Project: Sweet Bags

Sweet Bags

Created at Aire Faucon’s Largess Night on 6/8/2017

Participants (The Canton of Aire Faucon)
Lady Prudence the Curious (Organizer, donated the fabric and cedar chips, stuffed bags and hand sewed them shut); Lisa Weekly (Host of the A&S Night, dried the rose petals, operated the sewing machine), Rich Weekly (picked the roses), and Richard & Elizabeth Weekly (twin 4-year-olds) – helped pick the roses, turn the bags inside-out for stuffing, and stuffed the bags with cedar chips.

Care and feeding of the sweet bags
The floral bags are stuffed with rose petals. Over time the scent will fade. Adding rose water or rose essence should restore the scent.

The green & white striped bags and the blue bags are stuffed with cedar chips. The scent will fade over time, usually around a decade before completely gone. Afterwards they make great fire starters.

A Bit of History
Sweet Bags are also called sachets, scent bags, smelling cushions, dream pillows, and plague bags.

In use since before 200 BC in China (and everywhere since at least Medieval times), bags of scented woods and herbs have been used to make the world a more pleasant place to live. Throughout SCA period, you would find people wearing some sort of scent bag as an alternate to wearing perfume. And, of course, modern scholars state the bags were used to “scare evil spirits”.

The bags were worn like accessories. The herbs stuffed in them could be dry and fresh. When people started having more than one or two sets of clothing, bags of scents – especially lavender – were stored with the undergarments.

As people got more and more clothing and needed to store winter garments during the summer, cedar became a popular storage method to discourage moths as it affects the young larvae (it will not kill established larvae). The use of scent bags to control pests is more modern simply because historical people did not have a wealth of fabric to protect.

Use of Bags
Rose/Floral Bags – I recommend storing with items you want smelling slightly of roses. I pack them in with my linen and silk embroidery thread. Every time I stitch, the light fragrance enhances the experience. Note the Rose bags will not keep any pests away because everything loves roses, so be sure to put the bags inside a sealed container.

Cedar Bags (green & white / blue) – I put one in with my box of cloth. It gives the fabric a light woody scent. Better yet the fabric doesn’t end up smelling like plastic or mold.

The bags were packed in groups of two to include in largess baskets given by the Canton. Each participant was allowed to keep one for their own use.

Making of
Take scrap cloth at least as wide as your hand when folded in half. Needs to be thick enough to hold the herb/wood chips inside but thin enough to let the scent through.

Fold in half and sew two of the three sides, then turn inside-out and be sure to poke out the corners. No need to finish the edges.

Stuff the bag, leaving room at the top to sew together. Mash the bag a little to verify the stuffing is enough but not too much.

Sew the top together either by machine or by hand.

Special Note
This works well as a kids’ project if the bags are premade. Young children can turn the bags inside out “just like you do with your socks” and stuff the materials. They will be frustrated with the fabric not staying open and may ask you to hold the bag open for them. Choose a fabric which is not flimsy if working with children. Older children can sew their own bags shut as well.

The children can then take the sweet bag home to “scare the insects away from their SCA clothing” if you use cedar chips.

Cedar chips can be bought at any pet store; one bag will last for decades.

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