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  • Place of origin:

    England (embroidered)

  • Date:

    1600-1629 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, silk, silver; hand-woven, hand-embroidered

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
In the 17th century decorative purses such as this one were rarely used to carry money, as their wealthy owners engaged in few commercial exchanges requiring cash. In addition to serving as 'sweet bags' or 'gift wrapping', purses sometimes functioned as sewing kits that held needles, thread and tiny scissors. The attachment of a pin cushion to this purse suggests that it might have been used as a sewing kit, or kept on the dressing table to hold pins for fastening clothing.

Materials & Making
This pin cushion is decorated in canvaswork. Worked in wool, it was a popular form of embroidery, particularly for furnishings such as wall hangings, cushion covers and table carpets. For smaller items such as this purse and pin cushion, silk and metal threads were often used on a ground of finely woven linen. This example uses tent and Gobelin stitches, two of a variety of stitches found in canvaswork.

Design & Designing
The pattern depicts a rose tree, a motif made popular by its association with the Tudors. This type of needlework allowed subtle gradations of colour, giving the image a very pictorial effect.

Physical description

Bag and pin cushion of coarsely woven linen tent-stitched with silver filé, coloured silks in a pattern of roses and pansies. Both are decorated in the corners with silver purl loops and small silk tassels, and square braided strings of pink, green and white silk. The bag is lined with blue-green silk sarsenet and has 2 large shaped tassels covered with silver filé, pink and green silks.

Place of Origin

England (embroidered)


1600-1629 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, silk, silver; hand-woven, hand-embroidered


Length: 15.0 cm 316-1898, bag approx, Width: 23.5 cm 316-1898, bag approx, Length: 8.0 mm 316:A-1898, pin cushion approx, Width: 8.0 mm 316:A-1898, pin cushion approx

Object history note

Embroidered in England

Descriptive line

Bag and pin cushion, 1600-1629, English; canvas embroidered with coloured silks and silver threads

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.98, plate LXIX

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Purses were a common dress accessory and often very ornate. In the days before regular bathing, body odours were masked with 'sweet bags' containing perfumed powder or dried herbs. Purses also held mirrors or sewing equipment. Presents or donations of money could be 'gift wrapped' in a purse. [27/03/2003]


Silk (textile); Linen (material); Silver thread


Hand weaving; Hand embroidery


Textiles; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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