Embroidered 1920s style pouch: a work in progress & free pattern

This week I started working on a little reproduction drawstring pouch, in my 15-minutes-here-and-there embroidery time (of which there is far less than I would like).

The design is based on an embroidered 1920s style pouch I saw on eBay a while ago. The listing isn’t on eBay anymore, but I have the image in my Pinterest. If you follow my ‘Embroidered’ board, you’ll perhaps recognize it as the cover:

embroidered 1920s style pouch

I got the idea to make a little pouch like this from the accessories challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, as I believe this design is from the 1920s. It is super similar to the designs in the Faraway Garden and Cabbage Rose Fancy pattern sets. The pouch was originally described as a Hungarian Matyó pouch, made with silk embroidery on (what looks like) silk. I don’t remember if the listing had said much more about it, I somehow suspect not. So pretty, right? I rather suspect that the real story with this pouch is that it’s an urban rendition of the traditional Matyó embroidery style. I think so for a several reasons: the flowers are rather larger and somewhat less detailed than on traditional peasant clothing. It’s also not a “Sunday best” or wedding-related clothing item but rather a more bourgeois accessory, which was embroidered with silk, which was usually rather too expensive for village folks to use. Mind you, this is just what I theorize based on what I know about the embroidery of Northern Hungary, I don’t have any academic proof.

Regardless, it’s a very pretty little pouch, right? And, you may not believe this, it’s actually very, very easy to make.

I made a combined embroidery+sewing pattern (just a line-drawing, really, I did it quick & didn’t fuss with making it perfect) which I then traced onto a piece of golden-green fabric I had on hand (Moda cross-weave, I think, but it’s really kind of just a scrap of which I had enough for both sides of the bag). I wanted to use silk thread to stitch it, but I don’t have a whole lot of experience with silk and didn’t really like the Trebizond silk I tried before. So, I ordered a few colors of Splendor strandable silk thread, which I like much better. It’s made up of 3 plies of 4 strands each, which you can separate any way you like. So it’s really a lot more thread than you’d think. And it’s smooth and shiny and easy to stitch with. Then a few weeks ago I came across some silk knitting yarn (Karabella Empire Silk, it might still be available here), which turned out to be just about the same thing: strandable silk thread, twisted into three plies of six strands each. And, because it’s a ball of knitting yarn, there is tons and tons of it. So soft and smooth, such a pleasure to stitch with! I wound up mixing & matching colors from both yarns for the bag:

silk threads for fringed pouch

I decided to stitch with a pretty thick thread, partly (I have to confess) so that it would go quicker (it does):

Fringed Matyó style Pouch

In the picture above you can see that I start threads by anchoring with a few tiny stitches in an area that will be covered with embroidery. Here it is again later, in a hoop:

Fringed Matyó-style Pouch

(Yes, yes, I’m a bit inconsistent: I use a hoop but the sewing instead of the stabby method for stitching.)

The embroidery itself is not complicated: it’s just a very casually done satin stitch. The curved kind, which is also not hard to do (there’s a tutorial in the last post of the Hungarian Sampler), it kind of just takes a bit of practice to be able to gauge the distance between the end of one stitch and the beginning of the next one. There are the two stems for the smaller flowers at the left and right of the design that I will do in stem stitch, and I’ll finish the top, scalloped edges with blanket or buttonhole stitching. And then there’s the fringe and drawstring loops. This is where I am with it right now:


If you’d like to try your hand at this design, you can download a PDF file of the pattern here (should print on both US letter/A4 size paper). Please link back here if you use this pattern, not least because I’d love to see what you make with it!

I think it would look pretty just outlined all around too – with stem stitch, split stitch, back stitch, chain stitch…  And with plain cotton embroidery floss, if you don’t want to get all fancy with the silk! I’ll post more about completing the pouch in the next week or two, along with variations for stitching.

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