Sunday, December 31, 2006

A little break: happy new year!

I won't be posting for about two weeks. This week, I go on a holiday to Paris :-) and next week, I'll follow a complicated statistics course at the other side of the country :-(
I just finished the embroidery for another purse (chart by Wymarc). I think it looks a bit like snowflakes:

Happy new year!!!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Goldwork experiments

This year, I've tried to recreate two 14th century goldwork embroidery purses that I really love : the Tongeren purse 23 and the Herman von Goch golden purse with the little dog (so cute!!) I used Japanese Gold K4, 0.5 mm and it doesn't really work: its too thick/ coarse. I've decided to stop working on those purses for now, until I find gold thread that is more suitable. In a comment to a post on the Tongeren purse, Gina advised me to take a look at Benton & Johnson for gold thread that is thinner. If a find something more suitable, I'll tell you. For now, I'll show some pictures of what my first attempts look like and what needs to be changed.

These are the leafs of the Tongeren purse: the front look ok, but there's too much gold thread left at the back. The leafs are very small (about 2 cm). I'm not sure whether the gold thread was couched and turned at the surface, or whether each thread was couched individually, without turning (which is the technique I used in the picture below).

This is my first attempt to recreate the dog. I saw this purse in the Stadtmuseum in Koln, and it is very small (ca 10 cm), with a very small 3D embrodiered dog in goldwork (ca 4cm -2 cm). The goldthread used was finer than what I used here. I think the dog was made separately and stiched onto the goldwork surface of the purse:

And the surface of the purse, with the text balloon:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Embroidered womens' shirt or undergarment

I'm interested in literature as a source of information about embroidery and I would really like to find out more on embroidered garments: was embroidery used for decorating cloths and, if so, when, who, how, where etc?

I'd like to write something about that today because, this Christmas, my brother who told me about the Tudor-style outfit he is making. (He's member of a historical dance group: Plaisir Courtois) He also showed me this book:

The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing 16th-Century Dress by Ninya Mikhaila, Jane Malcolm-Davies, and Michael Perry (Paperback - 30 April 2006)
It's a very nice book, with a lot of interesting historical details. I was surprised by a picture of two beautiful 16th century white linen shirts, embroidered in black and white silk ("Blackwork").

This reminded me of some lines in The Canterbury Tales (around 1380), which I read last summer. What I really like about Chaucer, besides the fact that most of his stories are very funny, is the way he describes his characters. I don't think he was familiar with the poetical device called ut pictura poesis, a picture in poetry, but the descriptions of his characters are very vivid, clear and detailed. It appears as though he shows you, the reader, some polaroids of the actors, before he starts telling their story.

The miller's tale starts with a very detailed description of his wife (lines 3233-3251) and her cloths and accessories:

She's wearing a silk belt, a white apron and an embroidered undergarment (lines 3235-3238):

A ceynt she werede, barred al of silk,
A barmcloth as with as morne milk,
Upon hir lendes, ful of many a goore.
Whit was her smok, and broyden al bifoore

According to the notes (Oxford, Riverside Edition 1987, p. 68) a barmcloth is an apron and a smok is the undergarment/shirt worn beneath the apron. Broyden means "embroidered" . That's interesting!!!! Does this mean women could wear embroidered shirts? If so, what would those have looked like?

These lines are also very nice (line 3250-3251):

And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether,
Tasseled with silk and perled with latoun.

I love to read things like this and I think literature can be a valuable source about medieval life etc, next to archeological findings and the like. There's a lot more to say about the description of the miller's wife, so this post is to be continued...!


Last saturday I've been working on a long fingerloopbraid to use as a lace for my green dress. I have been using a cotton lace until now, and thought it really was about getting time to make something decent to fit the dress.

I used 1440 denier silk loose twist from DeVere Yarns. It is the first time I used filamant silk for making braids.
I don't really feel a difference in use with spun silk. But, the result with filamant silk looks so much better, prettier, shinier!!!

The lace is still waiting to be finished with two brass points.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Silk yarns: an embroidery experiment

Recently I made a small experiment comparing Devere 1200 denier and Au ver a soie Soie d'Alger. My experiences are that both are very pleasant to work with for embroidery. Devere yarn is more glossy and slippery than Au ver a soie and it's also more "fragile": be careful with your nails! Au ver a soie silk is less glossy and has got more texture. You can compare the two below: left is Devere yarn 1200 dernier silk and right is Au ver a soie silk. My swiss 1320 purse (see post 27 nov 06) is made with Au ver a soie.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Silk Yarns

The previous blog entry, written by Machteld, turned out to be quite interesting as to which yarn type she used to make her embroidery. I thought it interesting enough to write a complete post about the subject of silk yarns, and try to share with you everything I know about it... Which yarns to use when?

