By Sara Rivers Cofield
bodkin is a large, blunted needle with a long eye to accommodate
ribbons and laces. In the 17th and 18th centuries, bodkins were
important personal items for women. They were used to lace ribbons,
decorative trims, corsets, and drawstrings, but sometimes women also displayed bodkins like jewelry by wearing them in their caps
(Beaudry 2006; Sullivan 2004). According to Randall Holme’s
1688 Academy of Armory, bodkins were used by women to bind up
their hair, and they were usually made of silver or gold, though
the inferior classes had brass bodkins (Alcock and Cox 2000).
Many women of high status owned inscribed silver bodkins, often
pierced with a second hole to string on a decorative bauble or
to accommodate threads or small cords (Beaudry 2006). Over time,
bodkins seem to have lost their inscriptions and personal significance,
though they continued in use as sewing tools. In the 18th and
19th centuries, bodkins could appear hung on chatelaines, or as
part of matching sewing and needlework sets that might include
needle cases, scissors, thimbles, stilettos, and thread winders
(McConnel 1999; Sullivan 2004).
Particular styles of bodkins have not been assigned tight date
ranges, but chronological information about bodkins shown on this
site can be found by looking at the site summaries and context
information provided for each artifact on this site.
The term “bodkin”
has been used to describe several different kinds of skinny, pointed
instruments from hair pins and awls to daggers and arrowheads.
This site concentrates only on the needle-like tools that have
eye holes that are known as bodkins. Any other object that might
have historically been called a bodkin would be classified by
MAC Lab archaeologists using another term, such as “awl”,
“stiletto”, “hair pin”, etc.