Medieval textile belt purse

This type of textile bag with tassels can be found in manuscripts and pictures from the middle of the 13th century to the middle of the 16th century. This is the type of bag that women wore hanging from their belts in long ribbons and it was very often hidden by the over dress.

The look of the bag varies greatly, different kind and amount of tassels, colours and fabrics. The material of the edging and the materials in edging and tassels.

This bag I will show you is based on the simple three stranded flat braid. The look is very similar to the tablet woven edge but much simpler as you do not have to know card weaving to do it. Here is a extant bag with a similar braided edge.

The material of your bag decides how “fine” your bag is and it is possible to make the same kind of bag in silk and in wool, also embroidered bags can be found in the extant findings.

Start by cutting your fabric, I use a wool fabric for the outside that is 19,5*35,5 cm (7,7 * 14 inches) and the lining is a thin linen fabric that is 19,5 * 34,5 cm (7,7 * 13,6) note that the lining is shorter then the outside fabric, it should be so that the lining does not peak out at the top when finished. Seam allowances are included.

Medieval textile purse - 1
Pin both the short sides, with the outside fabric and lining right sides together and sew them with a small running stitch with 1cm (0,4 inch) seam allowance.

Medieval textile purse - 2
Press both seams open like this, you now have a tube of fabric. As you can see I have marked on both sides around the tube, 2cm (0,8 inch) from the edge.

Medieval textile purse - 3
Now you want to press in the 1cm (0,4 inch) seam allowance on both sides around the tube. This is very easily done as you can simply fold the edge until the raw edge meets the 2cm (0,8 inch) markings, what you now have folded in and pressed is your 1cm (0,4 inch) seam allowance.

Medieval textile purse - 4
Turn your fabric tube inside-out and put the wrong sides together, pressing the short sides flat and nice.

Medieval textile purse - 5
Now it is time for the braiding. First you need to cut all the yarn you need, how much depend on the thickness of yam you are using. I use a medium/thin wool yarn. You will do two braids, one longer and one shorter. For my long I have 18 threads that are 2m (2.2yd) long. To my short braid I use 9 threads that are 1,5m (1,6yd) long.

Medieval textile purse - 6
On one end, make a knot so that you have loops in the end.

Medieval textile purse - 7
Cut the other side open.

Medieval textile purse - 8
I use a door handle like this when I braid, to have something to braid against.

Medieval textile purse - 9
You are going to make a simple three strand braid so part your yarn into three equal strands. As you can see you always strive to put the outer threads in the middle. And as you move the outer threads to the inside the threads that where on the inside ends up on the outside. Like this a braid is formed, yes trying to use words to describe braiding is really hard, that is why I made this neat illustration of how you do it!

Medieval textile purse - 10
Start with the long 2m (2,2yd) threads and keep on braiding, as you braid the bottom will become tangled. So now and then make sure that the bottom is untangled, or you are going to have a mess of yarn in the end and a short short braid.

Medieval textile purse - 11
Braid the 2m (2,2yd) long threads until your braid measures 1,2m (1,3 yd)(measure when relaxed) and make a knot.

Medieval textile purse - 12
Trim the end roughly, the rest of the threads will be used for the tassels so save them.

Medieval textile purse - 13
Now take the shorter treads and do the same thing, knot in the end, cut the other side open, divide in three and braid. But this time you braid the full length of the threads.

Medieval textile purse - 14
Then cut the braid in half, unravel the ends a bit for tassels and make knots. there you have the two drawstrings for your purse.

Medieval textile purse - 15
Now we make the tassels, cut a piece of yarn and tie it around the middle of one of the leftover ends from the long braid folded in half.

Medieval textile purse - 16
Make a knot and pull the knot to the top of the tassel, so that you get this look.

Medieval textile purse - 17
Make all three tassels, don’t trim the ends yet.

Medieval textile purse - 18
Now we are back at the sewing, mark two lines at both the short edges, one that is 1 cm (0,4 inch) from the edge and then one that is 1,5cm (0,6 inch) from the first line.


I got a question on what I was basing this type of drawstring on, an the simple and honest answer is that I did not look at the extant purses. I simply looked at manuscript pictures and did what felt right and what worked.
What I have found is two bags with the same type of drawstring, but the first a 10th century German relic bag is way out of my time span and the second one is also a German bag but from 1540 so it is a bit on he late side.
This was a stupid thing of me to do, because when I looked and asked around all the extant purses have simply the drawstring pulled trough the outer fabric and lining, no holes made and no eyelets sewn.

Like these extant purses show you.
14th century Sion
Mid 14th century France
1301-1400 Europe Here you can also see what looks like a linen lining.

But one should note that the extant purses have silk cords, and the shell fabric is almost always silk embroidered linen. For a purse like mine with wool strings and wool outer fabric I would suggest that one did sewn eyelets either with linen or silk thread to prolong the life of the drawstring and bag itself.

