Maria Katarin’s Reticule by Betsy Morgan
30th August 2019
Women’s handbags are fashion items so ubiquitous that we almost don’t notice them. It is rare for a woman to leave her house without one, usually containing every item she could possibly need when out and about. But women didn’t always carry handbags.
When fashion required them to wear long, heavy skirts, their essentials were carried in pockets hidden in the folds of their voluminous dresses.
During the nineteenth century fabrics became lighter and fashions followed suit, meaning pockets were no longer practical. This in turn led to the invention of the reticule.
Early reticules were small bags, often with a drawstring, for those essentials which could no longer be secreted away in a skirt. But it didn’t take long for women to see how useful they were. As a result, the reticule became larger and fuller, used for carrying all sorts of items sometimes to ridiculous degrees.
This is how they mockingly became known as ‘ridicules’, a term Charles Dickens unashamedly used in Oliver Twist. Mock they might, but the practice of carrying that handy little bag didn’t go away and now remains an indispensable part of almost every woman’s wardrobe.
The history of the reticule helps contextualise the delightful pouch designed by Betsy Morgan from Inspirations issue #103. In Betsy’s characteristic fashion, this little purse is brimming with detail and delicate touches.
Created with the experienced counted embroiderer in mind, Betsy has modelled her design on an antique sampler from Pachuca, Mexico worked in 1844. By combining the colour and pattern of nineteenth century Mexico in an item synonymous with Victorian England, Betsy has created a wonderfully unique project which will bring hours of pleasure.
Betsy’s reticule could never receive Dickens’ mocking moniker as it is so delicate and just the right size to fit the handmade sewing accessories which accompany it. Betsy has included a ruler, a handmade bobbin to wrap your spare thread and a scissor fob, all in the same colour scheme and coordinating perfectly with sampler-like design.
But if you thought that this piece just uses cross stitch, you’re in for a surprise.
Turn it over and on the back is a beautifully coloured sampler of different stitches to really stretch your skills. Probably most striking is the exquisite centre piece combining cutwork, Aztec stitch and brilliant colour. This is flanked with a range of stitches providing a wonderful array of varied textures and brilliant colours.
It almost goes without saying but the secret to success in this project is count, count and count again. If you find yourself out by a thread or two, as hard as it might be, it is worth unpicking (or reverse stitching as we affectionately call it) and doing it again. Symmetry is so important in the final effect of this piece so take your time and enjoy every stitch.
If the author of the Mexican sampler and a Victorian lady were to be shown this project, neither would recognise what it is. But the melding of these two very different cultural items is evidence of how fortunate we are nowadays as embroiderers. From pockets, to reticules to this piece, we’ve collected a wealth of influence on the way.
Make Your Own | Maria Katarin’s Reticule
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions
Maria Katarin’s Reticule by Betsy Morgan is a counted work pouch with matching scissor fob, thread winder and ruler stitched with gorgeous colours and motifs.
Inspirations Issue 103
Maria Katarin’s Reticule – i103 Digital
Maria Katarin’s Reticule – i103 Print
Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit
The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Maria Katarin’s Reticule includes everything you need to re-create this delightful pouch: Fabrics (unprinted), interfacing, interlining, button, bead, embroidery threads and needles.
Please Note: To cater for flexibility in purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step details on how to create this project, please refer to our magazine or printed/digital patterns.