Treasured Bags and the Stories They Carry

Chris Laning's bag design, based on the Iklé fragment. (Photograph by Joe Coca)

A note from Kathleen: This edition of one of my favorite magazines, PieceWork, celebrates twenty years of wonderful needlework history and tradition. I can't wait to pick up my knitting needles and knit the bag at right, which is based on the Iklé fragment, a small bit of maroon and gold silk textile found in Egypt and dated to the seventh to ninth century A.D.

The story behind the Iklé fragment is fascinating; it's just the sort of thing that PieceWork excels in presenting, and I find these stories riveting.

Here's editor Jeane Hutchins to tell you all about this anniversary issue, which is full of fabulous bags and the stories they carry.

A Special Collector's Edition

PieceWork's twentieth anniversary edition is devoted to Treasured Bags. In her eloquent article, "Treasured Bags: Places to Keep Things," Veronica Patterson, PieceWork's first editor, discusses five bags from her collection and their connections to PieceWork. Veronica says: "‘And what is a stitch for?' I remember writing for the cover of the September/October 1993 issue, ‘To hold. It binds past to present, old country to new, generation to generation.'" Also in this issue are a variety of other bags meant to hold treasures, including eight projects with step-by-step instructions so you can knit, crochet, embroider, or nålbind them yourself.

Wood shavings, a "striker," and a piece of flint surround Nancy Bush's Tinder Pouch inspired by traditional Swedish pouches used to carry items for building fires while traveling. The striker was made by Elmer Roush of Brasstown, North Carolina;
flint courtesy of Joe Bush.
(Photograph by Joe Coca)

Although named a "Charity Purse," Bart Elwell's spectacular crocheted purse will become a favorite treasure bag. It's
shown here with the page from the January 1862 issue of Peterson's Magazine, showing the instructions and illustration
he used to re-create the purse.
(Photograph by Joe Coca)

Among them are two based on an Islamic Egyptian fragment, a Swedish tinder pouch, an 1862 charity purse, and an eighteenth-century alms purse. (The alms purse was designed and embroidered by a very talented student at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace in England; many thanks to the Royal School for connecting us to her.)

Stories about bags are included as well. "Charitably Chic: The Eighteenth-Century Alms Purse" takes you back to the pomp and splendor of the French court when small but exquisitely made purses were used to solicit alms during Sunday mass in the Royal Chapel at Versailles. "Istanbul on My Mind" centers on a small, precisely crocheted Turkish purse that the author found in an antiques store. And you can puzzle with the experts about "The Iklé Fragment: Knitting or Not?"

For the past twenty years, PieceWork has explored needlework traditions and the stories of needleworkers from around the globe and across the centuries—utilitarian (samplers used by needleworkers to pass patterns along before printing was invented), esoteric (Pearly Kings and Queens of London), poignant (Sock Knitters of Sobibor), entertaining (Rattlesnake Kate), and inspiring (Safe Return Mittens). We have delved into an astounding variety of techniques from knitting, crochet, needlepoint, embroidery, and quilting to quillwork, horsehair hitching, nålbinding, stumpwork, and sashiko.

Interweave's founder, Linda Ligon, started PieceWork for those who value the past and present roles of handwork in the ongoing human story. To bring you compelling and informative articles about the history of needlework done by hand together with projects utilizing those skills has been and continues to be PieceWork's mission.

In coming issues, we continue to examine the rich traditions of needlework: who did the work, how was it done, and why—all in the pages of a new design! Stay tuned, and subscribe to PieceWork today so you don't miss any of the upcoming exciting issues!


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