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This is an extraordinary example of a reticule, a Victorian name for a woman’s small handbag or pouch, usually with a drawstring or in this case, cord handle. It is made of maroon silk and edged with red and purple cord with a cream silk lining. The majority of reticules would have been embroidered; however this one has been decorated and appliqued with fish scales in a floral design with small white beads. This was a fascinating hobby that Victorian women undertook in their spare time.
Fish scale embroidery was usually worked on silk, satin or velvet. The iridescent scales of the carp, perch or goldfish were considered the most suitable. They were scraped from the fish with a knife, steeped in cold water until soft and pliable, and two small holes were pierced with a needle near the base of each scale. The scales were then coloured with a mixture of varnish and powdered colour after which they were ready to be sewn with silk thread, and were arranged in overlapping patterns.