If you wish to do eyelets instead I would suggest to to them in two levels as this picture shows, as the braided wool cords are a bit on the thick side, or to do your braids a bit thinner. If you do eyelets you can also skip the part about skipping over the tunnel for the drawstring that will come further down, just sew the braid to the bag all the way to the top in stead.


Medieval textile purse - 19
Stitch along the lines with small running stitches.

Medieval textile purse - 20
Like this, on both short sides.

Medieval textile purse - 21
Fold the bag in half, lining against lining. Short sides against short sides and pin along the edges.

Medieval textile purse - 22
Take a longer piece of yarn and thread it on a needle. Knot the end of the yarn and starting from the inside of the bag, between the lining and outer fabric, pull the tread trough.

Medieval textile purse - 23
We are now going to attach the long braid, that also is your carrying strap at the same time as we sew together the lining and outside fabric. Pull the needle right trough your braid like this.

Medieval textile purse - 24
Make sure to catch both the lining and outer layers. Go straight trough the braid, and take a stitch right trough the bag, angle it slightly upward to the other side and pull the tread trough as far away from the first stitch as you choose.

Medieval textile purse - 25
Sew like this along the length of the bag, stopping only at the channel for the drawstring that you stitched before, there go trough the layers. Then when you have passed the channel continue your sewing until you reach the top edge, there fasten the treads.
Do the exact same thing on the other side of the bag, before sewing the braid make sure that it is not twisted.

Medieval textile purse - 26
Divide the bottom part of the bag in three and attach the tassels.

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Take one of your short braids and tread it trough one side of the channel with the help of a safety pin, go under the big braid and thread the braid trough the other channel as well.

Medieval textile purse - 28
Like this!

Medieval textile purse - 29
To the same thing with the other braid as well. Now you have a functional drawstring!

Medieval textile purse - 30
Pull the bag shut and then trim the tassels all around. I like it when my tassels are bigger in the middle and gradually gets shorter to the sides, but that is just personal preference.

Medieval textile purse - 31
Now it is done! Put it on your belt and feel happy! I have mine hanging from a purse hanger that I got at Historiska Fynd.

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.


As I told you the second damask fabric was for a bag. I have not really made bags before, except for simple things, so i decided to actually buy a pattern this time. The bag went together so easy, it was crazy simple. :D


This bag have bag feet, a tubular metal bag frame, a plastic grid in the bottom for stability, riveted handles in leather and so on :) The outside fabric is my handwoven damask fabric and the inside is a black linen fabric, to “take up” the flax in the warp.

carpetbag - inside
carpetbag - the handles are riveted

I am really really really satisfied with this bag, it turned out great and i truly LOVE IT. In the end not all the symbols that i planned got to be on the bag, but the most relevant is there, the dress makers dummy, the computer and the corset. The crowns are also there, but are not really visible.

carpetbag - side

All the supplies for this bag, except for the fabric, the buckle, the leather handles, rings and rivets for the handles are from I am really satisfied with their services, the things arrives so amazingly quick. They are based in the UK and I live in Sweden so the shipping time of just a few days are amazing, I don’t even think that I would get something that quick even if I ordered something from a Swedish web shop.

carpetbag - top

My shopping list from u-handbag
Silver Protective Bag Feet 16mm
Grid Bag Bottom 6 3/4″x 22.5″
Indygo Junction: The Carpetbag Pattern
Internal Bag Frame 12″ – Tubular

new damask fabric

I guess that I was a bit crazy weaving damask the first time, but after the first weave, I decided to weave damask again. This time I wanted to make a fabric for a old fashion carpetbag. To try out new materials in my warp I used flax for it, and then a one thread wool yarn for the weft. This fabric is very durable and “almost indestructible” and have the right weight for a bag, sturdy and nice.
damask weave nr2

I decided to make different symbols this time, symbols representing me.
corset – because I love them so, to wear, to look at and to make.
computer – I spend far to many hours in front of the computer, I can not live without it.
dress form – I sew and a dress from is a good representative of this.
a crown – because I like pretty things (and it turned out so nicely in the last weave).
dress – since I am a dress loving gal.
damask weave nr2 - liftplan

The warp was supposed to last for fabric for two bags, it was supposed to be two meters of fabric (about two yards), but I did a miss counting and forgot to take the loom waste of one meters (about one yard) in the calculation for the warp so after weaving one meter I saw that I had just to little warp left to be able to weave one more bag. So I had to wrap it up quickly and got half a meter out of it which is not enough for a bag on its own, but with some supplemental fabric it can become a bag some day.
damask weave nr2 - detail

Weaving this went fine, but the warp was a bit unevenly tensed so I had some problems with threads acting up, especially in the end as the warp gets more sensitive.
damask weave nr2 - yarn

I just love the color of the yarn, I have a cold brown and a gray yarn
damask weave nr2 - yarn close up