Chur Relic Purse by Donna Druchunas & Ava Coleman
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Chur Relic Purse

Knitting
November 2014
Size 20 Crochet Cotton
Thread ?
14 stitches = 1 inch
in Charted colorwork
US 1 - 2.25 mm
12" wide x 21" long

What happens when we have a treasured knitted piece that will tell us only the basics of its origins? That is the case with the relic purse housed at the Chur Cathedral in Switzerland. We know the approximate date it was constructed, the materials from which it was made, and its contemporary history (1850–2014) consisting primarily of storage at its present home. Knitting historian Irena Turnau mentions Swiss hand knitting in general in her 1991 treatise, History of Knitting Before Mass Production, but she cites no individual European examples. She does document heraldic patterned knitting techniques executed in silk by including a photograph and description of the Spanish Las Huelgas pillows.

The published documentation presented by Richard Rutt in his Batsford LTD (UK) and two Interweave Press (U.S.) editions of A History of Hand Knitting in the late 1990s give a bit more information. Bishop Rutt’s first-hand exam- ination comments, along with the color photograph included in both the Batsford and Interweave first editions, have allowed another generation of knitting scholars a brief glimpse at an entire collection of heraldic purses. Rutt speculates that the Chur purse and the five purses housed at the cathedral at Sion were knitted by the same person. This he has deduced from the similarity in their heraldic designs, consistency of stitch tension in all six bags, and use of the tassels as ornamentation. He further speculates that there is a Zurich connection, but offers no explanation of why he thinks this.

This information certainly does not tell the story of the beautiful Chur purse. However, a story needs to be told. En- twined with what I know about medieval life, wool processing, and knitting, but purely from my imagination, I offer you a novella envisioning how the purse might have been created.