Juliote de Castlenau d’Arri – Alms Purse Turned Needlebook Belt Bag

There are many things I have made in the last decade or so that compliment my persona in the SCA or I have given as gifts, be it scrolls, belt favours, or embroidery projects for the East Kingdom. This particular object was, funnily enough, a class assignment for my Theater Arts class when I returned to complete my undergrad 30 years after I started. 

The professor asked the class to create a needle book. We could make any design using whatever materials we wanted. There were some designed with leather, and felt. One even used The Umbrella Academy as inspiration. Of course, I chose to make a needle book pouch so I could wear it on my belt to events. I took the design from a 14th century Italian alms purse or amonônières made from a circle of lampas silk gathered with a leather string threaded through holes to secure the contents.  

These alms purses would have been worn by people from all social strata to accommodate various functions within society from market transactions, giving alms to the poor and other activities requiring the means to carry items on the belt to ensure the hands were free. My needlebook pouch is a circular pouch made of purple, green, gold and white linen, embroidery floss and a cord made using the kumihimo method of twining fibres, in this case, cotton in purple and white. I used a combination of machine sewing and hand finishing to complete the pouch. It comprises of two circles, the exterior purple with the interior base of white. The design inside is based on my SCA coat of arms. 

I used the Toulouse cross to create pockets for sewing tools and created a pin cushion with the extra purple linen and some cotton batting. The edges of the yellow linen are sealed with a tight blanket stitch to stop the fraying while the purple and black were done using embroidery floss in a split stitch. The holes where the cord is threaded were finished with the buttonhole stitch. I would have liked to finish the ermine design but, alas, I needed to submit it in time so I would avoid a late penalty grade. The class assignment notwithstanding, I had always wanted to make a sewing pouch to add to my garb because I feel it is the little things, like my old baron would say, that make the dream come alive. While long dresses with flowing sleeves and beautiful silk veils are sumptuous, the diminutive alms purse turned needlebook adds a sense of whimsy but also legitimizes, in some way, why belt pouches were utilized by all classes and genders in the middle ages.  

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