I recently purchased this charming late 19th century (or very early 20th century) work bag (also called a ditty bag). The intricate paisley-style, polished sateen cotton print was visually pleasing with its pinks, reds and greens. Each side features a pink silk taffeta bow and the same ribbon if used for hanging or carrying. Machine sewn, it is so lightweight that one can scarcely imagine carrying much in it at all. Perhaps it was used for light embroidery or for minor repairs. In addition to the large central compartment for holding mending, there are two small outer pockets (presumably for needles, pins, thread and a small pair of scissors) and one, slightly gathered, compartment, also on the exterior.
The textile itself is strikingly similar to a line of early c.1904 Liberty of London printed cottons and lawns, some of which are still produced today. See: http://www.libertylondon.com/uk/department/fabric/cotton-tana-lawn/
Hand sewing and mending were a necessity for many Victorian women, requiring a receptacle to keep sewing tools and notions at hand. Some were made at home, some were mundane serving a functional purpose but others were made from costly fabrics and trimming or recycled from older textiles.
What is also of interest is that bags of similar dimensions and shape, though of sturdier materials, are also associated with men, particularly those in the maritime trade. This bag measures (from the top to the bottom) 17-1/2" long x 11-1/2" wide.