Making a Sweet Bag

In 2008, I embarked on my first sweet bag reconstruction. My small reproduction took approximately 150 hours of actual work time.

I used multiple sources for this particular sweet bag. I used the sweet bag from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection item # T.52&A-1954 shown on page 35  for most of the motifs for my reproduction. All the motifs are period, as are the red tassels, found on the well-documented Burrell sweet bag and the Manchester City Gallery sweet bag item # 1984-60.

  • 28-count linen
  • silk and metallic thread
  • cotton for the pull tabs and purse string
  • silk lining


Embroidery: I used tent stitch, found in extant sweet bags. Tent stitch has the peculiar side effect of canting the linen to one side as can be seen by the bag not laying flat. This is also the case with sweet bags found in museum collections.  I did the embroidery using an embroidery stand and lamp magnification.

Construction: The bag and lining are hand-stitched.

Tassels: Silk construction.

Purse Strings and Pulls: Fingerloop weaving as shown in museum examples. Finished bag – Approximately 150 hours

Lessons Learned
The gold on each side is different because I started with a heavy metallic thread that was too heavy for the project. Unfortunately, I was halfway through the bag before I realized that. I switched to a lighter thread for the second side of the sweet bag.Most sweet bags have unfinished holes cut in the embroidery for the drawstrings. I could not bring myself to cut holes in my embroidery for two reasons:

  • the metallic threads I used made the bag too stiff to close, so drawstrings would not draw the bag closed
  • the metallic thread has sharp edges and would catch on any drawstring material appropriate for the period

I entered my sweet bag into the Chalice of the Sun Gods A&S team competition in 2008.

Side 1

Side 2

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