13th century Man’s Purse

A man’s drawstring purse, the most common style in the 13th century.

I made this purse as part of a joint project to make a full 13th century outfit for my friend Ulric. I also contributed a belt and hat, while other friends made the shirt and tunic.

Research & Design

Drawstring purses were known from the Roman era and remained the typical style for men through the 13th century (and much later for women), across Western Europe.

The manuscript images below show men using a drawstring purse with two drawstrings and a separate hanging cord, with both round and flat bases. Even in the early 14th century, men are depicted wearing drawstring purses alongside the new flat belt purses in the Lutteral Psalter.

This type of purse can be made in many designs, from the simple circle to the much more efficient seamed rectangle. The images above suggest several styles were used contemporaneously, and Goubitz (2007) depicts a wide variety of patterns from archaeological material.

The drawstrings could be made of many materials, but Egan & Pritchard (1991) note the prevalence of silk fingerloop braiding on drawstring purses – even on leather examples.


The purse needed to be large enough to be practical and some quick experimenting showed a full circle purse was not the best approach at this scale – too much gathering at the mouth, and inefficient use of materials.

I tried a few options out in scrap fabric to check on finished size and materials usage. In the end, I decided on semicircular pattern, with a leather hanging strap ending in a reinforcing tab to support the drawstrings – one of the many styles detailed by Goubitz.

Pattern finalised, I cut the main purse pieces in a fine black oil-tanned sheep leather, and the strap in a heavier deerskin. I sewed the pieces (grain sides together) with waxed linen thread, turned the purse out and sewed the handle over the seam. I marked and punched 32 holes around the edge, with a pair on each reinforcing tab.

The drawstrings needed to be robust, and there was no silk of the right weight in stash, so I used pearl crochet cotton instead – it has a good sheen and works up well. I braided a pair of fingerloop cords (5 bowes) in Ulric’s favourite colours, then threaded up the purse, with a pair of white glass beads from stash.

Ulric was pleased with the purse – and it fit his phone and keys, so hopefully it will see lots of use.