Pouches

A pouch is not only a good way to make use of smaller pieces of fabric left over from a tunic or pair of trousers, but it is also incredibly useful when keeping in mind that trouser pockets are only a more recent invention. Soft pouches fastened with a drawstring, toggle or hooked clasp can be made of any authentic fabric as used in tunics,trousers or cloaks, or alternatively of thin leather. Small versions of drawstring pouches can be hung around the neck to carry coins. Box-type pouches can be made out of thicker, stiff leather. If you are working with leather, it is advisable to use an awl in order to make holes in advance sewing. If you are looking for something larger, consider a bag or satchel instead.

Hedeby Pouches

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Numerous drawstring pouches based on a circle or semicircle of leather have been found at Hedeby.

For a circular pouch, cut a circle of leather with semicircular 'ears' halfway round, as shown in the top diagram on the left. As a rough size guide, a 10cm diameter circle will make a tiny coin pouch for wearing round your neck and a 25cm diameter circle will make a decent-sized belt pouch. Punch holes round the perimeter of the circle; how far in you punch the holes will depend on the thickness of your leather, the thickness of the drawstring and how big the pouch ends up, but the distance should be no less than 3-5mm. The number of holes you punch will also depend on the diameter of the circle, but should be divisible by 4 in order for the drawstring to work and should allow you to space two holes at the edges of each 'ear.' Use thong or cord as a drawstring and thread it in and out of the holes, remembering that the thongs should end up on the outside of the pouch at the point where the ears are. Leave an excess loop of thong hanging out at each ear - pull the thongs to close the pouch and pull the ears apart to open it.

For a semicircular pouch, cut leather as shown in the lower diagram on the left (using slightly more than half a circle will allow some room for the seam). Fold in half and sew the edges together along the dashed line using saddle stitch. You might like to do this right-side out, or inside out and then turned to hide the seam inside. This will depend on the thickness of the leather and the size of the pouch. Thread the drawstring as for the circular pouch.

  • There is an interesting construction guide, which details how to use the circular design with thick leather, here on the Medieval Craftsman blog.

Basic Pouch

Cut out a circle of leather with a diameter of 20 - 30 cm (8"-12"). Cut away about one eighth (45 degrees) from the circle, in the same way you would start a cake or a pizza. The angle is variable and a cutout of up to one quarter (90 degrees) is possible, although experience has shown that smaller angles normally yield better results especially for smaller diameters. Now sew the two straight edges together. The material will now be in a slightly conical shape. The larger the cut out angle, the steeper the cone.

Next punch or cut holes around the circular edge. The holes should be about equal distances apart, although absolute precision is not essential. Make sure you make an even number of holes or the string will end up inside the pouch once you have gone all the way round. The string (usually leather) is to go through the holes, thus going into the pouch every second hole and coming out every other. Start by going in from the outside, so eventually the two ends will come out next to each other. Pull the string tight to close the pouch. Use the ends to tie the pouch to your belt. In order to hold the pouch closed, a simple knot will do, though a prettier method is to use, for example, a small ring through which the two ends are tightly threaded and which can be moved along the strings.

A possible improvement to the basic pouch would be not to cut out a straight slice of 45 degrees but a curved one, so that the remaining material spans the full 360 degrees near the centre but more is "missing" towards the edge. This means that there will be more volume for the same amount of material near the top. (Diagram to follow) The difference is however very small and there is no need for such complications.

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Birka "wallet"

This is a nifty pocketed belt pouch which dates from the 9th Century and which is much simpler to make than it looks. The original appears to have been decorated with bands of gilded braid or leather threaded through slits in the outer layer of leather, as shown in the reconstruction in the right-hand image. The diagram below shows a possible pattern for the wallet.

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Cut the pieces out of thin leather (sheep or goat leather is perfect), marking lines on the flesh side of the leather with a pencil or biro and leaving a seam allowance of 5mm on all edges except for one of the long edges of B and C. Cut one of the pieces A along the dotted line. Part D is a belt loop; you will need to alter the length of this strap so that it fits your belt when doubled over, with some allowance to stitching.

Lay this piece grain-side up and place piece B, also grain-side up, on top of it so that the bottom corners lie on top of one another and the long side of piece B without the seam allowance is at the top. Place piece C on top of B in a similar manner. You can put pins vertically upward through the corners of the stacked pieces to hold the pile together. Sew (hand saddle stitch or machine) along the sides to hold he pieces together - put this line of stitching about halfway into the seam allowance. The inside face of the wallet, with pockets, is now complete.

Now take the other part A and attach the belt loop. Double over part D, flesh side to flesh side, and fold part A in a similar way, as it will be folded when it is the outside of the wallet. Place part D on the square (back) half of part A so that the grain side of one face of the loop is against the grain side of part A, with the folds together. Allow D to unfold and sew the contacting faces of D and A together. Re-fold D and sew the free end down to the attached end.

Take part A place it on top of your ABC stack, grain side to grain side (i.e. 'inside out'). Again, use pins at the corners to hold everything together correctly. If you want to add a fastening, you will need to put this in place now! Now sew all the way around the lines marking out the shape of part A, again using saddle stitch or machining. You should be able to turn the completed wallet inside out through the slit cut in the 'inside' part A. Et voilà, one handy pocketed wallet for jewellery, coins, hack silver or whatever else you want to put in it.

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