Very much like the elegant lace handkerchief or the carved ivory fan with which she toyed in her most fascinating moments, the little bead purse was part of her toilette when she attended routs or sallied forth in the ubiquitous sedan chair to take a "dish " of tea with her dearest friends.
The modern woman who is "chic," and desires to add a distinctive touch to her tout-ensemble, also carries a bead bag. If she is lucky, she may find one of these old treasures hidden away and forgotten in a cedar-lined jewel-box, which, perchance, was the pride and glory of some beautiful ancestress. Her descendant turns over the quaint jewellery reverently; perhaps in one corner of the curio box an elegant little vial, with a precious drop of attar of roses, attracts her attention.
She turns the vial over, and underneath, laid aside between silver paper, lies a purse of beads. It has been neglected for half a century, and the paper which enfolds it is yellow and discoloured - but the beadwork! What wonders of a past art does it not disclose, whilst its value is not easy to gauge. There is a demand for these pretty baubles, consequently they are of distinct financial worth.
As regards the purse itself - it is a long, slim, exquisite thing made with the finest beads, delightful and fascinating to the touch. It has been knitted in a piece of about six inches by four.
First of all, the beads are threaded on to the silk or cotton, so many blue, so many white or red, to form a pattern. This task completed, the actual work of knitting commences on two fine knitting-needles. Each bead must be passed forward along the silk, and a bead knitted one at a time with every stitch. When the knitting is finished, it is folded lengthways and sewn firmly at each end, and neatly joined, but in the centre a small space is left open for the reception of the money. Over this two pinchbeck rings are slipped, which add a charming and decorative finish, and at the same time perform the useful task of keep-ing the money safely in the purse.
Fig. 1. A bead purse of green silk and steel beads, executed in crochet work. Such a design is admirably suitable for a bridge-purse
Another purse of this shape (about eighty or ninety years old) was made of green silk and steel beads, but executed in crochet-work; and it has stood the test of time remarkably well.
Each end is fastened off with a steel tassel. To-day it would prove interesting work to those who love their crochet-hook, as these purses are extremely effective, and a joy to the bridge-player. (See Fig. 1.)
Thread the beads on to the silk, and work a chain to the length required. Crochet two double crochet into every third stitch, then three chain. Before doing the double crochet, slip two steel beads along the silk, so that one steel bead may be worked into each double crochet. Pass each bead under the crochet-hook before making the stitch, taking care to keep each bead well forward on the front of the stitch. By doing this, two steel beads will rest on the two double crochet. After the double crochet, crochet three chain without beads. Pass the beads forward along the silk again, and double crochet twice, taking care that a steel bead rests on each double crochet. Turn with three chain, without beads, at the end of every row. Repeat as before after every chain, two double crochet with two steel beads. Proceed with this backwards and forwards, always working the double crochet into the three chain, until the crochet is completed. Fold this strip of crochet, sew it neatly together, leaving a space in the centre for the coin.
Two fancy steel rings, or old cut-steel ones (if they can be found), would form a perfect finish. For the tassels, thread the beads thickly on to the silk, loop it up, and sew firmly at each end.
Another quaint crochet purse has a mouth of steel. The purse is of a circular shape, and is made of two circles of fancy crochet. The pieces are joined together by means of a fancy chain-stitch, according to the taste of the worker. Steel beads can be sewn on to the bag when completed, or they may be threaded on to the silk at the commencement of the work, and crocheted into any desired pattern, in exactly the same manner as the green silk and steel purse already described.
Fig. 2. A fine example of old beadwork. The colouring is wonderfully vivid and the design well carried out
In crocheting or knitting bags or purses with beads, always be careful to keep the beads well forward, so that they will rest on the right side of the pattern.
There is also a very simple method of making a bridge-purse by crocheting a plain strip in coloured silk to match any desired costume, and very useful little articles they are. For such a purse, crochet a chain of thirty or forty stitches, or less, if a smaller purse is required. Double crochet into this chain backwards and forwards until it is wide enough. Fold it into the shape required, allowing sufficient crochet at the top to form a flap. Sew up each side. The purse should be covered profusely with beads, which should be sewn on. A thick fringe of beads should finish off the flap and the bottom of the purse.