Pouch size, shape, and decoration style is actually not a simple question.  There are many styles of pouches, bags, and satchels, spanning a wide range of time.  A well made pouch can help anchor your outfit in a specific time and place.

You should consider is how historically accurate you wish to be. Reality is that individuals in most of the SCA time period did NOT travel as much as we do. The ones who did, often had more substantial containers for some of their goods – merchant traveling money boxes, the Mastermyr chest for smithing tools, and the like. What we choose to carry around at events does not necessarily match with what people commonly carried in period.. So exactly matching size and shape can be tricky.

We also have to acknowledge what I call “collection bias” – we have to remember that the desire to accurately represent how people in a previous time looked, etc is fairly modern. Most of our favorite museums were built up from donations by wealthy/noble collectors who just collected what they fancied in the 16th – 19th centuries. So look not only at extant items, but also representation of that time period – especially paintings & manuscripts that depict less than royal/noble people. The elaborately decorated extant items will show us the size & shape, and the visual representations can help us learn if the common/merchant class also wore them. In general, the size and shape will be the same for a particular time period and pouch style, and only the level of decoration or quality of material will change. But the lower class pouches are far less likely to be conserved. I would suggest that even the middle/upper class pouches may not have been saved. Based on the level of workmanship, and lack of wear patterns, some of the extant embroidered pouches are from the very highest stratum of society.

Where does that leave us when all we need is a pouch for our stuff? Think about what social class level and time period you want to represent, and what items you feel you need to carry.

BUT the true test is wearing a pouch, determining if it holds what you need it to hold, if it is easy to get in and out of, and if it is comfortable to wear is an important first step.  I’ve had many lovely pouches, that I’ve stopped wearing because they failed my personal use test. My husband’s pouch holds everything he needs, but in order to find what he wants, he basically has to dump it out every time. It is beautiful leather with his device on it, but over time, very frustrating. I’ve learned I mostly hate drawstrings, because they always seem to get stuck when I’m trying to open it to grab the phone and make it stop ringing. (But maybe part of the problem is I’ve used the drawstrings for suspending the pouch.)

That’s why my first recommendation for making a pouch is to make a cheap, quick and easy mock up with available cloth or pleather – machine sew it, and start using the pouch. Load it up with what you want to carry at the event. Find out your personal preferences.

Tasha Kelly McGann has an excellent post about the embellished textile purses in the French 14th century. You should go read it. I’m quite indebted to her for this nice summary, as it helped me find many links.

I’ll be working on more posts with tutorials for specific styles, but here are some links for some choices.

Gokstad Backpack

10th C Viking aka Hedeby Bag

Viking Age Irish Leather Bag

Swedish Leather purse

Pilgrim pouch or satchel

Tasseled Drawstring Pouch blog post, Pinterest board, and Tutorial

14th C Trapezoidal pouch with a ring frame

Late period Kidney Shaped Leather pouch

15th to 16th C Tooled & Hardened Leather containers

16th C German leather pouch

16h C Elizabethan Sweet Bag

Please comment with any questions or requests – you can help me decide which detailed post to do next.