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A new bag and horn strap

For the past few years, I have not had a shoulder bag for my shooting supplies but rather have used a slit pouch. This has worked well, but I really miss having a shoulder strapped pouch. For the past year and a half I have been weighing my options, thinking, and thinking some more on my shooting pouch and powder horn combination and what I actually wanted.

For my pouch, I wanted something historically correct for an hivernant or gen libre here in the Western Great Lakes around the year 1800. I wanted something plain but indicative of this region and the regions a person like me would have been (which, at this point in history, could have been all the way to the Rockies and north). One of the most common pouches I was seeing for this region and era was the double paneled (of quillwork) “Metis” bags. Many times I was about to start on the bag and stopped. It was just too ornate for my liking. I LOVE these bags, but I knew that I would get it made and then would never use it as it was TOO MUCH.

Unfortunately, few plain bags exist from the time period. Looking more and more, I found a number of Ojibwe, Cree, and other bags in collections that were plain… unfortunately most of these date from the late 19th century. They did, however, seem to conform to a few overall traits. Most all of them had a curved (not flat) bottom, most were relatively small, and many were open topped (although a considerable number were flapped). Knowing that many of these bags were also mentioned and used as “neck bags,” a common usage here in the Western Great Lakes and beyond, I liked the shape… size… and style of these. Neck bags are simply worn around the neck and in the front of the body, not on the side under the armpit. This style could likely be worn both ways but is seen in the front commonly out here in the “west.” It is my belief that this was commonly done for buffalo hunting from horseback. A pouch in the front was easier to access and use when going full-tilt on horseback after bison.

I finally decided to go with a smaller (ended up a little smaller than I would have liked but reasonable in my opinion), curved bottom bag, with an open top (the norm for the 18th century on a variety of bag styles), with a round braided cord for a strap. I did want to add some minimal ornamentation and decided to go with two stripes of simple-line quillwork. This style is seen on some more “western” bags, which I liked as a implication of having traveled further west as well as it is reminiscent of the two quilled panels on the larger “Metis” bags previously mentioned. Variations of this style are also seen used by folks that do Rocky Mountain fur trade based on some images of bags by Alfred Jacob Miller in the 1830s and I really got hooked on when I recently made a bag of this style for Allen Harrison.

For my bag, I used some heavy neck hide from some braintanned hides I had gotten from Oliver McCloskey of UT for moccasin making. This piece was too heavy and stiff for moccasins but good for a bag/pouch. I really like the color of many of these hides I had gotten. They are an orangish-brown from the rotten pinewood he smokes them with. They remind me a lot of the moosehide moccasins I have seen from the Cree and Athabaskans in Canada. I added a printed cotton lining, and then did the lines of quillwork in white (undyed) and orange-yellow (bloodroot dyed) porcupine quills. I finally added some bead edging to the top. For a strap, I took some torn strips of blue and red fabric and braided it into a square/round cord similar to what is seen on a lot of bags, powder horns, and mittens here in the western Great Lakes. Overall, I am very pleased with this small pouch.

While working on this pouch, I also decided to simplify the strap on my powder horn. I have a nice bison horn that was made by Ward Oles that I picked up a number of years ago and made a somewhat fancy, fingerwoven, buffalo wool strap for (images of the strap on my projects page ). I decided to make a simple buffalo hide tug to replace this fancy strap. I took a chunk of old bison rawhide with some of the under hair still on (guard hairs worn off) and cut it spirally when wet. I then twisted it two-ply and let it dry. This now became my simple strap.

Now, I have a new, relatively simple pouch and a new horn strap. I am ready to hit the woods with the musket. Watch out turkeys… or whatever else may have a season coming up on (oh for fall…).

3 Responses to “A new bag and horn strap”

  1. Jamie says:

    You mentioned that the bag ended up a bit smaller than you would have liked. What is the finished size? What size were you shooting for?


    • Isaac says:

      Without it in front of me, I would say it is about 5″ wide and 6″ deep. This is smaller than I was originally shooting for, but having now used it for awhile… I am VERY pleased with the size and function of it. I am currently building a new bag with the actual quill loomed panels. This bag will be bigger as per originals, but I am keeping it on the smaller size of these as I have come to like a smaller shot pouch.


      • Jamie says:

        That size makes sense based on the period illustrations, and it’s big enough the put one’s extended hand into the bag. Now to make one for my kit from some my braintanned buckskin.

        Thanks for the reply and thank you for sharing your knowledge on this wonderful blog.

        Urbana, IL

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