Medieval leather pouch made according to an extant piece from Köln am Rhein


Perhaps everyone who has ever searched for original leather finds from the 14th century has ever come across a set of used objects from Cologne from the end of the 14th century. In addition to the beautiful hardened leather pin case, which we already have in our production, are in this series of items several textile bags, a knife case, a seal, a textile cover for a liturgical object, a hardened case for a touchstone, a case for a silver folding spoon. spoon and among them two leather bags. And about a production of one of them I want to write.

The city museum of Köln has its photographic department ever since it was founded. This department takes pictures of the city itself, and also of the pieces in the collection. Part of the museums collection is available online, and that is probably the reason why so many of these pictures travel through pinterest and various historical online forums.

Thanks to these facts I knew about this piece for a long time, but only recently I got to the colour pictures of it, and through these to the great book, which describes personal history of Hermann von Goch (fascinating 14th century character... :D I recommend to read his biography at least on wikipedia.... :D )

I was so excited about the original colours, that it gave me the final push to recreate it. This pouch is also one of the archaeological arguments for the tabby woven edges on leather pouches even in 14th century and earlier. (Many excavated leather pouches have rows of holes on the upper edge. Some of the edges are deformed or there are visible imprints of thread, but sometimes they are very straight, and even Egan and Pritchard in their book "Dress accessories" give good reasons why the silk edges might have been a thing even prior the obvious ornate big pouches from later periods)

On the pieces dug out in archaeological sites are the threads usually not present. This one is an exception in this, as it was not in the ground. After confiscation of personal stuff of Hermann von Goch and his execution in 1398 the pouch and the whole "inheritance" (funny enough the whole collection of his personal objects is called Nachlass von Hermann von Goch :D ) was in the storage of the city councel for 500 years and as soon as the city museum was grounded was moved to the museum storage and later to the public display. 

As I had only linnen threads at hand at the start of this project, and I just wanted to make a technological probe of size and pattern (sily me... :D ) I used those instead of silk ones as on the original. Combining with soft vegetable tanned goat leather. I already worked with this thin silk threads, but I wanted to try again if the edge will be fine enough even with more tablets than I usually use. After finishing the upper hem (standard procedure by now... ) it got a little out of hand, as the curved upper edge on the outer pouch was a little more time consuming than I expected.

The connection of the two main parts of the pouch is made by three rows of stitching according to my observations. This detail is sometimes to be seen on other archaeological pieces and it will be fun to explore this detail further. The functional connection is covered by a comb woven strip in order to make it prettier and maybe a little bit stronger (but I think it serves mainly the looks of it... ) So it was necessary, that I made the comb woven ribbon (it was a long time since I made one, so it was an adventure in itself) and to attach the strip to the pouch. As there are two sides to hand sew and sewing inside a small pouch is not that fluent it wan again kind of time consuming.

So there were "only" the small buttons and the strings left. The strings are finger loop braids, and at this point I just used what I knew how to do at the time - a five loop finger loop, and 3 loop for the front one, and I planned to make it better on the silk version, which was kind of unavoidable at this stage of commitment... :D

And the buttons! :D The last piece of the puzzle. They serve there as devices to hold the edges for easier opening. They are three colours and I was wondering how they were made. At first glance I thought it might be some kind of a crochet, around a hard bead, but I searched for a bit, and found good resolution pictures, and there came the hard truth of them. It is probably a textile button fully embroidered row by row. This technique was shown to me by a friend who found it on some 30 years war blog, as they have more versions of extant cloth buttons. So nothing too complicated, but again - a little time consuming :D (For those who never made a medieval cloth button - it is basically very small simple textile pouch with the edges fitted inside and than tightened by stitching into something that you can not squeeze anymore. As 14th century reenactor I am quite used to making these as you need at least 50 of them for almost each garment you make, but to fully embroider them is something that I am not able to make faster than an hour a piece). On the original pouch there is one button less than on my piece, but from the system of it I am convinced that it was originally there.

So the rest was just to put the drawstrings in, and put the buttons on the right places, and the "technological probe was finished. It was cool looing, but for my taste a little bit too heavy on the edges. So I ordered silk in the right colours, and the race began again. 

I thought, that it will be easier and faster the second time around, but the hickups I had due to some first time makings were compensated by more complex making of the strings, so I think the "making" time, the research time not included was almost the same as for the first piece (which is usually not the case)

Special thank has go to Ingrid Crickmore, for her great advice and her patience with me in consultation of the 10 loop fingerloop braid. Without her help and expertise it would be a long long time before I would decipher the correct type of the braid. You can find her work and manuals on her page web page and her youtube youtobe chanel by the same name. Only problem with this was that I chose shiny and therefore very slipery kind of white silk for the ribbon and the strings, and in order to have it nice and even I pulled too hard on it, and to be honest it was the fist time for me to have blisters in between the fingers.... :D (Ingrid says, that it could be avoided by handling it a little different while doing it. Maybe it is, but I think I will just try to use a different quality silk next time I will try to make it)

Except for this the proces of making the silk version was pretty straight forward and you can see below how the silk and linen version differ, and you can buy the silk version if you are not into making one yourself but really need one :) As it is one of the technological pieces I just had to try the price is below what it should be considering the hours spent on making it. (not including the research)

So here is a gallery of the finished piece. In the first two pictures are both linnen and silk version, further just the silk one. I hope to recreate it sometime after I finally visit Cologne and will be able to see it in person and maybe make it therefore even better. It is possible that it sould be chamois leather or alum leather for the pouch, I just used the next best historically correct leather I had. I also did not find a better description of the collection yet, so as soon as I will, it will be a next round on this fun piece I guess :)

As mentioned in the text - this pouch is one of the reasons for my tabby woven edges on leather pouches from 13th and 14th centuries which have holes on the openings. More about them in the descriptions of the products, and I will try to make a complete article on that too.