Historical Sew Monthly 1 – Procrastination Challenge

My procrastination challenge is tiny! I have wanted to attempt medieval / early modern knitting for a long while but didn’t fancy using the tiny needles required. This reluctance limited my choice of Victorian and Edwardian knitting patterns too. The daft thing is that I love minature and fine lace crochet.

Historical Sew Monthly Info


What the item is: Relic Bag pre 1570
The Challenge: Procrastination
Material: Cotton
Pattern: Self-drafted from photo and research
Year: ?14th to 16th C
Notions: Cotton 1 ply thread, 1mm knitting needles
How historically accurate is it? I should have used linen or silk but was unable to get them in time. Otherwise it was as accurate as possible so 90%
Hours to complete: 6
Degree of Procrastination: About a year 🙂 fear of knitting on tiny needles!
First worn: Not wearable but have taken it to craft group and shown it off!
Total cost:£12 as I had to purchase all materials but now have the start of a stash 🙂



Towards the end of last year I found a perfect project to help me dip a toe in the water – a tiny relic bag that had been discovered inside a reused piece of ecclesiastical equipment from the 14th C, the thimble sized bag contained a little stone and is in surprisingly good condition for its age. It was reasonably confidently dated to pre Reformation and possibly to the medieval period. It is thought to have been made from a plant fibre possibly linen, or silk.

I joined the very helpful Historic Knitting group on Facebook and also contacted the Glasgow University team who were caring for the bag via their blog. This helped me determine the fibre used – I chose 1 ply cotton as it was easily available and the needle size – 1mm / UK 19 / US 5×0. The historic knitting ladies suggested that the size of the bag was likely to indicate that they wouldhave used what was easily to hand. We also discussed cast on methods and following the advice of a lady who had researched the subject I decided to use a back loop cast on.
From the photo and the comments on the blog I worked out the stitch count – 28 approx and the number of rows 28 worked in a striped sequence of 4 dark yellow, 4 pale yellow, 4 green, 4 pale yellow, 4 dark yellow, 4 green 4 pale yellow – 28 rows.

Teething Troubles


It took around 5 attempts to figure out the cast on and get to grips with knitting in the round on such tiny needles. Eventually I chose to knit a row then divide the sts and join the round to create an even edge. I also realised that I would need to add an eyelet row and shape the bottom of the bag a little.



Cast on 28 sts in dark yellow
K 1 row, dividing sts between 4 needles and join the round. We will stitch the gap closed at the end.
K1 row in the round
Eyelet row- *k2 yf k2tog from * to end.
K 1 row.
Change to pale yellow and k 4 rows
Change to green and k 4 rows
Change to pale yellow and k 4 rows
Change to dark yellow and k 4 rows
Change to pale yellow and k 4 rows
Change to green and k 4 rows
Change to pale yellow and k 4 rows
*k2tog, rep from * to end
Cast off and fasten off securely leaving a long end for gathering.

Please note it is easier if you catch the ends of yarn in as you join new colours.



The original bag had a fluffy stump at its base, a cord that contained green with tassels in dark yellow at the ends.
I used the top of a knitting Nancy to wrap the yarn around to create the tiny tassels – about 15 wraps across 2 pegs.
I cut 3 lengths of cotton, 1 in each colour, around 3 times the width of the bag and plaited them to make the cord. I then wove it through the top eyelets and stitched on the tassels. I also chose to add a tassel to the bottom as I thought it more likely, based on medieval pouches than a pompom.

I am late posting this due to a bereavement. It’s been quite helpful in giving me something to concentrate on.