Fancy Work Friday: Victorian “Balloon Bag”

This week’s Fancy Work Friday object has been known as a “balloon bag” for holding balls of string, a “button keep” for buttons, and for holding thimbles. The shape shows up in the 20th century in different materials as a pinch purse for coin. Done decoratively, it can make a nice ornament.

In the Victorian era, they are generally made with pasteboard covered in silk. I’ve seen them in various sizes from about 3″ tall to just over 4″ tall. Each one made with silk covering pasteboard or a slightly more flexible version.

The following set of directions from A Girl’s Own Book, 1833, suggests the bag contain a ball of thread. As the piece closes nicely, it does well for holding buttons and thimbles, as the above names suggest. As a sewing accessory, I see it holding beads and trims as well.

A Girls Own Book 1833

Directions for another version from Peterson’s Magazine, 1869:


If you make this piece up as an ornament, all you need to do is add a hanging loop from one end. I highly suggest doing this before attaching the sides to each other. You could hang the piece as is or fill it with a gift. I picture these filled with candies, jewelry, smaller ornaments, or gift certificates.

Click for the PDF Template

Click for the PDF Template

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Published in: on November 25, 2022 at 6:05 am  Comments (3)  

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love reading your words. I just have a question: what is a good substitute for pasteboard?
    Thank-you for your time.

  2. Thank you, Carole.
    There are a couple things you may have around the house that are good for using. The backs of most notebooks are often pasteboard. Some are thicker. Some are thinner. Cereal, cracker boxes and such an also be used. These often need double or triple layers. Enjoy making these.

  3. Oh, also – This is a project you don’t want really thick pasteboard for.

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