c1890 carved bone & vegetable ivory tape measure needle case

This clever late 19th century bone needle case is topped with a tape measure, which can be removed to allow access to the needles. The needle case is carved from light bone (cow or ox) with drilled holes in a lacy pattern, and the tape measure is carved from coquille nut or “vegetable ivory,” which is actually the fruit of a Brazilian palm.

The measuring tape is very faded pink ribbon with hand-inked numbers and ruler markings. The ribbon end has been folded over and sewn down, it likely had a small bone ring attached at one time. The bone handle at the top is used to rewind the ribbon tape– the hole in the handle once contained a Stanhope viewer (which is missing) but will now allow a ribbon or chain to pass through if you’d like to wear it.

The condition is generally very good;there is a small chip above one of the drilled holes in the bone case and two cracks in the lower portion of the tape measure at the closure. The threaded screw closure still works well. Circa 1890. 4-1/2″ long overall, with the tape measure portion measuring 2″ high.