Monday, 2 September 2013

Sweet bag.

Sweet bags were small embroidered bags used in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. They are thought to have originally contained sweet smelling herbs and flowers, hence the name. At first they were kept in trunks, chests and wardrobes to keep away insects and various smells but as time went on the bags became very beautiful and elaborate and were worn over and under clothing. They are generally very small, you struggle to get a hand inside, a thought is that they were also used to give small gifts. These were high status items that royalty and the aristocracy carried around.The bag below was one that I was able to study in detail recently. Further information on the history and how to make these bags is available in Jacqui Carey's book ' Sweet Bags'.
The sweet bag is approx 10cms wide. A carnation, tulip and iris are stitched in silk tent stitch. Other design details include two small hillocks one of which has a bird sitting on it and a small bee.

The metallic thread is called gimp and loops round to meet a turks head knot. 

The drawstring ends are worked over a wooden former. A weft thread is wrapped around the former and then silk and metal threads are wrapped over the wefts to create a pattern. The bags has two different drawstring ends so possibly one is a later replacement. 

A close up of the grounding which is worked in a counted stitch with a metal passing. The background fabric is a very fine cream linen. Passing is a metal thread so called as it was strong enough to pass through the fabric rather than just sit on the surface of the fabric. Also see the detailing of the stitch covering the side seam.   

A close up of the carnation an often used flower in 17th century imagery. 

The knots at the outside corners were used to pull the drawstring open. You can just see the bright pink silk lining.