Numerous medieval images of travellers (including pilgrims) carrying bags and pouches have survived. Among the most popular types is the trapezoidal shoulder bag, which appears in many colors borne by individuals of various classes and both sexes.

While looking for information on these, I came across a German-language article on the Tempora Nostra site describing the authors' efforts to make something similar. The article specifically referenced these two images from the Maceijowski Bible, which was painted in France in the middle of the 13th century.

four shabby men, two kneeling and wearing shoulder bags

three well-dressed travelers, carrying shoulder bags
 the Gibeonites suing for peace with Joshua, from leaf 10
a Levite and his wife recieve lodging in the city of Gibeah, from leaf 15

I translated the original pattern, as best I was able. But as I worked with it I realized that there were some changes I could make that would yield one better suited to my purposes.

These were my criteria:

I drew up two pattern pieces--one for the body of the bag, and one for the flap--in each of two sizes (the larger five inches deep, the smaller four). And I devised a method of construction that requires almost no hand-stitching but leaves no machine stitching where it can be seen (except on the inside of the bag, if you don't line it).

My first choice of fabric would've been a plain-weave or twill wool. (In most of Europe, for most of the Middle Ages, wool was the prefered fiber for outer clothing, so I thought it most likely to have been used for accessories.) But I couldn't find any that met all of my criteria, so I purchased a plain-weave linen instead (in off-cuts, from the "Doggie Bag" section at Later I made a larger bag, for another purpose, out of a good, sturdy wool, and discovered that it sagged and the handle (although reinforced) stretched. The wool, while it stayed in shape fairly well when used in clothing, was just too elastic to make a good satchel. After that, linen became my first choice for bag making.

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