I've always been intrigued by this red and blue purse from Tacuinum Sanitatis (Tacuinum Sanitatis, Lombardy, 1380-1390, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Ms. nouv. acq. lat. 1673, f. 43). As you can see the purse is made of a red fabric, with blue tassels and a blue drawstring. It hangs down from the woman's belt and on this hanging cord there is a blue purse cap that one can slide up and down. When I first saw it years ago, I had never seen a purse with a cap before.
It all started to make more sense to me when a few years later I visited the Stadtmuseum in Cologne, where they have a purse cap and a purse with a netted cap in their collection (see more images here). I think that without the image from Tacuinum Sanitatis, I could have never guessed the function of this little thingy.
It measures 8,8cm high and 8,4cm wide (which means that the individual panels measure 8,8cm by 4,2cm). It is made from silk brocade and has a pink silk lining. The seams are covered with four-strand gold thread braids and on the top sits a wooden bead covered with needle lace/buttonhole stitch. Based on the weave of the lampas brocade and the type of gold thread in it, the authors of the museum catalogue (W. Schafke & M. Trierdate, Mittelalter im Koln, eine auswahl aus den bestanden des kolnischen stadtmuseums, Köln: 2010) date it to the fifteenth century.
Because the purse cap from Cologne is made from four triangular panels, I decided to go with the same construction for the purse itself. A really lovely fourteenth century pouch in the collection of the Saint Servatius Church in Maastricht, Netherlands, served as my inspiration. This purse is made from Italian silk brocaded lampas. It has a leather lining, green silk tablet woven edges and red silk pompons. It measures 16cm by 18 cm, which means that the individual panels of the purse each measure 16cm by 9cm. You can find more details here: A. Stauffer, Die mittelalterlichten Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht, Riggisberg: 1991.
Even though the pompon tassels on the Maastricht purse are super sweet and strawberry like (the pompons on the drawstrings even have green needle lace crown leaves), I decided to go for another type of pompon this time. I saw some really lovely ones two years ago in the Metropolitan Museum.
These amazing pompons with fabric covered wooden beads and leaf shaped charms are part of the Crib of the Infant Jesus, fourteenth century, South Netherlandish (propably Brabant), Metropolitan Museum, New York. Similar pompons can also be found on earlier purses from the Low Countries, for instance on some of the purses from Tongeren.What I like particularly about the pompons from the crib's pillow is that they have a needle lace detail as well, to match the button on the purse cap from Cologne.
The fabrics I'll be using for my purse burgundy red velvet (it's a bit darker as it turned out on the photo) for the purse itself and a brocade for the purse cap. The velvet are a few scraps I got from a friend who made a fifteenth century houpelande in the same fabric. The brocade is woven from blue silk and natural unbleached linen and is from Historiska Rum. The fabrics was woven after a historical pattern to recreate the thirteenth century bedroom of Edward I in the Tower of London.
The first step was to create a few prototypes. I have never made a four-panel-purse before, so I had to fiddle a bit with the pattern. First I made it way too short. The second try was better but the curve in the bottom was a bit too sharp, which gave the purse too much of a boxy bottom. My final purse panels each measure 12cm by 7cm. The proportions thus are the same as the purse from Maastricht, but just slightly scaled down. Because I only have a small piece of the blue brocade fabric, I couldn't make the purse too big.
I changed the paper pattern piece to have a slightly gentler curve for the final version.
The next steps will be to make a pattern for the purse cap, to order silk thread for the pompons and drawstrings, and to assemble all the separate pieces.