stoppers at each end, representing the head and tail of what is probably a blackfish. The bone is delicately incised with crosshatching, rings, and spurred lines—patterns frequently employed in the Yup’ik community. The remarkable skill the carver applied to an extremely utilitarian object speaks to the connection between maker, user, and environment: the expertise and the decoration honor the swan that provided the material and the blackfish, giving sustenance to the people.

It is credited National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 21/800.

  • Woman’s Workbox With Lid (USA)
  • carved wood, walrus-ivory inlay.
  • Collection of Edward W. Nelson, 1879, Gift of Edward W. Nelson, Department of....
  • 15.2012.55
  • Awl And Cord (USA)
  • carved and perforated bone, hide cord.
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 4/8457.
  • 17.2012.4
  • Awls (USA)
  • carved ivory.
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 3/6271.
  • 17.2012.5

Our curators have highlighted 6 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Spindle (Peru)
  • painted wood shaft; incised and painted ceramic whorl.
  • 1920-1-5
  • Needle Case (Germany)
  • label: painted cardboard covers, silk leaves lined with wool.
  • Gift of the estate of Mrs. Lathrop Colgate Harper.
  • 1957-180-45
  • Shoe Horn (England), 1604
  • heat- and steam-shaped horn, with engraved and black-stained decoration.
  • Gift of Barbara Munves.
  • 2011-31-1

Its dimensions are

L x W x D: 14.5 x 1.6 x 1.3 cm (5 11/16 x 5/8 x 1/2 in.)

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Needle Case (USA) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 October 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>