Late 13th- Early 14th Century Drawstring Pouch

(Circa 1270-1350)

(by Ld. Chas. Oakley)

1694 SWA81 4908 (2063) 9 fig 227
Possibly sheep/goatskin (AML). Part of drawstring pouch made from a rectangular piece of leather folded double along its bottom edge and seamed on each side. There is a small vertical slit in the center of the top edge which has stitch holes on each side. Drawstring composed of two strips of leather orginally stitched together in the centre. Grain/flesh stitch holes along side seams. Finished h 183mm; w 202mm.
SWA81 - Swan Lane, Upper Thames Street
Site supervisor - G. Egan
ACC. No. 4908- accession number unique to site
Context- layer in which the object was found
Ceramic Phase- Mill Green Ware c. 1270-c.1350
AML - analysis by Ancient Monuments Laboratory

Museum of London; Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 3, Dress Accessories c. 1150 - c. 1450, Geoff Egan and Frances Pritchard, 1991, ISBN 0 11 290444 0, pages 342-345

Appropriateness to Period:

Even the most casual purusal of medieval manuscripts and paintings will reveal the commonality of the purse or belt pouch. A study of these sources will quickly reveal that there are practically as many differant forms and fashions of pouches and purses as there are existing artistic examples from which to view them. While this is a very simple project, it is one that has broad application within the Society.

Note: this is an attempt to recreate, as accurately as possible one particular pouch that was found in an archeological dig. The documentation for the authenticity of this pouche is contained in the adjoining box and the illustration on the back of this page. In this effort, certain assumptions were drawn where archeological evidence does not exist. Such assumptions are noted in the documentation.

Certain conclusions can be drawn from such a study...

  1. During the 13th and 14th century, purses were worn by both men and women.
  2. Usually a purse was worn on the belt to the right side of the buckle.
  3. Pouches that slotted onto a girdle appear to be worn on either side of the body and often in the center front.

The pouch presented in this project is based on an excavated original (see archeological notes and documentation in the box to the right...) with the body being cut from the pattern drawn from the artifact. There has been some question as to whether or not the pouch would have been actually the shape indicated in the pattern or whether the pattern shape was the result of exposure to the ground.... as there is no physical evidence to indicate that the shape was other than as indicated in the pattern and as the pouch takes on certain classic characteristics consistant with various illustrations appropriate to the period when constructed in accordance with the pattern, I would conclude that the pattern, as displayed is appropriate to a 14th century pouch. The drawstring is patterned after the artifact however, as the drawstring was not complete, the length and nature of sewing is a subject on conjecture.

The "belt loop" is also a matter of conjecture. The original drawing shows a number of holes in the leather around a short slit. It can be reasoned that this is where the belt attachment was sewn. After several experiments with making pouches following this pattern, I have found that, for our purposes and "loads", sewing a "box" to attach the loop provides the best support in a variety of directions....

Materials and Construction:

The pouch, as constructed, uses split cowhide as sheep/goat was unavailable. The relatively thin hide comes reasonably close to the the thickness that sheep/goat hide might provide and therefore allows for similar drape of the material. The pouch was hand sew using waxed linen thread and employing a "blanket stitch" technique. Evidence for the use of this stitch can be seen by the wavy edges opposite the stitching on the archeological drawing. The belt loop was sewn on using a "back stitch".

The notes in the source book state that,

"... the sideseams were stitched with a fine thread. The top edge of the pouch was left plain apart from a series of slots through which a leather drawstring was inserted, and a slit at the center of the back around which there is a number of stitch holes. This suggests that a strap or handle was sewn on at this point, which would have enabled the pouch to be slung from a girdle. The two ends of the drawstring were sewn together...."

Below is a one half scale archeological rendering of the flat layout of the purse overlayed by a reconstruction of what the purse may have looked like originally (less the belt-loop or handle). The dotted lines at the lower right hand corner represent a missing piece from the original artifact.

Example of the Dress Accessory being worn suspended from a belt. Detail of the Dress Accessory suspended from a belt.

As always... feel free to pass these plans along to whoever might find use of them.... Have fun... Make stuff...

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