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Scrimshaw bobbin

Date: 19th century
Dimensions:
Overall: 115 x 21 x 8 mm, 0.006 kg
Display Dimensions: 110 x 18 x 9 mm
Medium: Whalebone, glass, wire, thread, paint
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Desmond Liddy
Object Name: Bobbin
Object No: 00027347

User Terms

    Description
    This 19th century scrimshaw bobbin was a popular sewing tool used to make pillow lace. This handmade bobbin consists of a long whalebone shaft with nine glass beads threaded through a loop of wire. Whalers in the 19th century produced many sewing tools and other everyday functional items.
    SignificanceThis bobbin is representative of 19th century sewing techniques and the scrimshaw production of sewing equipment. Although scrimshaw was usually made by sailors for recreational purposes, this unique piece was commercially manufactured.


    HistoryScrimshaw was originally a maritime folk art that developed from the unique conditions encountered onboard whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the term originated, but it comes from the Dutch words 'scrim' meaning to etch and 'shorn' meaning to make. The earliest written reference is in an American ship's log dated 20 May 1826.

    Scrimshaw is produced by engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, such as whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files or needles sailors would carve functional objects and pieces of art depicting images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home.

    Lace making, crochet, knitting and needle work were popular pastimes for women in the 19th century and led to the production of a prolific number of scrimshaw sewing objects. Lace was produced on taught pillows by twisting and crossing a bobbin with an attached thread, along the outline of a pattern.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw bobbin

    Primary title: BOBBIN FOR PILLOW LACE, 19th CENTURY.

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