I’m still not as good at knitting as those Victorians


Look what got done!

I love it. Its my super beaded coin purse and I had fun adding every (tedious) bead). But then I love beads. I don’t exactly love the way adding beads to knitting slows you down, but the payoff is worth it. So much sparkle! And heavily beaded little bags are just vintage-chic.

To make mine I took a basic coin purse pattern, called Pixie Purse,

Coin purse made from the Pixie Purse pattern

and added beads. I added a lot of beads, using dental floss threader and a technique I demonstrated in an old post, and I’m very pleased with the result.

Two coin purse - adding beads

But then I knew I would be. Purses and bags are great projects to extravagantly bead out. I’m not the first crafter think that. A look back at vintage bags and purses will prove that hand-stitchers were adding tons of bling to their bags long before any of us were born.

Victorian beaded reticule
Knitted reticule from 1810 (image from the Met Museum image gallery)

Yeah check that baby out. Its a knitted reticule. The reticule was a must-have accessory in Regency Europe. All the upper crust ladies had one of these dangling from their wrist. Why? Because they had no pockets. None. Zip. Nada. The fashion of that day dictated that women wear simple gowns with very high waists.

1823 – Ackermann’s Repository Series 3 Vol 2 – August Issue (image from ekduncan.com)

Where are you going to put a pocket in a dress like that? Nowhere. So every woman had to have a bag to carry their stuff in. (This style is also responsible for muffs being popular in the winter time. Again, they had no pockets so it was muffs or frostbitten fingers.) In the daytime they had reticules, draw string purses that dangled from your wrist. Some reticules were big but most were small. After all if you were wealthy enough to spend your days out and about in a pretty dress, you probably had servants to carry all your big stuff. You, the high society lady only needed a cute beaded reticule, to carry a few coins, a calling card to leave with other wealthy ladies, and maybe a perfumed handkerchief.

“19th century examples of a popular pattern that continued in use for over 100 years. Finely knitted beadwork. Pinchbeck frames and tassels. ” (image from candicehern.com)

But what about when you changed into your evening wear? You can’t have a dangly reticule flopping around when you are sipping lemonade in a stuffy ballroom and waiting for the right gentleman from the right family to come pay you the compliment of asking for a dance. Nope. You need a sovereign purse.

Sovereign purses were flat, stitched to a metal frame, and small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. You might attach a small chain a wear it over a wrist while clutching it in your hand. And they were all blinged out with steel cut beads.

“Georgian Beadwork Purse Cut Steel Frame Circa 1815” (image from rubylane.com)

Now compared to these fine examples of Victorian needlework, my little coin purse is down right tame. Maybe I should have used more beads in there…

Feeling inspired to make a vintage-Chic purse of your own? I thought you might be. Here is a few patterns you just might have to add to that impossible list of things you’re totally going to make someday:

Ann’s Beaded Crochet Amulet Bags

This is a basic bag pattern for size #10 thread (yikes) with beading variations. Beware that thread crochet. Once it sucks you in, you may never be the same!

Remember that old post I wrote about pineapples and how they became a symbol of wealth and power? Probably not. But I did and the focus was on crocheted pineapples, which are many and varied and vast. But there are knitted pineapples… in the form of handbags from the middle 1800’s. Yes, back in the day the ult was a wrist bag that looked like a pineapple.


The 1840 Pine Apple Bag
The Pine Apple Bag

There was the “Pine Apple Bag” published in 1840 by Mrs. Jane Gaugain in her book “The Lady’s Assistant, for executing useful and fancy designs in knitting, netting, and crochetwork” which has been reproduced and converted into a modern pattern and you can find it right here. 

Big D-nm Pineapple Bag
The Big D-nm Pineapple Bag by Franklin Habit

Franklin Habit, that vintage-addicted knitted with razor-sharp wit has also worked up a modern version of that same original pattern. Notice that his is sans beads. How sad. But you can always (always always always) add beads in if you like.

Please note that Franklin does include this warning in his version of the pattern:

“do not attempt to knit this purse in public if you are a shy person and/or desire privacy. I worked a large part of my pineapple sitting in a city sidewalk café, and otherwise blasé urbanites crossed the street to ask me what the hell I was making.”

In spite of having now shown you many examples of bags that are all far more elaborate than my own just-finished beaded coin purse, I’m still quite happy with my newest FO. The beaded version took approximately 7000 times longer to make than the un-beaded, but beads are worth it. And I betcha every high society lady from those Victorian days would agree with me! (Then they would shake their heads over my paltry efforts and ask if I had any silk thread to make my next purse with.)

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17 Comments on "I’m still not as good at knitting as those Victorians"

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I love the one you made!!!!


very pretty but I’m afraid it is way out of my skill league.


Don’t you dare feel like someone out-did you with beads my friend ! The larger of those hand bags was made on a bead loom. No knitting needles or crochet hooks there. Just a small loom, tiny beads, and a strong thread and a magnifying glass. Oh yes….lots of patience too. What you have just done with the beads on the knitting work is WAY more fiddly and difficult. I think I can speak for all of in saying, “You Rock Jenn” !!


She certainly does. I’m in awe

Shirley E.
I don’t know what I’d use a bag that tiny for, but think you did an excellent job on it. Did you string the beads to knit them in, or did you set each one? Oh, wait! I saw that you used the dental helper to put them on. That sounds like way more than I have patience (or time) for! Thank you for sharing with the class. How do you think beads would go on a ‘plarn’ bag? I have not tried that yet, just “plain” ‘plarn’ bags with lace and cables, or colorwork…some big enough to fit over… Read more »

And you compare yourself to those Regency to Victorian ladies who had servants to do the household chores, cook and clean their lovely high-waisted dresses – plus their education was reading, writing, music and the ‘finer’ handicrafts. I’d like to see one of them fit all that beading in between scooping the Kitty Monarch’s box, going to the supermarket and ferrying kids to after-school activities, LOL!! You did a fantastic job and the beading is just enough to let everyone see your fine, even stitches. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)