Workbag thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Workbag

1701-1702 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Capacious work bags were an important domestic accessory in the eighteenth century, and their decoration and scale reflected changing fashions in needlework, although their form, two pieces of fabric seamed at the base and sides and closing with a simple drawstring, remained plain. Work bags tended to be large so as to contain the substantial hanks of coloured worsted wool used for crewelwork, and made of linen or cotton. Many were embroidered with crewelwork, typically with twisting Tree of Life patterns, complete with foliage and birds.

The embroidery of this work bag depicts on one side a central two-handled vase containing meandering stems and flowers, with exotic birds. The other side shows a similar floral design. The bag is initialled ER and dated 1701 on one side, and 1702 on the other side.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Embroidered in crewel wool on a linen and cotton ground
Brief Description
Embroidered workbag in crewel wool on a linen and cotton ground, England, dated 1701 and 1702.
Physical Description
Rectangular workbag embroidered in crewel wools in chain stitch on a plain woven linen and cotton ground. Using the full width of the material, it was worked as one long piece then side-seamed by butting and oversewing the selvedges. There is a contemporary linen lining.



The embroidered design depicts on one side a central two-handled vase containing meandering stems with large-headed blooms (a carnation and other multi-petalled flowers) in shades of pink, red and brown. The stems and leaves are worked in shades of green and brown. This face of the bag is initialled 'ER.' on either side of the vase and dated '1701'. Two exotic birds are embroidered on either side of the vase and there is a border design on three sides of both front and back showing meandering flowers and leaves in shades of pink, brown, yellow and green. The other side, the back, has a similar floral design to the front, growing out of a shaded hillock. It is dated '1702'.



The bag is fastened by means of a drawstring of plaited linen and wools in green and fawn which runs through eyelet slits blanket stitched in green wool. The drawstring is decorated with three tassels made with linen heads decorated and fringed with natural linen and the same coloured wools used in the decorative embroidery. The bottom of the bag is decorated with a larger tassel.
Dimensions
  • Length: 61cm
  • Width: 45cm
  • Length: 24in
  • Width: 17.75in
Marks and Inscriptions
  • '17E R01' (Signature and decoration on one side, embroidered in crewel wool)
  • '1702' (Signature on one side, embroidered in crewel wool)
Subjects depicted
Summary
Capacious work bags were an important domestic accessory in the eighteenth century, and their decoration and scale reflected changing fashions in needlework, although their form, two pieces of fabric seamed at the base and sides and closing with a simple drawstring, remained plain. Work bags tended to be large so as to contain the substantial hanks of coloured worsted wool used for crewelwork, and made of linen or cotton. Many were embroidered with crewelwork, typically with twisting Tree of Life patterns, complete with foliage and birds.



The embroidery of this work bag depicts on one side a central two-handled vase containing meandering stems and flowers, with exotic birds. The other side shows a similar floral design. The bag is initialled ER and dated 1701 on one side, and 1702 on the other side.
Collection
Accession Number
T.166-1984

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record createdMarch 23, 1999
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