Sunday, 11 August 2019

From the archives

I have done absolutely no sewing this week. Not a stitch. No dramatic reason, just Life getting in the way. Now I do try to post something every week (see here for why I do, this is still a commitment I take seriously), so this left me with a dilemma of what to write about. Then when I was looking through a drawer for something, I found the box which contains this.

Drawstring bag with beaded tassel

I made this over 15 years ago, long before I started blogging. But it's one of the makes that I'm most proud of, so I decided that it deserved its moment in the spotlight.

It was made for my wedding in 2004. We sort-of-eloped to Venice, and I didn't want a wedding dress, so instead I based my outfit on the colours of Venetian buildings - all pinks and browns. My beaded top was bought, but I made a plain silk skirt to go with it, and decided to make a bag from the leftover fabric. The size was determined by what had to fit into it, namely the essentials of sunglasses, hankie and migraine tablets. Practicalities like cash and the keys to the apartment were left to Mr Tulip! The main section of the bag was interlined with heavy interfacing to keep the cylinder shape. The sections at either end were not interlined, to allow the drawstrings to work and for the bottom to be gathered to a point and finished with a tassel of glass beads.



Staying with the Venice theme, the decoration was based on the ornate mosaic floor of St Mark's basilica.

Antonio Visentini's drawing of the floor of St Mark's

The overall design for the bag was taken from a small section directly below the plain square in the illustration above.

Close-up of Visentini's drawing

Photograph of the floor - found on Pinterest

The circles and diamonds were cut out from a selection of small silk samples and the squares from metallic gauzes, all of which I had in my stash. The cream outlines of the various sections were made from silk ribbon, gathered and pleated to shape and stitched down along both edges. Split stitch in variagated pink silk thread was added along the middle of the ribbon to emphasize the interlaced effect, and beads added in the centres of the circles at each point of the diamonds.

Ribbon detail

The sections around each square were filled with embroidered silk gauze. For two of the squares, the patterns were based on examples in the mosaic floor - they are the two sections on the right in the photograph above. I used very fine silk threads from Mulberry Silks and widened the colour range from pinks and browns, but tried to keep it within a muted Venetian palette.

Translated into counted thread embroidery

The other 'mosaic' section

For the third section, I wanted to use the pink and white brickwork pattern of the Doge's Palace. This proved easier said than done. In 2004 there was nothing like the online resources now available, and it took some time and a lot of research to find an image clear and detailed enough for me to work out the design.

The Doge's Palace - a photogaph taken long after the event

Replicated in the varigated pink silk thread

The circles were too large to leave undecorated, but I wanted something which would not detract from the silk gauze embroidery. I adapted more elements of the floor design, and created three motifs using thread, sequins and beads, each of which was used twice.

Ring and star design

Interlocking circles

The decorated circles

And here is the finished bag in use on the day. This is me attempting to post our wedding certificate into one of the bocche dei leoni, the lion's mouths which were used for posting anonymous complaints and denunciations in the time of the Venetian state!

The bag turned out perfectly


  1. This is so beautiful!
    You are amazingly creative. That's a treasure.

  2. Oh my goodness it's lovely! The details are so tiny and perfect, and it looks so very much like the tile floor. I love the colours too.