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Box with netting tools

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1800-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cut bone lined with cotton, and steel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs J. Taylor

  • Museum number:

    T.287 to B-1979

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries, case 15, shelf DR2 []

Object Type
Making net by hand is one of the oldest textile techniques, its earliest uses the practical ones of hunting and fishing. When the basic tools of shuttle and size gauge were refined to make a smaller mesh, the use of net for decorative purposes became possible. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, netting was a popular pastime for amateurs, as well as a commercial craft. The tools needed for it - netting needles and gauges of different sizes, and sometimes bodkins and hooks - were often kept in decorated cases. This cut bone case is in the most usual, cylindrical form.

Ownership & Use
Netting was carried out at home in different materials and scale for a variety of uses, including protecting crops and trapping wildlife, as well as decorative accessories like purses. In 1783 the Duchess of Portland was found by a visitor to be making a net to protect a cherry tree, and this utilitarian aspect made netting one of the few drawing-room occupations permitted to men. The steel tools contained in this case belonging to the V&A would have been used to make net with a small mesh.

Physical description

Box made of bone and containing steel netting tools. The box is cylindrical and made of cut bone. Divided into three sections by bands of blue decoration. The upper section which includes the domed lid of the container is half the length of the other two sections. The cut decoration consists mainly of vertical slits, some contained with a swag-like decoration, vertical slits and small round holes. The pink, glazed cotton, with which the container is lined, shows through the cut work. The lowest of the three sections unscrews.

The box contains nine pairs of very fine steel netting needles and their gauges. The needles range in length from 5.5 inches (13.9cm) to 3 inches (7.6cm). The two smallest needles have only single eyes. The gauges range in length from 5.5 inches (13.9cm) to 3 inches (7.6cm) in diameter they range from 15 to 19 (as on the Bell needle gauge, see T.276-1979).

Place of Origin

England (made)


1800-1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cut bone lined with cotton, and steel


Height: 18 cm approx.

Descriptive line

Box and lids of cut bone containing steel netting tools, England, 1800-1850

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Ladies in polite society were expected to be proficient in a wide range of needleworking skills. The graceful rhythm of techniques such as knotting or netting was thought to show off the elegance of a lady's hands. Embroidery, knitting and crochet are still current today. Knotting produced a decorative thread, with rows of little knots, that was sewn onto fabric. Fine net, made with thread from a decorative shuttle, was often further embroidered. [27/03/2003]


Household objects; Tools & Equipment; Textiles; Needlework accessories


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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