German Miser Bags

I’m always on the lookout for crochet in my travels – and especially for tapestry crochet. Most of the treasures encountered on my recent trip to Germany were behind glass or Plexiglass and poorly lit because light fades fabric. Flash photography was not allowed for the same reason – so please excuse the poor quality of these photos. At least they allowed me to take pictures – many museums don’t nowadays.

Miser bags were among the most intriguing historic crocheted items I photographed. I was introduced to them during a 1999 Crochet Guild of America Conference workshop led by Gwen Blakely-Kinsler and B. J. Licko-Keel. Their Magical Miser Purses book includes a short history and several patterns.

Probably because miser bags were used as chain purses at the turn of the 19th century, they were exhibited together with coins and other numismatic items in several of the museums I visited. The most popular style has a slit in the middle where money is slid in and out, compartments at each end (one for coins and the other for paper money or coins of a different denomination), and metal rings in the middle to keep the money in the compartments.

These small bags are colorful and elegant. The compartments are usually single crocheted in rounds, while the center of the bag is often double or triple crocheted in rounds near the compartments, then back and forth in the middle to form the slit. The center is crocheted with one color thread, while the compartments are crocheted with contrasting colors. Some miser bags are decorated with stripes, as seen below.

Miser Bag from Meissen
Miser bag in the Albrechtsburg Castle Gatehouse Museum in Meissen.

Others feature intricate bead crocheted motifs (like the one below).

Beaded Miser Bag from Meissen
Bead crochet 1850’s miser purse in the Albrechtsburg Castle Museum in Meissen.

And a few are bead tapestry crocheted. Since the bead slides to the back of the stitch, the fabric looks different than expected because it shows what we consider the back side.

Bead Crochet Miser Purse, Bode Museum, Berlin
Bead tapestry crochet miser purse in the Bode Museum, Berlin.

Miser Bag from Dresden
The top two miser purses in the Folk Art Museum in Dresden are bead tapestry crocheted, while the bottom one is bead crocheted with one color thread.

Now that you know what to look for, I hope you’ll also be on the lookout for these beautiful miser’s treasures!

One Response to “German Miser Bags”

  1. Brian Raymond Callahan says:

    Miser bags or purses were used through most of the 19th century to hold coins. Some bags had different colored silks or beads on each end to differentiate what coins were in each pouch, others had a round pouch on one end and a square one on the other. These are really great items to collect and display.

    Brian R. Callahan
    Atlanta, Georgia

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