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Folklife Festival 2003 > Scotland > Textiles > Sporran
Sporran comes from the Gaelic word sporan - meaning a purse or a pouch.

A distinctive part of a man's traditional Scottish Highland dress, sporrans evolved from simple necessity, since kilts have no pockets. Sporrans are worn at the front of a kilt, hung from chains attached to the wearer's wide leather belt. Older sporrans were modest, functional items made of leather, but over the years they became more elaborate. By the Victorian era, sporrans -- especially those that were part of the uniforms of kilted Scottish Highland regiments in the British Army -- had become highly elaborate affairs. They had intricate silver or metal rims, were attached to long backings of braided horsehair, or were crafted from exotic furs.

Today, sporrans are usually made of plain leather for day wear. Sporrans made from badger, seal, ermine, or other animal furs are popular for evening wear. The fashion now current among young Scots for wearing kilts at less formal occasions, such as football games or parties, has inspired some contemporary sporran makers to use denim, faux fur, and brightly colored fabrics.
Coming to the Festival...
J & Janet Eagleton & Son - sporranmakers

Marcus Eagleton learned to make sporrans from his mother, Janet; she started making award-winning sporrans in her home in 1981, using leather-working skills she had learned from her father, a Glasgow cobbler. He, in turn, had learned leather-working from his grandfather, a saddle maker. Today, with the help of several employees, the Eagletons handcraft thousands of sporrans each year in their small workshop behind Janet's home in rural Perthshire. Some of these are sold at their shop in nearby Perth, while others are sold to customers arround the world via mail and Internet orders.

Eagleton & Son make sporrans from almost any kind of legally obtained animal hide. Customers have sent them everything from mountain lion pelts to crocodile skins to be made into one-of-a-kind sporrans. They also recreate historic sporrans based on old photographs. Silver and metal fittings, designed to their specifications, are made by outside silversmiths and metalworkers, but everything else is crafted in their shop.

In 2001, Janet became the first and only sporran-maker ever awarded a prestigious M.B.E. from the Queen for her services to sporran-making. The shop's customers include major stars and celebrities - Billy Connolly, Samuel L. Jackson (for the movie 51st State) -- as well as the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Queen's Pipers at Balmoral and Buckingham Palaces, and the Scots Guards.

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