16th century German – bag

Summer season = medieval week and a for medieval week I really need a bag for my German dress. Looking at a lot of pictures I saw a model that seemed to be used by both males and females and also used in a very varied social status.
And as I work this way: see pretty thing, make pretty thing. I just had to make myself a bag and as I like to share I also made a pattern diagram.

But first, the finished bag.

16th century German - bag
It is made in Swedish bark tanned reindeer, the lid and strap is in 3mm vegetable tanned cowhide and the red is chrome tanned goat. I usually try to stay away from the chrome tanned leather because of the chrome, but this red is just so beautiful that I can’t stop myself.

16th century German - bag back
As you can’t really make out the backside of the bags from pictures you have to make something up. I decided to use the same shape as on the lid, as that makes it both a bit sturdy, gives me something to put a inner pocket on and it looks pretty. Also when cutting leather I find that you get the most useful scrap pieces if you try to keep your work in rectangles that you then cut down. For example, the things I cut away on the lid and strap can easy be used as other straps or perhaps a bracelet.
Here you can clearly see the seam that fasten the inner pocket. The inner pocket is a modern convenience things, for a more period correct bag you should probably leave it out

16th century German - bag - lid
A close up on the lid. The button is made with a wooden core that have been covered in leather.

16th century German - bag - strap
16th century German - bag -  side strap
Something that I have not done yet is to sew the strap closed, so that you can open the bag without it slipping of your belt.

16th century German - bag - with open lid
When you open the lid you can see that it has two external pockets and a drawstring to keep it shut.

16th century German - bag - button
The button is fastened in the front piece of the bag.

16th century German - bag - button
To make sure that the button stays on, the leather that is used to cover the button is the leather that becomes the piece that is sewn on to the front piece of the bag. I also used extra long threads that I wrapped around the neck of the button to make it more secure and long lasting.

16th century German - bag - inner pocket
On the inside there is a pocket, I have no historical sources for this, but a bag needs its bag for “girl stuff”. I first sew it onto the back piece, through both lid/strap and the back piece and then sew the seams on the sides, the seams that form the pocket. Before sewing it on I also put some water on the front bit of the inner pocket, and stretched it a bit just at the front piece, this makes it easier to put stuff into the pocket, and you can see how it is slightly looser on the picture

16th century German - bag - pockets
Here we have the pockets, the pattern piece is sewn on so that it forms a pouch, my leather is a bit thick so it does not drape as well as it should, but it will become softer with use.

16th century German - bag - pocket detail
The drawstring on these pockets are well thought out, pull it open easy.

16th century German - bag - opening pocket
Put stuff inside.

16th century German - bag - closing pocket
And then pull on the long ends to shut it again.

And now on to the pattern.
The + marks where you should punch a hole, this is most practical to do just after cutting out your leather before any sewing is done. Except at the centre back were the holes should be through bot lid/strap and back piece and therefore is better to punch after you sew it on.
The dotted lines are your sewing lines, where your seams should be or where you should place your other pieces. I use a needle and punch tiny holes through the paper pattern to mark these lines.
The pockets have no seam lines as there is such a small (2mm) seam allowance, and on the front piece the dotted lines is how you should put the pocket pieces to form pouches.

16th century German - bag - overwiew

16th century German - bag - front and back
16th century German - bag - strap
16th century German - bag - pockets
16th century German - bag - inner pocket

And so, some inspirational picture as well.
As you can see she have only one pocket, it is shaped differently at the bottom and there is tassels.

soilder and his whife
One with a smaller lid and three pockets.

two other variety.

My bag is kind of the same size as this nice girl.

13 thoughts on “16th century German – bag

  1. Jag länkar till Proknekts forum om det är ok med dig? Väldigt fin väska! Ska den användas på Medeltidsveckan?

  2. det går jättebra :)
    Tackar! Jo den är gjord till medletidsveckan, det är typ enda gången på året som jag bumlar mig :)

  3. Your skills are impressive.
    I do not know how to sew leather, so will not attempt making anything as good as this, but I enjoyed the detailed description of your work.
    Thank you for sharing !


  4. holy beans, this is awesome! I’ve never seen a tutorial on this style bag before, and have kind of been meaning to make one. I will say, that from the test bits I’ve done, in my opinion the front pockets seem to be more semi-circular then stitched on as a U shape, but since I haven’t had a chance to see an existing one in person (and don’t even know if there are any!), your guess is as good as mine! :)

  5. thank you :)
    Yes the U shaped stitching is all guesswork from my side, I first tried the semi-circular version on my fabric mock up, but for me the top of the pockets did not close in a satisfying way, so I fiddled with the fabric and ended up with the U. I have not either seen a existing bag anywhere on the net so yes, all guesses are good guesses :)

    I would like to get my hand on the book “purses in pieces” by Olaf Goubitz I have heard that it is the best book on pouches ever and I am guessing that it might give some more clues of correctness by looking at how other bags have their front pouches put on.

    There is a 30 page preview of the book here http://www.oxbowbooks.com/pdfs/books/purses%20amerika.pdf

    but it does not really say anything about the front pockets but I guess that it comes in a later chapter of the book.

  6. Thank you for your informative blog….could I please have a PDF of the bag pattern in A4 please…thank you Glenys

  7. Hi there, really good article and bag. Thanks for sharing.
    If you would be so kind I’d like the pdf in A4. I’m brand new to leatherwork but I’d give this a go. Cheers for now. John

  8. Kataflak, thanks for providing this tutorial. You do lovely work and I am in the process of making one of these using your pattern. What are your drawstings made of? They look like strips of cloth. thanks again! Mark, in Alabama.

  9. Mark Hubbs: The are made out of red thin goat leather, very soft and supple and actually leather for making gloves with, but as I had it laying around I used it for the bag also as it handles so nicely.

  10. I found this pattern today. I looks like a nice one and I may make it; with a few changes of course. I am confused on the size. Is the pattern in mm’s ? If so in measures pretty big. Is that the actual size? It looks smaller in your pics.

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