A Couched Pouch in the style of France, 1590s

This pouch was made for the category "Costuming Accessories: A pouch in a documentable period style" in the Kingdom A&S comp run during Midwinter Coronation, July AS XXXVIII, which, once again, I was unable to attend. This page is altered to reflected the fact that this item was made in the past, and for the web, but is in essence it is the documentation I presented along with the pouch. I placed second in the comp with this entry.

Image copyright LACMA.

Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Date: 1595

Medium & Technique: Silk velvet, metallic thread, pearls, silk taffeta

Dimensions Length: 6 1/2 in. (16.51 cm)

Museum Number: M.91.165

The pouch I made, whilst not meant to be an exact replica of the extant item (see left), was heavily influenced by the original. I know nothing more about the item than what they museum records show, so I did my best to approximate both the materials and construction method.


1. Silk Velvet (red). Silk was the only available fibre used in Italy the manufacture of velvet within our period. (de Marinis)

I have yet to find true 100% silk velvet anywhere. I would have liked to use 100% cotton velvet, but for reasons of cost and availability I was unable to. I therefore substituted 100% cotton velveteen in burgundy.

2. Metallic Thread: It was likely to have been silver-gilt thread, although it could also have been silver, or even gold - it is difficult to tell from the picture.

I used a two-ply thin twisted cord in silver, which I happened to have on hand, and which was also used in period for embroidery, examples of both gold and silver twisted cord can be found in Arnold.

3. Pearls: At first I could not see the pearls in the extant item, but after looking at it carefully it appears that the small white dots around the inner petals of the central flower and some of the leaf shapes were in fact tiny seed pearls. In period both artificial and real pearls could have been used, although in this case I would presume that LACMA would have noted if they were fake.

I used faux pearls in two different sizes to emphasize the design.

4. Silk Taffeta. It is not stated what the silk taffeta was used for, but I think it likely that it was used for the lining of the pouch. Taffeta was a common and readily available fabric, and was thus probably also inexpensive.

I used some lining weight tabby woven 100% silk that I had on hand.

Other construction details:

Cords and tassels: Looks like a passemaine-type flat braided cord. It appears to have a flat (metallic?) ribbon woven down its centre. The tassels look to have wooden forms beneath.

I decided to omit the tassels due to lack of both time and money to re-create them, and I used silk-look rayon cord as a time and cost-saving measure.

How I made It


Hanky-weight linen
Cotton velveteen
Twisted fine embroidery cord in silver
Faux pearls in two sizes
Pure silk - lining
Silk-look rayon cord - drawstring
Cotton embroidery floss for eyelets

1. I cut a large rectangle of velveteen and lined it with 100% linen, basting the linen in place. This was to back the embroidery and to give the pouch substance.

2. I drew up my design and, using tailor's carbon paper, I traced the design onto the velveteen. This was to save time only. In period it would probably have been either drawn onto the velvet as shown in Cennini (p107), or the design would have been pricked and chalk poured over the pricking through to the fabric beneath.

3. The metallic cord was couched onto the velveteen twice, following the pattern. I used a hoop for convenience, as I don't own a frame of the right size, but in period it would have most likely have been done on a stretcher frame. The original pouch appears to have the design done in different thicknesses of threads in different part of the design. For instance, the inner petals of the flower appear to be a single couched thread, while the outer petals appear to be double couched threads. I did likewise - using different thicknesses for the different elements of the design.

4. Pearls were then sewn on, again with larger pearls for the centre of the flower and smaller for other details.

5. Once the design was complete I cut the velveteen into two sections of identical size, laid them right sides together and hand-stitched them together at the sides using backstitch. The seam allowances were finger-pressed open and sewn to the linen lining to keep them open.

6. I then couched the cord along the seam lines from the bottom of one side and down the other, creating the hanging cord. The bottom seam was then sewn: the original appears to have been shaped at the bottom by pleats - this creates a pouch which is rounded at the bottom and wider at the top. I box-pleated the lower part of the pouch to suit, and hand-stitched it closed, again keeping the seam allowances open by catching them to the linen lining.

7. I constructed the silk lining from one large rectangle of fabric, thus only one seam, and with a much smaller seam allowance. This was to cut down on bulk.

8. I hem-stitched a narrow hem along the top opening edge of the pouch, and turned it right-side out. The lining was then placed inside the pouch and sewn to its top edge by hand.

9. The eyelets for the draw-cords were done by hand, and the cords threaded through and knotted.

The result, I feel, could have been improved by being stretched properly on a stretcher frame, instead of in a hoop, and by me taking more care to un-twist the silver embroidery cord which had a tendency to twist around itself - the couching is slightly lumpy and wobbly in places. but I am nevertheless quite happy with my effort, and with the comments I received from the judges.


Works Cited


Arnold, Janet; Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and woman c1560-1620, Macmillan, London 1985

Cennini, Cennino d"Andrea; The Craftsman's Handbook - "Il Libro dell' Arte" (trans. D. Thompson Jr), Dover Publications, New York, 1960

de Marinis, Fabrizio (ed); Velvet: History Techniques Fashions, Idea Books, New York, 1994



Extant item number M.91.165 in The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

(1 July 2003: http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/)

Barrett, Gina; Metallic Threads - A Background to Their Use in Textile Work; Soper Lane

(1 July 2003: http://www.et-tu.com/soper-lane/access/gold.htm )

"Embroidered Pouches" by Mistress Bess Haddon of York

(1 July 2003: http://www.sca.org.au/broiderers/newsletters/twelfthnight99.htm#pouches)

"The Technique of Couching" by Mistress Bess Haddon of York

(1 July 2003: http://www.sca.org.au/broiderers/newsletters/maycoronet99.htm#couching)

"Gold and Metal Thread Embroidery" by Mistress Bess Haddon of York

1 July 2003: http://www.sca.org.au/broiderers/newsletters/springcoronet01.html#gold

The Renaissance Tailor: Passemaine - Hand Made Trims

(1 July 2003: http://www.vertetsable.com/demos_simpletrims.htm>


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(Copyright Information: As author I, Anabella Wake, known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona, hold copyright on all information on these pages. In addition I hold copyright on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.)