Making the Medieval Arrow Bag Part 2 – The Cloth Bag (Video 29)

In the second and final part of the series on the medieval arrow bag I show you how to make the body of the cloth bag out a piece of linen. I also show how the bag may have been worn in medieval times and how arrows could have been drawn from it.

The music track accompanying this video is called Amoroso by the artist Skye Music. You can visit their page on the music sharing website.


So, now the bag is finally complete what do I actually think of it? Well, overall I am very pleased with its look and its functionality, but there are some things I would change if I could do it over again, and these I have listed below.

1. When making the leather spacer I added the triangular slits to the holes to match some of the surviving examples from the Tudor warship Mary Rose (1545). However by cutting out these extra pieces of leather it made the spacer more flexible than I had planned, so if I were to make another I think I would leave out the slits in the hope that the disc would come out stiffer. The slits also allow the arrows to slip through them slightly when the bottom of the bag is open. If the holes were just plain circles I think the arrows would be held tighter.

2. When measuring the length of the material I used one of my longest arrows. The thinking behind this was of course to make the bag long enough to fit them but the problem with that is the shorter arrows now sit lower down in the leather spacer; low enough that their fletchings go about half an inch through the spacer’s holes which crumple the feathers while they are being stored. In future I would sit the spacer lower in the bag so that even the shortest of my arrows were held well clear of it.

3. The bag might sit better on my waist if the belt loops were both moved slightly further up the bag, closer to the top. This would also give me more room to roll the bottom of the bag up to expose the arrow heads while shooting. This is a minor point though.


It’s worth pointing out that no one knows for sure how arrow bags looked or how they were used in the middle ages. Sadly no medieval bags have survived and the written and illustrated evidence is inconclusive, so what I give here is merely my opinion, for what it is worth. Feel free to disagree with me. However, I do base my opinion on both written and illustrated evidence, what there is, along with a sprinkling of practical experimentation.

Firstly we have the black and white illustration shown in the video, which to my eyes shows the top of the bags closed and positioned a long way from the archer’s waists and therefore also their reach. Other illustrations of just arrows pushed through archer’s belts also show the arrow heads positioned closer to the waist and within easier reach than the nock ends.

Secondly we have the words of Roger Ascham who wrote the archery treatise Toxophilus in 1545. In this book he mentions that small, lightly barbed broadheads were favoured at that time for seaborne warfare. This may be backed up by the existence of the triangular slits seen in some of the leather spacers brought up from the Mary Rose of the same date. Experimentation has shown that these heads can be pushed through spacer holes even if these slits aren’t present but it is far harder to pull them back through if withdrawing the arrow nock first. It is however possible to draw the fletchings through these holes quite easily without any damage to the feathers.

Then there is the technique described by the French author of the early 16th century L’art d’archerie:

“An archer…drawing an arrow from his quiver in two motions, the reason being that unless he had a very long arm, the arrows would remain jammed in the quiver from which the feathers would suffer”.

If you watch me using my arrow bag you will see the “two motions” (in my case 3 but hey, I have short arms!) demonstrated quite by accident. It is also difficult to see how the feathers would suffer from any jam if drawn nock first.

Drawing arrows point first also allows the archer to select which type of head he wishes to use. Drawing arrows with a selection of heads nock first is often very frustrating when you wish to select a particular type as it is no more than trial and arrow to find the correct one.

The author of L’art d’archerie also points out that barbed broadheads were often set on the shaft in the exact same orientation as the nock, suggesting that an archer could in theory draw the arrow with the cock feather already in position by feeling the orientation of the broadhead. This would facilitate very quick positioning on the string and therefore quicker shooting.

If you have any thoughts on any of the subjects mentioned above, or have made a similar bag or can think of ways of making it better then I would love to hear from you.

Best wishes,


- Post Time: 12-14-16 - By: