Sweete Bags

Book or sweete bag, late 16th C

Book or sweete bag, late 16th C


"Sweete Bags" were produced during the Elizabethan period of English history. They were often given as gifts themselves or they were used as container for gifts, such as gold coins. They are some of the best known examples of Elizabethan embroidery, due to the large number which have survived to the present day. It is likely that they have survived in such numbers because the beauty of the items has made them desirable since they were first made.

Materials Used

  • linen canvas ground, coloured silks and siver-gilt thread (Oxburgh Hangings).
  • linen ground, coloured silks,silver-gilt and silver threads, seed pearl and black beads
  • velvet and silk grounds also used, with coloured silks and metal threads.

Stitches and Techniques

  • tent stitch
  • double-running stitch
  • couching
  • detatched buttonhole


Designs were inspired by a variety of sources in the Elizabethan period. These included modelbuchs or pattern books. There were published and aimed at both the domestic and professional embroiderer. Needleworkers also used herbals, emblem books and beastiary books to find patterns and designs.

In general, the needlework of the Elizabethans reflects their love for nature. Plants, flowers, birds, animals and inserts are all common motifs found in Elizabethan embroidery including that produced on clothing.

Extant Examples of Sweet Bags


Sources for Further Information

  • Guide to English Embroidery, Her Majestys Stationery Office, 1970