Framed purse from Dordrecht


A small step for mankind, but a slightly bigger step for a man like me - part of my research is published, and my article is in a real book <3 Last year, after visiting the Dordrecht museum depot again during the summer (with the goal just to sketch the few girdle purses that I still lacked details of from Purses in Pieces), I discovered that there were actually three rather large boxes of them, and that I definitely couldn't do it in a day. So, after a busy work season, I spent 16-27 October 2022 exploring archaeological leather in the depot, visiting museums and libraries, attending an archaeological leather conference, and cycling on the flat ground in and around Dordrecht... <3 Big thanks to D. Paalman from the Dordrechts museum for making this all possible.

After returning home, I received an offer from Petr Voda to publish part of my research and present it at the Seminar on the History of Clothing in Hradec Králové, which gave me a rather tight deadline for the processing of at least part of the artifacts (and thank God for him :). Out of more than 70 parts of girdle purses, bags and pouches examined, I chose as a connecting theme the combination of vegetable tanned haberdashery pieces with textile or leather linings, but in the end I still narrowed it down to just metal framed purses. Even so, I felt that 10 pages of text was quite a lot for three artifacts. You can read the full text in the proceedings of the 2023 Clothing History Seminar, or on my profile on academia edu.

Despite the fact that at the time of writing I was unsure about making a replica for time and factual reasons (the exact shape and design of the metal frame could not be deduced from the surviving material), I eventually couldn't resist after accidentally buying a cheap base for such a frame, and my husband made me something I could fit the leather reconstruction to, based on what I thought the shape of the frame should look like and by fusing two original frames from the London Museum and the Vienna Rust und Jagtkammer. In designing the shape of the metal frame, I assumed that the opposite frame for which I could not find a sufficient guide in the leather would roughly follow the shape of the first frame, just as on the aforementioned London and Vienna frames.

The entire reconstruction was helpful in verifying that the text was correct based on the research and technology samples, and also for condensing the 10 pages and many hours of research into the 30 minutes allotted for the research presentation, including the introduction of the topic. It was well worth the few days of production process and the feeling that the assumption was correct. For the reconstruction, I used cowhide vegetable tanned leather of appropriate thicknesses completed with thin chamois deerskin leather lining (here one could only assume the thickness of the leather and the lining itself from the context of other better preserved bags). As a sewing material I used silk thread attached to boar's bristle, due to the size of the holes the replica would not look the same if sewn with a modern needle. I used thin steel wire to form the folds, but I suppose that in a professional contemporary workshop a wooden mould in the appropriate shape would be used, into which the leather would be smoothed in a similar way.

I originally assumed that it would make sense to put the lining in the pouch separately because of the double stitching on the hem, and the sample production process verified that this was possible. However, as the reconstruction progressed, it became clear that it was more practical to work the lining at the same time to better support the thin folds of the pouch. However, this does not change the interpretation of the whole bag much, the inner part of the hem is only attached to the lining anyway and the impressions of the overcasting stitches remain the same. This method of lining also makes it easier to attach the additional pouches, The original shows a slight depression around the small stitch marks on the grain side of the pouch. When sewing the pouches onto the folded material, the same effect is achieved.

After attaching the hem on both sides, the whole bag is attached to the frame by a thong. Compared to previous experiences with attaching the pouches to the frame, this was a much easier job, due to the better shape of the opening of the pouch in relation to the frame and the way the stitch attaches.

The only thing left to do at the end was to add the drawstrings and opening buttons. For the smaller inner pouch I used a simple silk cord made using the fingerloop technique, the cuff side of the pouch has a leather strap for now, and when I have some time I'd like to make two more textile cords to make them the same style on both sides. The hourly budget for making the reconstruction before the seminar didn't allow it. I assume the opening buttons were leather, or at least attached by a leather strap, given the size of the original hole that held them on the original collar.

By making a complete replica I have verified the functionality of the interpretation. An interesting detail was that after assembly the flap bends at the upper edges and rubs against the frame when opened. Exactly where it is ragged and damaged on the original artifact. Another detail that verified accuracy was the deformations on the back of the pouches, which also correspond to the higher wear and creases on the originals.

The construction of the metal frame could be more lightweight, more delicate. However, we based this on the aforementioned originals and the proportions of the available semi-product. So it really could have looked a little more different originally, but the shape certainly matched. The inner (smaller) part of the frame could probably have been narrower and therefore the opening covered by the cuff would have been a bit smaller. At the same time, the nature of the product suggests to me that the pockets could have been equally long, which is sometimes seen in the iconography.

This framed purse is the 4th product so far that I have had the opportunity to make based on my own examination of the surviving leather fragments, and the first to receive attention by being able to write a scientific (and printed <3 ) article on it. I thank M. Volken for her support and valuable advice throughout the process.