Home » Period/Culture » Early Modern » Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749

Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749

[The] mediaeval bottle does not differ much from those examples which still survive. It has however three perpendicular ridges up the sides, parallel to those made by the end seams. They are purely ornamental, and are not intended for hoops, because they are not continued under the bottom (which as seen from the ground level is the most conspicuous part), and also because the middle one would, if continued, have gone over the mouth of the bottle. Some actual bottles exist in which these raised bands (always on one side only) form part of the decoration, and I believe them to be all mediaeval examples.

The holes on each side of the neck in these early bottles are never round and small as if for a cord (which is invariable in late bottles), but are elongated slits as if for a thick leathern thong.

Baker, p56

This is one of my favourite costrels, as it sits at the transition point between the medieval and modern styles. It has the rectangular holes of the medieval type, but the maker then has a bet each way with the design. One side, which for consistency with the MRT, I’ll call the back (although I secretly believe it to be the front), has incised hatching enclosed by vertical lines, a vestigial form of the earlier raised ridges. On the other side is an embossed harp similar in placement and proportion to the fleur-di-lys on several later costrels.

I’m not going to go in to too much detail here, as I’ve covered the construction methods before. I did the stitch spacing entirely by eye this time, and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out although my stitching is still too regular.

Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749 Moulding the ends using a wooden shape and a large hose clamp

Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749 Forming the neck and shoulders (and breaking the former)

Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749
Cutting the decoration on the back

Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749 Embossing the harp on the front using a butter knife, the pegs were done with a bit of 3mm (1/8″) wire

This is how I do the stitch holes at the ends.

Once the stitching was done, I sealed it with pitch

Bad pitch and everything went horribly wrong

The only solution was to re-dye the whole thing black.

Mary Rose 81A5749 The (re)finished front

Mary Rose 81A5749 The back

All that’s left to do is another coat of pitch and sew in the neck gasket.

7 thoughts on “Mary Rose Costrel 81A5749

  1. A few questions, and I apologize in advance if you’ve already answered the elsewhere in your blog! When stitching the sides on, I noticed that you are piercing from the outside of the costrel inwards. Is there a particular reason for piercing from the outside rather than the inside? There might be a slight “angle” to the stitches (since there isn’t a lot of room for the awl haft to work on the side), but the work might go faster. Do the extant pieces offer any insight?

    Also, do you tend to sew your costrels while still damp, or do you wait for them to dry completely? When doing some shoes with a very thick sole, I did a couple “the hard way,” as it were, that is while the thick sole leather was bone dry. Soaking them for a couple of hours made the stitching orders of magnitude easier and quicker. Anyhow, just some thoughts…I’m thinking of making a couple of costrels myself at some point in the future, with my thanks to your inspiration! =)

  2. Hi Francis, I tried from the inside, but found it too fiddly because there’s too little room to move the awl handle, so coming from the outside is quicker for me and gets a straighter seam where it can be seen. I’ve only seen one costrel close enough to get a good view of the stitch holes, which were straight, but that doesn’t prove anything.

    I sew costrels dry, but use harness butt which is much softer than heavy sole leather of the same thickness (which I sew damp). I think soaking would lose the sharpness of the moulding.

    Good luck, let us all know how you go and what things you learn.


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  4. Hi,

    I have found your site and work such a fantastic resource – many thanks!

    I wondered if you have any advice re pitch and beeswax! I have butt stitched (I think authentic) some small cups but having trouble with leaks. When the pitch or beeswax or a combination is poured in and cold it develops small cracks which then leak along the stitch line….I have reheated and the cracks disappear but as soon as the leather is cold the cracks redevelop…am I missing something? The leather is wax hardened but still has some flex – I dont like it rock hard – minimal though. I have slowed the cooling process but still no satisfactory result.

    Have read everything I can lay my hands on and have experimented but haven’t found a solution….your help appreciated.


    • Hi Lou,

      I’m not sure, there are lots of variables here. Is the pitch layer too thick? It might be contracting more than the normal flexibility will allow. I often get some surface cracks, but they go when I reflow, possibly the cooling needs to be slower. I usually pitch before I wax, so my leather is going to be softer than yours, I don’t know if the wax already present in the leather might be creating problems with adhesion.



      • Hi,

        Hmm….thanks very much I am wondering about the adhesion side of things…….I will practice some more and see what happens….lou

  5. Pingback: 81A5749 finished at last « The Reverend's Big Blog of Leather

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