February 1, 2013

1859 Sewn and Embroidered Reticule Pattern

This is a very labor intensive sewn reticule from Arthur's Home Magazine, from 1859. The instructions recommend velvet fabric, embroidered with red roses and white Fleurs-de-lis separated by gold flat braid. Each of the roses contains 5 gold beads.    

The instructions give an alternative pattern of gold flat braid on purple velvet with embroidered red roses and green shamrocks. 

It is a nice pattern because the purse is a little more substantial than a crocheted or knit bag and it is of a pretty decent size, especially for those of us accustomed to modern purses. In the mid-1800s, a reticule only held a few coins and a handkerchief, although a sewing machine company in 1862 advertised that they has a machine "so light and portable (weighing less than one pound) that it can be conveniently carried in the pocket or reticule."

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The top of the fabric is 5 inches at the top, 9 1/2 on the bottom and 7 1/2 inches long. The pattern recommends leaving the velvet 1 inch longer all around. This purse should be stiffened with a stiff muslin or buckram and lined with silk. This could be sewn plain, without embroidery. If you plain to embroider, do so before you cut out the fabric to save a lot of frustration from frayed edges.

As fabric is easily damaged, many original metal purse fasteners can be found online or at antique shops. If you do your research into what kind of styles and fasteners were available, you may even be able to find some modern bags with clasps at thrift stores that can be repurposed. But make sure you really research, you don't save any money if you end up buying something you can't use. 

Purse closing example from the Met.
Screw closing example from the Met.
Another Example.

For some purse  inspiration, check out this awesome Pinterest board by Muriel.


  1. That's pretty. When are you planning to make one? Start practicing the embroidery. :)

  2. Like many early industrial sewing machines that followed this machine copied the action of the human arm when sewing. sewing machine for beginners

  3. I have quite a few antique purse frames and had not figured out a pattern to refurbish them. Thanks!!!


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