A Couched Pouch
style of France, 1590s
This pouch was made for the
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.
Angeles County Museum of Art
& Technique: Silk velvet, metallic thread,
pearls, silk taffeta
Length: 6 1/2 in. (16.51 cm)
|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
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.
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.
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.
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
How I made It
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
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.
Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men
and woman c1560-1620, Macmillan, London 1985
d"Andrea; The Craftsman's Handbook - "Il Libro dell'
Arte" (trans. D. Thompson Jr), Dover Publications, New York,
de Marinis, Fabrizio
(ed); Velvet: History Techniques Fashions, Idea Books, New York,
Extant item number
M.91.165 in The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
(1 July 2003:
Metallic Threads - A Background to Their Use in Textile Work;
(1 July 2003:
Pouches" by Mistress Bess Haddon of York
(1 July 2003:
of Couching" by Mistress Bess Haddon of York
(1 July 2003:
"Gold and Metal
Thread Embroidery" by Mistress Bess Haddon of York
1 July 2003:
Tailor: Passemaine - Hand Made Trims
(1 July 2003: