Making the 18th Century Possibles Bag




About: Naturalist, scientist, builder, and maker.

Some things never really go out of style. The Gentleman's Shooting Bag, Possibles Bag, or Man-Purse; whatever you call it, it's an indispensable item for the wilderness traveller, and has, in one form or another, been carried by outdoorsmen the world over for many centuries. I seem to be somewhat stuck in the 18th century or before when it comes to fashion so this era informed my choice of this design.

Centuries of tweaking have given us a well thought-out design that is perfect for a myriad of tasks, from keeping shooting supplies, an extensive survival kit, or a lunch. The concave arched top keeps the bag situated over the hip and an adjustable strap suits all weather clothing or attachment to a backpack. This bag is more complex than it looks and is arguably more work than some larger projects and, because of the pockets, requires more planning during construction.

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Step 1: Possibles Bag

I cannot even remember where I found the the inspiration for this bag but I recall sketching it out fairly exactly. I like the inner and outer pockets, a flap that wants to always stay closed and a secure pocket for valuables. After sketching out the entire plan on graph paper I cut the pieces from heavyweight oak tanned leather. The precise dimensions do not matter in the grand scheme of things; it should be designed to fit your size and needs. The above photo includes all of the parts excluding the strip that connects the front to the back and the pieces that make the shoulder strap.

Sundries include the two brass rings for the strap, buckles for the flap and the strap, a button for the secure pocket, and some Chicago rivets. The sewing is double needle saddle stitched.

Step 2: Attaching the Pockets

This isn't a remedial leather tutorial, rather an example of recreating a historical bag so I won't try teach sewing here. However, that information can be readily found in the library or probably on the Internet.

Maybe that is a good topic for a future Instructable...

The outer pocket is gusseted and this needs to be sewn inside out to hide the seam. It is then attached to the body taking great care to keep it straight. Inner and outer pockets are then sewn to the back panel. It is then a mater of attaching the flap, straps and reinforcements. I chose to lace rather than sew the front and back to the gusset. This is done by punching holes at intervals and lacing a strip through.

Step 3:

Here is a view from the front and the back to show the pockets and flap attachment.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

After a bit of use, the entire bag was rubbed down with several coats of dubbin (a beeswax and oil treatment) and filled with essentials.

Coming up: filling the possibles bag.

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9 Discussions


4 years ago on Step 4

Nice build! Many are the accouterments that it can contain!

Fair enough!

It wasn't intended as
an Instructable when I was building it but, if you've sewn or made
leather projects, it should be fairly straight forward. If I do another
one soon, I'll document it better.

As for the assembly order:
when all the pieces are cut out, attach all external pockets as you
won't have access to the inside once the body is constructed. Close the
body, attach the flap and ring reinforcements, then attach the strap.

I actually make a lot of sketches and even mock up complex projects in Bristol board. Hope that helps a little.


5 years ago on Introduction

It's beautiful, but where are the measurements or proportions and how do you put the pieces together?


5 years ago on Introduction

Very nice! I really like this one. Has way more class than those 'messenger' bags everyone seems to love so much...It'll certainly outlast anything made of Cordura...!