Nadezhda’s Embroidered Pouch

I made this pouch as a gift for my Pelican, Vicountess Nadezhda, when she took me as her protege.

  • Summary: rectangular pouch decorated with embroidery and beads
  • Materials: linen fabric; The Thread Gatherer® ‘Silk’n Colors’ 12-strand silk embroidery floss in Greystone, Snow Creme, Ink Black, Snow Drift, Green Leaves, and Dark Forest; Rainbow Gallery® ‘Treasure Braid’ (poly/rayon) in silver; beads: glass, hematite, onyx
  • Time: worked on between October 2010 and January 2011; total time = approximately 50 hours

Fig 1. Embroidered alms purse; made in Paris c. 1340. (1)

This work is inspired by medieval rectangular pouches; since clothing of the time did not have pockets, everyone needed a pouch! The 14th century embroidered alms purses are probably the best known representation of this style (Fig. 1), but simple rectangular drawstring pouches existed at least as early as the 10th century (Fig 2): and are well represented in various cultures from approximately 10th – 16th c. (2)

Fig 2. 10th c. German reliquary bag decorated with embroidery and beads (3)

Many medieval pouches are decorated with embroidery and beads (Figs. 1-3). I made this as a gift for my Pelican; I promised to teach her embroidery and so I wanted to give her a piece that showed I knew what I was talking about. 🙂 Many extant examples have ‘scenes from life’ embroidery (particularly the 14th c. alms purses) or more abstract designs; however, Jane Stockton cites a seal-pouch from 1280 (Fig. 3) embroidered with English heraldry. Since I’m a herald, I really liked the idea of embroidering Nadezhda’s device, so that’s what I did. The pouch is made of heavyweight linen and worked with silk thread in split stitch and surface couching, both of which were used in period embroidery (4) and accented with glass and semi-precious stone beads. The ‘outline’ along the seams probably would have been tablet woven, but I don’t know how to do that, so I used fingerloop braid instead. The drawstring is also fingerloop cord.

Fig 3. Embroidered seal-pouch with English heraldry c. 1280. (5)

Notes & Choices/Things I learned or would do differently next time

  • Do all the embroidery before starting the beads; the beads made it hard to keep the piece on a frame!
  • Think about contrast between beaded and unbeaded areas; on the chief, I wish I had kept the crescents unbeaded, I think they might stand out more that way.
  • Have someone check my work before I start the final lining/construction; this time I found a couple places where I’d forgotten to couch down the laid thread and had to go fix it after the pouch was lined.
  • The embroidery alone was properly aligned, but somewhere in the process of putting the pouch together something got shifted and now the whole thing is a little crooked; not sure where that happened but I didn’t feel I had time to back up and redo once I realized it.
  • This is the first time I’ve used tassels; I have a much better idea for how to finish them off and attach them next time; at this point I think they may come off pretty easily.
  • I can’t seem to manage to keep the tension right on my fingerloop braiding; always happens this way, would like to fix but not sure how to proceed! Also wish I had sewed the braid on before turning down the top hem of the pouch so I could have put the ends of the braid under the hem.


  1. Aumônières, otherwise known as alms purses: Embellished textile purses in the European 14th century by Tasha Kelly McGann.  Shows several other examples of 14th c. embroidered pouches, both extant examples and in contemporary art.
  2. Medieval & Renaissance Material Culture: Drawstring Pouches & Purses by Karen Larsdatter (SCA name). Listing of links to extant examples (museum pieces) of various period pouches of this type.
  3. The Medieval Beadwork Page: Reliquary Bag with plaques and pearls by Jen Funk Segrest.
  4. Staniland, Kay.  Embroiderers. University of Toronto Press, 1991, pp. 34-35.
  5. In Prayse of the Needle: Gro Torstendotter Pouch by Jane Stockton (SCA name).

Aaand after reading all that, I suppose you’d like pictures of the finished product!  Click on any photo to see a larger version.


One response to “Nadezhda’s Embroidered Pouch

  1. Pingback: not so sekrit project | Lion & Lily

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s