Traditionally Royal Navy sailors had an afternoon a week off to relax and repair their clothing. This was known as a ‘make and mend’ afternoon and men quickly became adept at making small repairs to their uniform. Although most ships had a sewing machine and skilled men for major repairs, small rips, replacing lost buttons etc were done by the men themselves and each was issued with a small ‘hussif’ or sewing kit. The Royal Navy’s hussif was made in blue fabric, making it very distinctive when compared to the khaki coloured examples used by the army:
Each hussif was to be marked with the owner’s name, usually in white paint stamps. Here, however, the sailor has sewn over the white lettering with a red chain stitch:
The hussif is secured by a piece of cotton tape on the outside. Undoing this allows the hussif to be unrolled and opened to access all the interior compartments:
There is a buttoned pocket to store buttons, needles etc. and below this a second pocket that is missing its securing button in this case:
A piece of white flannel is sewn into one end to allow pins and needles to be attached safely:
In this period cigarette card, sailors are seen mending their clothing and an example of the RN hussif can be seen on the table in front of them:
The RN hussif is much harder to find than the army one as it was not produced in such large numbers and although I do have another example, that is part of a grouping. Having this loose example allows me to add another piece to my wartime RN kit display.
I still have my RN hussif and still use it for its original purpose