It has occurred to me that I never explained the name of the blog – By the Bodkin.

The most obvious reference, that many sewers will know, is that little tool that allows you to grab something like elastic and feed it through a casing. It makes such a task much easier than using a safety pin. I have one that is about 3″ long that resembles a tiny clamp. You put the elastic in the little jaws and slide the ring down toward the gripping end which clamps that end tight. It is also useful for turning slender tubes of fabric right side out or anything which sews to a point and also requires turning.

Most sewers through history would have known a bodkin as a sort of large needle with a big eye (or two) and a blunt tip. The use would have been the same, though of course most of them would have been pulling ribbon or twine, not elastic. If you google “sewing bodkinyou will find all sorts of historical versions from the simple metal or wood to beautiful carved ivory and pierced metals.

The other place we find the word bodkin is in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, amongst others. During the “to be or not to be” soliloquy, Hamlet asks, “when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?” Without getting into the subtleties of his musings on being, not being and the nature of action, the bodkin here is a dagger. In other times a bodkin has been a slender dagger, a tool for making holes in fabric and a sort of arrowhead.

So what was I thinking when I came up with “by the bodkin”? Sewing, clearly, not some kind of ‘by the sword’ type statement, although I think I was misremembering Shakespeare a little. I suppose one could say they practice their art “by the bodkin,” if you think of it as a kind of needle.

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