Off The Beaten Path – A Medieval Pouch

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I often say that each and every leather craft project is like undertaking a journey.  Even journeys that have been experienced before can present new experiences.  New journeys most definitely provide new experiences.  Such is the same, I find, for my leather projects.  Here is a story about my most recent project.  One that is a departure from my usual type of project.  Ultimately the idea is to provide  beautiful, well made and truly useful leather items to those who appreciate and understand what they are beholding.


This Journey Begins

The Walsall Leather Museum, where I am a volunteer demonstrator, is an interesting place to say the least.  There are nooks and crannies all around where one may find hidden and forgotten treasures and there are some treasures that are not so hidden yet unseen.  One such treasure that I recently noticed was a template for a medieval pouch.  It is part of a project that is offered to school children as an option for children to do when on a school visit to the museum.  A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would like to tread an unbeaten path in terms of my leather work by making a travel pouch that many a medieval ancestor would have used while threading the paths of their age.


The Unbeaten Path

I found that by changing my usual type of leather work I learned and understood anew.  It is refreshing to do this in many ways.  It is like travelling to a new place after a period of stagnation.  Or like receiving a guest who stays for a few days bringing a refreshing change to ones usual routines.  Or like rearranging or redecorating ones dwelling place after a long period of sameness.  These changes of situation bring new ideas, inspirations, emotions and new energies that can help one to progress in some way or other.

This medieval pouch project has done something like this for me and it has been great!  It is not the usual project consisting of a many stages with various complexities and challenges and with lengthy periods of time cutting, assembling, stitching and edge finishing.  And it is not the type of project into which much time and effort is invested and that could go pear shaped with the slightest slip of the hand right at the last minute.  This is the relaxed, relatively quick and refreshingly simple project that one may do when one feels like having a playful session of craft work.


At The End of This Path

So, what do we have here?  In the photographs below you one will find two simple prototype medieval pouches made from two different types of leather.  The red on is made with goat kid suede which came from an off-cut from a previous project.  The second one is a piece of leather that came from a Toyota car seat manufacturing factory somewhere in the UK.  Both leathers are approximated 1mm thick and are very soft and pliable yet very hard wearing.  The drawstrings are made of leather also and hold the pouch openings quite securely closed when drawn.  The red pouch has stitched on tabs on the outside and the string is beveled to make it a bit more comfortable in the hand.  The string ends are bound tightly and securely with heavily bees-waxed cotton or linen thread.  The grey pouch is smaller and intended for carrying nothing more than a handful of coins or other small items.  The larger red pouch is big enough for things like bank cards, cash notes and coins, jeweler, a watch, small perfume bottle, makeup, rosary beads, precious ornaments and the like.  It is also small enough to drop into a handbag, briefcase, purse or travel bag.

The finishing is made to match the style of the item.  I wanted to give the pouches a slightly rustic feel and look.  Both pouches are completely hand made which means that the leather is cut by hand (using a newly made template), the edges are finished (burnished) by hand and the stitching is done completely by hand using traditional saddle stitching.

The draw strings are long enough that the pouches can be hung off a trouser belt, tied to the outside straps of a bag or even tied to ones wrist or arm.  As long as the strings are tied to another object or to each other the contents are quite safe and well protected.  The benefit of leather is that for the thickness it is very protective.


The Next Path To Beat

I intend to make a larger pouch that is large enough to carry the contents of a small purse or handbag for example.  I expect that this pouch would be useful to ladies who have small pockets or no pockets in their outfits although I intend to use one of these for containing small useful nick nacks that I carry with me on a daily basis such as plasters (for when the children have a fall), a couple if paracetamol tables, a few paperclips, some needles and thread (for emergency clothing repairs) etc.  I also intend to make the larger ones a little more refined with contrasting lining leather and better edge finishing.  Let me know what you think of this design and how you would use it if you had one.


Hand stitching – saddle stitching is used to attach the brown tabs onto the pouch.


The design allows the pouch to expand to accommodate a surprising amount of contents.


The drawstrings form an easy to operate, secure closure system for valuable contents.


The tips of the drawstrings are refined by binding with heavily waxed linen thread.


The pouch can be kept securely closed using a number of different methods of closure giving flexibility of use.


Hand it, store it, tie it.


The smaller prototype made with Toyota car seat leather offcuts and russet (tan) leather tabs and drawstrings.


A surprisingly large capacity for something that seems so small on the outside.


The smaller pouch intended mainly for small items such as coins.


The larger design carries much more yet appears only very slightly larger than the grey pouch.


And it can be opened up to form a makeshift tray providing easy access to the contents as well as a nice way of displaying the contents.  A truly efficient design that our ancestors used and that is relevant even today.