Bristol Bag Etui by Betsy Morgan

11th February 2022

From the 1840s right up to the early twentieth century in Britain, children without parents were often housed in orphanages where they were taught skills they could use as they grew up. One of these orphanages, the George Muller Orphanage in Bristol, England, was known for teaching the girls how to do needlework, all ready for their entry into service.

The majority of pieces still in existence today show that the girls were instructed to stitch with red thread on white linen.

This characteristic style helps collectors and conservators date and place historic pieces, but it also inspired Betsy Morgan to design the Bristol Bag.

Most of the samplers that were produced at the orphanage were stitched in cross stitch, so Betsy has restricted this beautiful project to that one stitch. 

Like the samplers, her project bag features an alphabet around the top. It is then decorated with other motifs that Betsy has taken from her study of Bristol samplers and included in her project for added authenticity.

Of course, like all of Betsy’s wonderful designs, the titular Bristol Bag from her book Willing Hands 2 is only one part of the whole project. It also includes, in complementary red and white, a pincushion, scissor fob, thread winder and a needlebook.

This project also provides an additional challenge and delight for those embroiderers who also love quilting and patchwork.

At around the time Betsy was designing the Bristol Bag, she was learning the art of English paper piecing.

Betsy wanted to include her newfound skills into her new project. She selected perfectly coordinated red and white fabrics and created a sawtooth patchwork band around the base of the bag worked using the English paper piecing technique.

Yet Betsy’s imagination and inventiveness went even further still! She also designed a delightful patchwork pincushion to include in the ensemble giving the stitcher the opportunity to incorporate additional patchwork skills into the mix.

Construction is as much a part of a Betsy Morgan project as the embroidery, and this project is no different. There are detailed instructions for each element in the back of the book, and you’ll simply delight at all the careful details she’s included.

From the woven ribbon that forms the spine of the needlebook, to the cross-stitched tabs which end the gaily striped drawstring ribbons, this project is abound with surprises.

We think it is safe to say that you can never have too many Betsy Morgan projects. For those worried about actually using the accessories after taking all the time and care to make them, the good news is Betsy designs her projects in a robust fashion to become a practical part of your stitching kit.

This means every time you sit down to stitch, open your Bristol Bag and take out a needle from the red and white needlebook, you get to enjoy this project all over again. And that’s just one of the many things that makes stitching a project like this so satisfying.

Make Your Own Bristol Bag Etui

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Bristol Bag Etui from the book Willing Hands 2 is a stunning red and white linen bag etui featuring a sampler alphabet, spot motifs and English paper piecing.

Printed Books

Willing Hands 2

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Bristol Bag Etui includes everything* you need to re-create this gorgeous etui and accessories: Fabrics (unprinted), interfacing, comic board, firm paper, wool felts, button, red sewing thread, beading thread, embroidery threads and needles.


Bristol Bag Etui – WH2 Kit

*Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the book.

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