Gokstad Pouch

I’ve been wanting to make a present for one of my oldest and dearest friends, Dallan, for a long time. I was finally able to get him to agree to something after I threatened to make him a pair of mittens, and we decided on a pouch for his belt.

His specifications were that it was leather and that it was early period. I didn’t say it at the time but this was my first real leather working project (after a drawstring pouch), so it was a big learning experience for me!

I’ve had my eye on the Gokstad Pouch (sometimes called the Gokstad Purse or the Gokstad Chieftain’s Pouch) for a while and decided to give it a go. It fit his requirements (the grave was dated to circa 900CE) and there was just enough information available to let me give it a go.

A spec drawing of the find from the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

One of the things you’ll notice about the above drawing is that it looks like a man with a pancake face who is having a bad day. It is leather, and it is old, so this is to be expected, and you’ll also notice that there is no obvious sign of how the bag was opened and closed. I did some more searching and came across a page from a book (please help me find out what book it is from) of some interpretations of this find.

A page from a book about the find, along with a couple of interpretations. The page that this image was located on has now been deleted, so if you know what book it’s from please let me know!

I settled on the interpretation on the left, as my previous research on purse frames would come in handy (and also I just think it looks better).

Using the drawing of the find from the museum, I warped the image into a shape that made sense and from there made a template to make the pouch. I also drew in the placement for the holes which I would punch into the leather.

If you’d like to use the template yourself, just download the image, print it to roughly half of an A4 sheet size, cut it out (including the inner ‘removed’ sections, and trace it onto the leather. Trace just around the outside for your back section.

I followed my own instructions above, and then drew dots every 1cm along the edges of the bag. This is where I would later sew the two pieces together. I used an awl to put in each hole, around the decorations as well as around the edges.

The leather I used was veg tanned deerskin. It is soft and supple while still being sturdy enough to make a bag that will last a long time.

The leather with the pattern transferred over and cut out.

I then cut some wool to shape for the inlay, and sewed it in with alternating red and yellow linen threads.

I then sewed the two pieces together with artificial sinew, made a lining using the same method that I’d used to make the back piece, and sewed in the lining.

The handles were cut from Tasmanian Oak and oiled. They were attached to the bag with heavy linen thread. I used some leather thonging for the strap, which is long enough to allow the handles to open as well as to hang the pouch from a belt.

It’s a pouch!

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