Seeing Red by Di Kirchner

17th December 2021

The giving of gifts to one another is something we’ve done for all of recorded history.

Sometimes gift giving was done for philanthropic reasons, other times to curry favour or gain status, and yet at other times it was done purely for the pleasure of seeing the joy on the face of the recipient.

In Elizabethan times, gift giving was as much a political or strategic move as it was a generous one. This often resulted in incredibly opulent gifts, some of which have survived to this day.

One item in particular that was very popular during Elizabethan times was the ‘sweete bag’. 

This was a decorative purse that, contrary to its name, was rarely used to hold money, as in those days the wealthy carriers of these exquisite bags seldom purchased items with cash.

Instead, the sweete bag (or sweet bag as we would now call them) was used as a holder or wrapper for a gift, which may have included sweetmeats but more often included jewellery, gems or other precious items. 

Sometimes sweet bags were used to carry fragrance or scented herbs or flowers to mask the unpleasant smells pervading the average Elizabethan street, particularly in the days before proper plumbing and running water. At other times they were simply a fashion accessory, which is another reason why so many survive to this day, allowing us to enjoy the exquisite stitching and intricate designs worked by the professional embroiderers who made them.

Di Kirchner has created the gorgeous sweet bag ‘Seeing Red’ from Inspirations issue #112, which fits beautifully with the Elizabethan tradition. The design is worked in traditional blackwork, a monochromatic style of counted embroidery that uses detailed patterns and a small variety of stitches to create the piece.

Di’s project is worked on fine, 32 count antique white linen and makes use of several stitches commonly employed in blackwork, however Di has created something completely unique by changing the colour to red and marrying it with classically Elizabethan motifs.

The designs on the front and back of this lovely bag are only half the joy of Seeing Red. The rest of it comes from the truly exquisite red and white twisted cord that surrounds the top of the bag, and another that forms the shoulder strap.

This is then complemented by the elegant tassels along the bottom, all worked in silk perlé using needlelace. 

The result is a project that looks decidedly festive with the candy cane red and white colouring, but is equally gorgeous at any other time of the year.

Seeing Red is definitely a project for all occasions. If you were looking to emulate the Elizabethans and offer this project as a gift for a very special person, can you imagine the delight on the recipient’s face?

Or if you prefer to carry it as a fashion accessory, just like the elegant Elizabethan ladies did many years ago, the colour scheme and style would ensure it would go with any kind of outfit, from casual day wear to the most elegant of evening gowns.

Perhaps not too many of us would fill it with sweets nowadays, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasure you’ll get from working this project and carrying it with pride afterwards.

Make Your Own Seeing Red

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Seeing Red by Di Kirchner is a delightful redwork sweetbag with Elizabethan motifs and lustrous cords and tassels stitched with silk.

Printed Magazines

Inspirations Issue 112

Digital Patterns

Seeing Red – i112 Digital

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Seeing Red includes everything* you need to re-create pretty bag: Fabrics (unprinted), felt, embroidery threads, sewing threads and needles.


Seeing Red – i112 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 magazine/digital pattern.

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