I've been using that golden-yellow damask alms purse for ages now and I've been wanting something more period. I particularly like the (leather) pouch-like purses that you can see quite frequently in the artwork - and usually (as in the pictures shown below) on a women's girdle:
I especially like the purse in the first picture: It shows a black pouch purse with one pouchlet and a large (silk) tassel at the bottom.
It's lid and sides (next to the pouchlet) might be embroidered and/or adorned with pearls. It seems to me as if there are pearls at the tassel's
top as well. The pouch itself opens with one drawstring at either side, the pouchlet has only one drawstring with one pearl at the top and one
at the lower end of the string. The (leather?) strip that attaches the pouch to the belt of the wearer is quite thin.
The pouch in the second picture is very similar in design. Yet, instead of only one pouchlet it has two and instead of the tassel there is a round ball (possible a leather turks knot?) at the pouch's bottom. Here, the pouchlets are closed with two drawstrings. Notice the pearls at both sides. The opening of the purse itself looks the same way.
The third pouch is a slightly later example, illustrating that the design stayed very much the same. That particular pouch has a shorter and wider belt strip and three small pouchlets, again closed with only one string.
The three pouches in the bottom row are missing the lid that covers the opening of the pouch in the first three examples. The red one on the left is rather thick and round, has three pouchlets (I've no idea what the shiny black thing on them could be) and a golden tassel at the bottom.
The green pouch in the center seems to be made from velvet rather than leather. Its has no pouchlets, but a tassel at it's bottom and one at the end of each drawstring (?). The tassels all have a golden coloured top.
The last pouch (a rather simple and very early example) is quite similar to the green velvet one. Here, the drawstrings and the girdle string look like a fingerloop cord (you can get that striped look when using an even number of loops loops and two colours - one colour for each hand).
Although these pictures are quite detailed, they still left me with a lot of questions. What is the pattern for the pouch? A simple
drawstring pouch can be made from a circular piece of leather with holes all around the edge - but that would not give the elongated 'pear'
shape that the pouches in the artwork possess. I've tried out different patterns with fabric but without much success - partly because the
fabric could not quite mimic the soft leather.
What with the lid and the round 'pearl' in its middle? Is it simply sewn to the top? More likely in my opinion is that the round (leather) lid has a hole in the middle through which the 'pearl' (somehow attached to the upper rim of the purse) is pulled to keep the purse closed. But where could I find the evidence for that theory?
What is the pattern for the little pouchlets and how are they attached to the purse itself and closed? What kind of leather/material where these purses made of?
I tried Google to find some answers but it did not come up with many... Fortunately, it found me a pdf with the first 30some pages of this book: Purses in Pieces: Archaeological Finds of Late Medieval and 16th-Century Leather Purses, Pouches, Bags and Cases in the Netherlands, Olaf Goubitz. I found this pdf extremely interesting (I know now all the mistakes I've made with the girdle (kidney-shaped) purse I made for Karsten two (?) years ago... but there was nothing on the pouch type of purse in the excerpt. So I immediately HAD to order it from my favorite online book store (and was very lucky to get the last one in stock). I highly recommend getting that book if your interested in late medieval leather purses - I found it very helpful (although there is at first disappointingly little information on the lidded pouch purse itself). Still, I could draw many conclusions from other or similar types of purses that are covered in that book...
March 02, 2010: As there was no actual lidded pouch purse like the ones above featured in the book and I was
not so sure about the pattern, I decided to make a 'trial pouch' first, using the same type of leather than for the actual purse.
I'm using thin, soft goat leather (this is what pouchlets and drawstring pouches were often made from, according to 'Purses in Pieces').
The chapter on 'money or drawstring pouches' provides some ideas on possible patterns - I decided to try cutting the purse from two
pieces shaped like the sketch in picture 1. I cut the holes for the string first (you will need an even number of holes on both sides),
then sewed the pouchlet (for its pattern check the sketch in the first picture) to one side of the pouch and finally sewed (rather hurriedly)
front and back together. I used simple leather strings for the lacing.
The shape of the pouch turned out to be rather similar to the ones above, although maybe somewhat bulkier at the top (picture 2) - for the final purse I will need to adjust the pattern. The pouchlet looks and works quite well: Pulling the knot in the string will open it, pulling the end of the string will close it again (see pictures 3 and 4). Yet, as the pouchlet's string is thread through the main pouch as well, you need an uneven number of holes in the pouchlet... (Mine has an even number, meaning that the string has to pass over the edge of the leather what looks bad.)
Opening the pouch itself works less well - either my lacing holes were simply too tight or it is necessary to lace both strings through different sets of strings (there are examples of purses laced that way in 'Purses in Pieces'). Still, all in all the pouch is not too bad for a very first trial :-)
April 30, 2010: I've started working on the actual pouch! I've taken the same, soft leather I've used for the trial
purse and dyed it black (as in my prefered picture above). The pouch will have three pouchlets, one in the center and two at the sides.
I've adjusted the pattern of my first purse to hopefuly get less bulk at the top (picture 1). First of all, I added the lacing holes and
decorated the edge with gold and green silk stitches (picture 2). Using black, waxed linen thread, I then sewed the central pouchlet to the
front half of the pouch (picture 3), put back and front together, and finally added the two side pouchlets to the finished pouch (picture 4).
The pouch and pouchlets are laced with green and gold silk ribbons (4-loop fingerloop braids), round bone beads are attached for easy opening and closing (picture 5 & 6). As above, pulling one bead will open the pouchlet, pulling the other will close it (this really works nicely).
The purse is still missing the round lid that closes over the main compartment plus the leather loop that attaches it to the belt. I'm planning on decorating the rim of the leather with green and gold silk braid as well, but I've run out of gold silk yarn and had to reorder... Also, I might want to add a tassel to the bottom (although the pouch by itself already turned out quite large). Anyway, I've had the pouch in use the last weekend (picture 7 & 8) -> it looks already much better than the cloth alms purse I've had before :-)
July 11, 2010: I've added a lid and belt loop to the purse a while ago... The belt loop is mainly a longish, thicker strip of black leather (picture 1). I've added a decorative fingerloop cord along its edge. The triangular part is sewn to the back of the purse, the round lid is cut in the center to allow pushing through the bone pearl (on a short cord) that keeps the closed lid in place (picture 2 & 3). I've decided against a tassel at the pouch's bottom - its already rather large - I might make another smaller one with a tassel some day :-)