What is a traveller without a belt bristling with pouches to tuck items in, or a rich man without a coin purse? When out larping it is a frequent problem that you have no pockets in which to stash those all-important items (tokens, coins, bandages, vials of potions, holy water, spell cards, spell components, healers brews etc) because your actual pockets are hidden somewhere beneath layers of cloaks, shirts, tunics and in some cases armour. What can you do? You could slide a load of leather pouches on a belt to get round the problem and end up with a utility-style belt bristling with weapons and pouches, or turn to cloth pouches instead. Some characters suit the bristling belt, some don’t, but it’s all down to personal choice.
Pouches can be many shapes and sizes, particularly when dealing with cloth – small enough to tuck into a bag or big enough to act as a bag themselves, or even as an emergency “swag” bag for the times you can’t quite carry enough loot back from your rummage through a Troll Hoard. And whilst I do end up with several leather pouches strapped to my belt, cloth pouches are easily customisable and easy to make. I have found several ways to make cloth pouches during my experiments with character kit and thought it was time to bring some ideas to light that might help fill the gap between stuffing everything into the pockets of your out-of-character trousers and trying to stuff everything into an already full leather belt pouch.
This is the beginning of another set of kit tutorials (for the rest see Tutorials), so keep checking back for more pouch ideas and changes you could make to make them more you.
First things first – you should grab a piece of paper and a pen/pencil because I’m going to ask you to do some sketching and make some notes. Why? So you can keep track of all your thoughts whilst working and have your seam allowance noted down somewhere.
Decide how big you want the pouch to be. Is it going to be holding a couple of coins and be small enough to slip into the palm of a guard who caught you snooping around his boss’s home? Is it going to be filled with stuff and things and need a bit of room in it? Does it need to be long enough to accommodate scrolls and scroll paper/dowelling? Or are you limited by your cloth scraps? (Pouches are an excellent stash-busting project just in case you were wondering what to do with your scraps of cloth). Draw the shape of your pouch on the piece of paper, mark-up the measurements and outline the shape with the bit of “give” you’re giving your pouch – I suggest something like 5/8” or 1.5cm for smaller pouches so that it can accommodate 3D objects. You should now have a rectangle within a rectangle on your sketch.
This is your template, the footprint of your pouch. Good job!
This tutorial is for a simple coin purse, the kind that ties with a single ribbon or cord on the outside of the pouch. It will be made from a single piece of cloth, but other variations and options can be found below.
Making the humble coin purse
First, gather your materials. You’ll need your cloth of choice, thread, needle, pins, scissors, chalk or something to mark your cloth and a piece of cord/ribbon/braided wool/anything that is flexible enough to tie around the pouch, but strong enough not to snap on the first use (experiment and see what you’d prefer to use).
Take your template and draw a matching box to the bottom of the first box. The longest length should be double the original length of your template. Now add your seam allowance to each side of this new box. (See the left hand side of the picture above for an example).
Mark these measurements onto your cloth and cut out.
Fold the short ends of the pouch in towards the back of the cloth.
Fold the short end again towards the back of the pouch, catching the raw edge of the hem neatly inside this seam. Pin and sew this seam.
Now fold your cloth in half, matching the newly finished upper edges together, with the WRONG side of the cloth facing up. As you can see in my picture, the RIGHT and WRONG sides of the cloth are a different colour, which helps tell them apart.
Pin and sew the sides together. Sew them again to stop the cloth from fraying too much during use. You could always trim the seam to make it neater. You could perhaps sew a french seam and encase the raw edge in the fabric again, but that would require some thought on the matter. (Link to a tutorial included above).
Turn the pouch RIGHT side out. Tada! You now have a pouch. Now you just need something to tie it shut.
Take your piece of cord/ribbon/string/wool/braid/etc. and cut whatever length you want to use. A shorter tie will just close the bag itself, whereas a longer tie would allow the pouch to be looped through the belt before tying shut, but it all depends on what you want to do with the pouch. Fold this in half.
Fold your pouch lightly in half and find the mid-line of the pouch front. Put a few stitches in the inside of the pouch front to secure your thread and begin to sew your cord/ribbon/etc. to the front of the pouch, trying to keep the stitches small and tight. Once you are happy the cord/ribbon/etc. is firmly attached, secure your thread to the inside of the pouch front and cut. Trim your thread tails for neatness.
Fill your pouch! Testing your pouch is always a good idea. As you can see here I didn’t include enough “give” at the top of my pouch to accommodate my chosen template, however it still works perfectly for smaller items. If you’re concerned about your measurements, mock up a pouch in some scrap cloth first before cutting your fancy cloth – if the pouch doesn’t quite work, adjust your measurements and try again. Your mock-ups could always be used to hold other items in the future!
Use your pouch and never want for In-Character pockets again!
There are lots of things you could do differently with this simple pouch, the only limit is your imagination.
- Attach a longer string, knot it and tie it through your belt before closing your pouch, thereby always keeping it handy and secure. We will be looking at belt loops and straps in a future tutorial.
- Use two or more pieces of cloth – just remember to include seam allowance for every seam you’ll sew to join the pieces together.
- Decorate your pouch – nothing to stop you embroidering/decorating/beading/appliqueing your pouch. Ideally do this before you sew up the side seams so everything’s flat, but you could always add something at a later date!
- Hang some cord and beads from the bottom – secure your cord on the bottom of your pouch for each beaded drop before threading on your beads, or sew some beaded trim to a bottom seam.
- Make a fringed/frilly pouch – sew beaded trim or cord into the side seams or add some lace ribbon for an elegant touch.
- Sew a long cord into the side seam to make a small shoulder pouch – I would make the pouch larger than your hand so it’s more useful. We will be looking at making shoulder bags and satchels in a future tutorial.
- Sew a loop of cord or ribbon onto the back to thread onto your belt. We will be looking at belt loops and straps in a future tutorial.
- Cut a pair of small holes in your cloth and thread a piece of leather thong through to tie your pouch closed. The thong is likely to slip out when not tied up, but it’s secure and sturdy and looks good too.
Plus much much more! Like I said, the limit is your imagination and effort.