Wool haversack

Completed bag

Completed bag

Although I want to make purses/pouches to go with my costumes that at least sort of attempt to fit the costume time/place as well, I realize that I need a larger purse to put my things in for events – something instead of carrying my Betsey Johnson purse to costume events.

I took a look at the frequently-seen ‘haversack’ or ‘pilgrim’s bag’ and decided to make one up fairly quickly.

Listed on Pinterest as “Pilgrims bag 11th Century Statue of James the Apostle”

I found lots of historical references to the simple bag, though none at all for the Viking Age. I KNEW this was not going to be the kind of project I’d want to back up with lots of research and references, so I just browsed Pinterest for ideas. Normally I’d follow up each of the pins to find out if what they were called was accurate…. but this time I didn’t bother. I looked at the picture of a statue listed as “Pilgrims bag 11th Century Statue of James the Apostle”

I also looked at a pin listed as “Saint Savina of Troyes or Saint Syra, depicted as a pilgrim with hat, staff, and bag. Made in Champagne, France, 1510–20.” and “German Pilgrim Scrip 15th cent. Closeup of a period painting/illumination showing a pilgrim scrip (bookbag).”

All have different shapes – some rectangles, some curved, but all have a front flap hanging over the main bag.

Listed on Pinterest as “German Pilgrim Scrip 15th cent. Closeup of a period painting/illumination showing a pilgrim scrip (bookbag).”

Making the bag

I wanted to either use heavy linen, wool, or canvas for the bag, and since I didn’t have any canvas in my stash, and had too much heavy linen to devote to a small project, I opted to look for wool instead. I had some green coat-weight wool leftover from a jacket I made years ago.  I had a larger piece of obviously twill wool  in a lighter (and probably more accurate) colour of green, but again, I had a lot of it and didn’t want to cut into a large piece for a small project. In the wool I chose, I even had a leftover piece (from cutting an armhole probably) that was perfect for the front flap, and two more pieces, that once sewn together made up the lining of the flap perfectly.

I lined the bag with heavy navy blue linen, and made the strap of the same fabric (choosing linen over wool as it stretches less, and I also thought it would be less prone to piling.

Although I wanted the outside to look like something other than every-day mundane… I wanted one very mundane, practical element to the bag – a zippered pocket. I made this in linen as well and sewed it to the lining. This is for those small, more valuable or easily lost items like keys, room card, phone, etc… I will likely toss a small zippered pouch into the bag as well for things like lipgloss, etc – if a zippered pouch falls out, I’ll notice that!

Raven embroidery

Raven pin

Raven pin

I also wanted to embellish my bag – to speak a bit to the Norse persona I’d probably use the bag with. I thought of block printing, embroidery, screen printing and appliqué, and decided to go with a simple embroidery stitch for the design I chose.

I found a good clear photograph of the raven brooch I bought at the Vikings in BC exhibit, and drew a simplified version of it in Photoshop. I printed it off in a size that worked for what I had in mind, and then traced it off onto a tear-away water-soluble embroidery stabilizer.


sewing through tear-away, water-soluble stabilizer

sewing through tear-away, water-soluble stabilizer

I used a double running stitch to trace all the lines through the stabilizer onto a leftover piece of the green wool. I’d say it took about an hour, using two strands of light grey cotton embroidery floss.

I’m not very experienced with embroidery – it’s been a really long time since I did any, other than stitching simple stitches to embellish my Norse costumes, and a bit of embroidery in the distant past before I switched to cross-stitch and then abandoned the whole thing for other distractions and hobbies…. 😉


Cutting away the stabilizer around the raven

Cutting away the stabilizer around the raven

After stitching the whole thing, I trimmed away the excess stabilizer, and took the piece to the sink. I soaked the work in water to loosen and disolve the stablizer..

…. and it didn’t all come out.

I dried it, and soaked it again…

…. and it didn’t all come out.

I’ve used this stabilizer before, and it has been a bit tough, but it’s always come out. All I can suspect is that the stitching was too tight or too small or something. Either way – it looks like crud, with little fluffy paper bits haloing every line. I sat with a pair of tweezers for a while, but still wasn’t making much progress. Because it’s wool, I didn’t really want to toss it in the wash, so I opted to make a second, this time using a different stabilizer. (I’ll still perhaps toss the original in the wash to see what happens.)

stick-on water-soluble stabilizer

stick-on water-soluble stabilizer

This stabilizer was recommended to me – it’s sticky on one side, is water soluble, and it’s possible to run the stabilizer through a printer to transfer a design.

Instead I opted just to trace the raven onto the stabilizer by hand, since I already had it printed out.

I did find the stabilizer is a bit more translucent than the other stuff, so the dark fabric made it a bit hard to see my lines at certain angles – but I think this would work well on light coloured fabrics.

sewing through the stick-on stabilizer

sewing through the stick-on stabilizer

I repeated the task (this time it went a bit faster too) stitching the raven onto the wool, (using three strands of floss instead of just two) and then added in some blue filling stitches using blue silk thread. I also added in some red rayon, but didn’t like the look of it, so picked it out.

Then I soaked the wool, crossed my fingers, and thankfully the stabilizer disolved so I had a finished version I was much happier with.

Below is the original on the right, and the second version on the left.

results of two different stabilizers

results of two different stabilizers

Once the raven was dry, I trimmed it and used my needle felting tools to loosely “applique” the raven onto the bag; this technique acts like pins to hold the raven in place, and makes the edges “sink into” the bag. I then used three strands of the grey floss to stitch the raven in place, aiming to keep the stitches pretty much invisible on the back and blending into the design on the front.

needle-felting the raven to the bag's flap

needle-felting the raven to the bag’s flap

Below is a shot of the interior of the bag, showing that secret zippered pocket.

Inside (secret!) pocket with a zipper for security

Inside (secret!) pocket with a zipper for security

Historical Sew Fortnightly

Like my previous post, this is a challenge from 2014, one that I was unsure of when the deadline rolled around… but I wanted to do. In all honesty, I wanted the bag, then searched for something to use as inspiration. Not really what I’d like to do… but sewing up what I really need right now is taking precedence over inspiration by flights of fancy that I’ll perhaps never use.
The Challenge#19: HSF Inspiration

I was inspired by Susan’s “Pilgrim’s bag or script” which she did for the Black & White challenge.

Fabric: coat-weight wool leftovers & heavy blue linen leftover from some pants.

Pattern: self-drafted

Year: Generic medieval

Notions: zipper, thread, embroidery thread, stabilizer

How historically accurate is it? The overall concept is good, but pretty much everything is more “inspired by” rather than an attempt at researched accuracy.

Hours to complete: half a day, not including having to do the embroidery twice.

First worn: not yet

Total cost: $0  Everything was in my stash. I used less than a meter in scraps and leftovers of each fabric. The coat fabric would run $15-30/meter depending on store, sale, and season, while the linen was about $15/meter originally.


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