…Kitty Fisher found it
Not a penny was there in it
Only ribbon round it
Pockets for women were once separate items worn tied around the waist. They could be worn singly or in pairs, and contained useful things which you might need during the day, such as your pincushion, thimble, scissors, money, keys, scent bottle or comb. Today many women use their handbags to carry essential items like this around with them, although the contents might have changed slightly!
These pockets are made of linen, embroidered with woollen yarn. The motif of flowers growing out of pots was very popular in British embroidery from 1750 to 1800. Satin stitch, cross stitch and chain stitch were used to create these colourful patterns.
The making of pockets was used to teach needlework skills. We don’t know who made these pockets, but they certainly made the most out of the materials they had, as you can see the selvedge of the fabric along the bottom edge. Pocket making could also teach girls how to be good and frugal housewives.
Unfortunately we don’t have very much information about who these pockets might originally have belonged to. The right pocket is embroidered with the initials “MR”, and the left with “JR”. The design of the left pocket also features a heart. This suggests that JR was someone who MR cared about a great deal. They might have been their husband, sister or friend. Women sometimes gave pockets to female friends as gifts. This pair could have been made to commemorate a marriage or a friendship.
In the 18th century pockets were usually worn beneath petticoats, which had slits in the side seams so the wearer could put their hand through. “Pickpockets” made a living from stealing pockets.
During the 1790s fashions changed in favour of skirts which were too narrow to wear a pocket beneath. Many women started to use decorative bags called reticules, although lots stuck to separate pockets, and they continued to be worn throughout the nineteenth century.