Making a Leather Purse With a Brass Frame – pt 2

I used deer hide for the leather. “Dress Accessories” documents the use of deer hide in purses.[1]

The use of a decorative plaque on the purse lid is illustrated historically by the Sutton Hoo purse. In the case of the Sutton Hoo purse lid, the decorative pieces are set with solid inlay garnets and milifiori.  The decorative pieces were riveted to the lid.[2] I chose to make an enameled roundel and rivet it to the purse lid. The design for the roundel was copied from the St. Mathew page of the Book of Kells.[3] Designs of this type were commonly incorporated into jewelry and other items, both enameled and plain.[4] I chose an Irish design because a considerable quantity of loot from Ireland ended up as jewelry in Viking graves. The reuse and reworking of looted items was extremely common. [5]

In the case of the Sutton Hoo lid the stiffness was provided by a sheet of ivory – something that was not on my shopping list, so I settled for a thin sheet of birch, which I covered with leather. I chose birch because it was a commonly used hardwood in period and is dimensionally stable. I chose NOT to cover the inside of the lid because I felt that the interior of the pouch would not have been considered important enough to waste a lot of effort on. Things like rivets and peaned over nails often show on the back in period crafts.

-But wait! There’s more coming!


[1] Egan, p. 342

[2] Evans, p. 96

[3] Cirker, p. 10

[4] Campbell, p.65, Meehan, p. 18

[5] Campbell, p. 177,  Almgren, p. 50, 213

Making a Leather Purse With a Brass Frame – pt 1

Leather Purse with Brass Frame

History and Materials

My goal was to produce a decorative Viking-style leather purse, with a brass frame, that might have been purchased or stolen by a Viking. The general form of this purse is based on many sources. The use of a metal frame to support the fabric or leather of a purse is common from at least the Sutton Hoo burial (Anglo Saxon 600-900AD) through modern times. I have personally viewed several metal purse frames in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of London, mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries.  The general form that I based my purse frame on is a bar with stretchers attached so that they are freely hinged. The purse frames usually have some sort of metal attachment which allows them to be suspended from a chain, strap or chord. I chose to make two metal loops, through which leather straps can be fastened as my method of suspension. The use of leather straps to support a purse is seen in the Sutton Hoo purse and several purses in the Museum of London book – “Dress Accessories”.  This type of purse is fairly common in tapestries.

Stay tuned – there’s more on this topic coming!