I have several 19th century purses and bags on the needles. This one, the smaller one, is a purse in Porcupine knitting, and is a copy of one in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O75481/purse-unknown/)
The pattern is from A Winter Gift for Ladies Being Instructions in Knitting, Netting and Crotchet (sic) Work. Containing the Newest and Most Fashionable Patterns. From the Latest London Edition Revised and Enlarged by An American Lady. Philadelphia: G.B. Zieber & Co. 1848.This book is available from http://www.antiquepatternlibrary.org
This purse has been pictured twice*, that I know of, with the striped bag I am making that is also from the V&A’s collection.** The entry on the museum’s page does not give any measurements but, from the photographs in the two publications in which it appears, the Porcupine purse is shorter than the striped bag and considerably narrower.
The American Lady states that “Four fine needles” are needed but no specific size is stated. She also suggests “netting silk” and “one string of gold beads.” I am using 1.25mm/US 0000 needles and they are fine.
The purse in the V&A was knit, according to its description, “in silk threads” and “lined with green silk.” I am knitting the purse with three strands of DMC 25 Mouliné Spécial embroidery floss (934, 937, 754, 725, 3712 and Ecru) and am not putting beads on the purse.
I am making a larger version in tandem, using Sally Pointer’s Wicked Woollens’s pattern*** which is a fairly faithful adaptation of the original pattern, and calls for 2.00mm/US 0 needles and fingering weight yarn. I chose Knit Picks’s Palette in Ivy, Currant, Blush, Mustard, Peony and Blue Note Heather, luckily all in my stash. Some of the colours are faithful to the purse in the V&A but I changed a green to currant and the white accent colour to a blue. As with the smaller purse, I will not be putting beads on this one.
There is a considerable difference in the sizes. The little bag is coming out at 4 ¼” around or almost 2” flat. The length, so far, at just over halfway knit, is just about 3 ½” from the needles to one of the pointed tips. The larger bag is 9” around, 4” flat and 5 ¾” long so far. I still have seven more sections to knit on each purse. When finished, they will be is turned inside out and the honeycomb sections will then be pointed. Linings, drawstring handles and some finishing touches on the bottom of the purses will make them ready for use.
*Knit One, Purl One – Historic and Contemporary Knitting from the V&A’s Collection by Frances Hinchcliffe, Department of Textiles and Dress, London: Precision Press, 1985 and Miller’s Collecting Textiles by Patricia Frost, London: Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd., 2000