Decorative purses like these were popular in the 19th century until the 1870s. Similar shaped purses were also used in earlier centuries. They were known as stocking, wallet or misers’ purses and could be easily kept in pockets, hung over a belt or held in the hand. They were usually made by knitting, crocheting or netting, and occasionally by stitching a piece of cloth. Many of them included elaborate bead work in the main body and the fringes. Men and women used them.
A cylinder was constructed, leaving a side slit in the middle, which was then stretched on special purse stretchers. Two metal rings were then put on and the ends sewn up. Sometimes one end was gathered and the other kept flat – tassels and fringes could be added to the ends. Coins would be put in through the slit and fed to the two ends – avoiding the metal rings. When the coins were at the ends of the purse the appropriate metal ring would be moved downwards to hold the coins in place and stop them coming out accidently. They were called misers’ purses as one end could just contain one coin – then the purse would seem empty when that coin was taken out.
Ladies magazines in the 19th century often contained instructions on how to make purses, and they were thought to be a very good gift for men. Embroidery projects were very popular in the 19th century and magazines also had instructions on how to make smoking caps and pouches. Storiel has examples of these in its extensive collection of costume accessories, most of which are in storage, although some can be seen on the Storiel website under the online collections.