How to … make a Jacobite emigrant’s kist

Many Jacobites had to leave Scotland after their defeat at Culloden and start a new life in countries far away, such as America and Canada.  They had a long sea voyage ahead of them, and they would take their belongings and a few treasures with them in their kists (wooden travelling chests).

Last Family Fun weekend the children made their own Jacobite emigrants’ kists, and we took lots of photos so that we can show you how to make one too.  This template could be used for other similar projects such as pirates’ treasure chests or Victorian travellers’ trunks.

You will need:

  • an old shoe box (we asked at local shoe shops for ours)
  • lots of PVA glue
  • glue spreaders
  • brown tissue paper
  • brown parcel paper (optional)
  • gold-coloured paper
  • black paper or card
  • wool
  • luggage tags or card to make them with
  • alphabet stencil (optional)
  • sellotape
  • scissors

1. Spread glue on the shoe box and cover with torn strips of brown tissue paper.  Do this one side of the box at a time.  If your shoe box is a very bright colour you might prefer to cover it with brown parcel paper first.

2. To make the handles, pierce 2 holes at one end of the shoe box with a pencil.  Make sure the holes are big enough to thread three strands of wool through them.  Cut 3 equal lengths of wool, and pass them through one of the pierced holes.  Knot them together on the inside of the shoe box.  Then braid the wool, pass the other end through the second hole and knot it on the inside to secure it.  Do the same for the other end of the shoe box and you will now have two handles.

3. Cut out hinges, a lock and any other decoration such as studs or your initials out of gold paper, and glue them to the box.  Then cut a keyhole out of black card and stick that onto the lock.

4. Tidy the appearance of your box.  The brown strips of tissue paper may need trimmed and any overlaps glued down.

5. Write your name on one side of the luggage tag, and your destination on the other.  Using an alphabet stencil will give your label an authentic look.  Thread your luggage tag with wool and sellotape it to your box.


6. If you like, you can make a set of keys for your box and you can also draw and cut out pictures of what you would put take with you if you were emigrating.  On Saturday one person took a change of clothes, his phone, a wii and an x-box with him.

Posted by: Sarah and Lynsey

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