3. Two tote bags from Martebo church

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Pennsic XL last summer.  One disadvantage of flying in from Norway is that there is quite a bit of gear that doesn’t pack well, like baskets.  When trolling through Kingdom of Atlantia’s A&S web page looking for ideas, I ran across a source that led to making these two bags.

The original idea comes from Johan Käll of Albrecht’s Bössor, a Swedish living history reenactment group.  In his .pdf Carrysack from Martebo, he documents his interpretation of a double-sided pouch from a relief on the Martebo Church on Gotland, Sweden.  His group has their focus on the years 1364-1389 in Sweden, a relatively good match for my persona.

The larger of the two bags was used during Pennsic XL.  The sewing was done by hand, primarily during the trans-Atlantic flight.  This tote bag is made from a single width of commercially woven medium weight unbleached linen.  The seams are sewn by hand using linen thread.  Finished measurements are ca. 66x95 cm (26”x37”).

Conclusion on Martebo tote bag 1: This bag served well during Pennsic, holding enough stash for a full day of traipsing around between classes and shopping.  The large size was a bit of a disadvantage as it was rather clupmpy and could be a bit of a bottomless pit when looking for any specific item.

The size issue led to the sewing of a second bag from a smaller piece of cloth from my stash, possibly cotton, in a light beige.  While a tabby weave, the effect of the singles gives the illusion of a broken diamond twill.  The measurements of the finished bag are 33x66 cm (13”x26”).  The seams on this bag were also hand sewn with linen thread, but this time I experimented with a bone needle purchased at Pennsic (made by THL Cynwyl macDaire).  This is part of an ongoing project to test out use of more period tools.

Here is a picture of the needle used while making the reinforcement bar for the center opening.  The needle is slightly under 2 mm diameter and has a nice point.  Compared to modern needles, this one is huge, and I was very curious how it would function in use. 

The needle worked just fine, moving between, rather than splitting the threads of the fabric.  The hole produced when pushing the needle through seemed large, but closed up around the sewing thread almost immediately as I moved on along the seam.  This was no attempt at a court gown or other fine needlework, and I conclude that this needle proved functional for this purpose on a loose-weave cloth.  Firmly felted cloth? not so sure, but that will be a later trial.

Here is another picture of the opening on the smaller bag made by pulling a thread most of the way across the center of the bag and cutting open the fabric.  The cloth to the outside remains intact, adding structural strength.  The hole butts up against a block of stitches (as shown above, the pin marks the thread pulled to place the opening).  In addition, there is a bar of thread tied by buttonhole stitches making the same reinforcement as in the split at the front of a kirtle or chemise.  The raw edges are simply rolled under and tacked down.

 Conclusion Martebo totebag 2:  This bag is proving to be much more functional for carrying essentials and a snack/water bottle.  It will hold an A4 notebook for classes (see photo at top), and the fact that it has two pockets helps keep things more organized than I tend to be when using a basket.



(originally posted on LiveJournal April 09, 2012)