Monday, May 7, 2012

Sewing/Work bags

Man-clothing is killing my soul right now...I derive no pleasure from boring waistcoats and breeches, but I did make a solemn promise that I'd make a full outfit for a gentleman-friend. I'm cutting a lot of corners with material, patterns, and sewing machine on long invisible seams, but luckily he doesn't care (YET. I'm waiting for the day he demands complete accuracy and hand-sewing, eek). The shirt is done (yay bedsheet), the waistcoat is being sewn (yay thrift-store drapes), and the breeches are cut (bargain-table corduroy and Jack Sparrow pattern? Sweet). I haven't decided if I want to make a not-historically-accurate frock coat from said costume pattern since this ensemble is going to be worn in the heat of summer. He says "yes," I say "I'm not fanning you when you die from heatstroke."

So I have been using the little breaks I've been taking to look at 18th century work or sewing bags, thinking that might make a nice small project to take to events. There is such a variety out there in various collections!

 Love this pretty little bag from the Met, although it's a bit late in the century, 1795.

 This one from the National Trust Collection looks VERY much like it could have been made from an old embroidered waistcoat. Doesn't that placket of trim in the middle look like the pocket flap?

Huh. A drawstring bag from an auction...not really any info (late 18thc, early 19thc), but it's interesting, even if not very attractive. Makes me think of Native Americans in Maine for some reason...

This one from the V&A collection is quite exotic looking; date is very vague (1700-1800), and the silk was made in China with the ribbon added later once the bag was made up in Europe.

 One of my favorites, also late in the century, circa 1799, France, silk, from the LACMA collections. But am I willing to go crazy on embroidery and tassels? Not sure yet.

Woman's drawstring workbag, "Ce panier de fleur" 1780-1800 Origin: Europe, France, from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. 

 Listed as a "Sewing bag" 1750-60, French, silk, from the Met's online collection. This one is very much to my liking; it looks easy to make and doesn't involve a lot of embroidery if I could find similar fabric.

 Late in the century at 1794, but it's pretty much just a plain sewn fabric bag with a channel for a drawstring...nice to know they existed! From the National Trust Collections. I think it's pictured folded in half. Actually if I attached handles to it, this would make a lovely modern-day bookbag...

1790 bag. Maybe other people don't mind this color scheme but I find it SO reminiscent of 1970's couch upholstery fabric :(  Still, another one that doesn't entail a lot of embroidery! Also from the National Trust Collections.

This is by far my favorite bag, because look how easy it would be to make! I like the bright cheery colors. There's no specific date pinned to this one, 18th century is the narrowest guess by the National Trust Collections.

And then, I found this...

A "handkerchief case." WHAT?! Like there wasn't enough to embroider with tapestries and pillows and workbags and samplers?! 18th century women apparently felt the need to embroider the bejaysus out of everything they could lay their hands on. I bet they would have embroidered their dogs if they'd held still long enough. Who needs a handkerchief case?!  

Incredulity aside, it's got an interesting description of materials used by the supposedly North American maker: Birchbark, Moosehair, Silk. I wonder if some frontier wife, longing for finer civilization, decided to make something pretty with the materials she had. Perhaps she gave it to her husband for his birthday and he said "How nice, dear....what is it?"

I didn't even look at reticules, gaming purses and the like! Nice to know though that if I run out of other projects, I can always make a handkerchief case.


  1. Think how accomplished you'll feel when you're done - you can know you can make women's and men's clothing! Maybe make the coat in linen?

    I wonder if that handkerchief case is actually Native American, for personal use or for sale. There's something about the style of the embroidery, plus those materials.

  2. I know what you mean about man-clothes...I've a pair of breeches and a waistcoat that have languished in the unfinished pile for years, that I solemnly swear I will finish...someday.

    Cassidy--I see what you mean about the Native American influence. The way the white beads on the edges are done looks a lot like Native American work. And yes...I've never felt the need for anything other than my pocket as a handkercheif case :)

  3. Yes it DOES look slightly Native American, now that you say display my ignorance though, would they really have had the know-how to do that kind of floral embroidery? I'm looking at it through the zoom feature right now and it is SO detailed. Quite a mystery piece!

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