As Machteld wrote in her comment she uses 'Au ver a soie' silk embroidery floss, very similar to DMC cutton floss. I habe been using another kind of spun silk yarn, of which I do not know the brand. I have found spun silk to be ideal for making tassels, but less perfect for the embroidery itself.

An alternative to 'Au ver a soie' are the silk yarns by 'Devere Yarns'. Gina Barrett wrote about these on her blog:

"Oh, and I do have to say that if anyone wants silk, you really ought to try DeVere's. They are excellent - I have used them for years, and their silk is the closest I have
found to historic silk. It is filament silk, with so much more sheen that spun silk. They also do some lovely cottons and linens, and worsted threads, and I can't recommend them enough."

I must admit I have never used DeVere silk for embroidery before. I have just recieved my first order, but the yarn I ordered I will be using for fingerloopbraids. When I have some left, I'll sure use it for embroidery, and off course let you know the advantages and disadvantages compared to spun silk.

Also, an interesting discussion about this subject can be found on the Soper Lane forum. You can read it here. There are some members of Sopor Lane who are far mor knowledgeble on this subject than me, and have seen far more original pieces!
In the discussion, it seems to turn out that medieval silkwomen used to prefer to work with filament silk, and that for fingerloopbraiding, tabletweaving and embroidery, filimant silk was probably used in most cases. Spun silk could have been used for making tassels, or silkwork of lesser quality.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Small 14th century embroidered purses

I'm going to make some small embroidered purses for Nijso to sell at medieval fairs next spring/summer. This is the embroidery of the first one. It probably looks familiar: Isis and I already made this purse. I still like its pattern, especially the blue dots. There are more counted thread embroidery charts at Wymarcs page, and I think I'm going to try some of those next.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

French knots

Aachen (Germany), Domschatz
Chormantel (Cappa Leonis), 14th century
Silk velvet, silver bells, embroidery
Lenght: 143 cm
When I went to see the Dommuseum in Aachen last spring, I did not expect to find a 14th century coronation mantle there.
Some additions date to the 15th and 16th centuries, but the white flowers all over the mantle are believed to be late 14th century. These flowers are particluarly interesting. The petals are made with white silk, and the heart is yellow. The colours may have been faded. The flowers are embroidered using the French Knot stitch. I don't believe I've seen this stitch used on 14th century embroideries anywhere else before.

WiP: Tongeren purse 23 (2)

I wonder whether I'm on the right track or whether I should be trying a different technique or a different type of thread. But I don't know how/ which ....

This is a picture of how I work: I use two needles, one for the gold thread and one for couching it in yellow silk. The front looks ok:

The back looks a mess:

There's so much gold thread on the back, and the gold thread I use is not very flexible (japanese gold, no 8/k4) I'm thinking of using passing thread instead. This might be more flexible

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Another Swiss 1320 purse

I knew there was another Swiss 1320 purse, in the same style as those in the Landesmuseum. I'ts in the Cloisters Musuem in New York, and I finally found a picture of it! It's in this book:

Hoving, T. Husband, T., Hayward, J. (1975) The secular spirit: life and art at the end of the Middle Ages, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art

I couln't find an online picture, so I'll try to describe it here. The bag is embroidered with a picture of two lovers under a tree with flowers. The background is covered in silver gilt thread, which is unusual. The picture is framed by an embroidered band with flowers and fairy tale creatures, a bit like purse LM 1825 b. The tassels are also the same style as those in the Landesmuseum.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Medieval silkwork: ca 1320 tassels

Isis discussed the technical details of some tassels in earlier posts, e.g. Medieval silkwork: Tassels: second half of the 14th century, Medieval silkwork: Late 15th century tassel. I found two Swiss circa 1320 purses with tassels that are made using yet another technique. I examined both purses and it seems that the tassels were made by wrapping a silk thread around the head and fastening it with gold thread. Pictures of the purses can be found in the Webcollection of the Landesmuseum in Zurich. Search for 'beutel' or LM 1825 a and LM 1825 b.

Here are two pictures of my copy of those tassels

Friday, November 24, 2006

WiP: Tongeren purse 23

I really like one of the purses described in the book Tongeren, textiel..., Ceulemans 1988. Purse 23 is a small purse (8*10 cm) made of blue silk with embroidered golden leafs, dated roughly 13th-14th century.

After six or seven attempts, I think I finally managed to make a leaf that looks like the original, more or less. It took me 3 hours to finish the first leaf, so it's going to take some time before the purse is finished :-)

The technique used is called 'couched work'. You can find a description of it on the Historical Needlework Resources website.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Frilled headwear again

I'm working on a new experiment (the last one I have to do before I can finish my article). I've only completed three layers so far, but there are going to be twelve in total. I like the three layers actually. They look like this one in Ulm (Germany):

I might be going to make myself a frilled veil with three layers soon. I would so like to have one!

An official description of the Kruseler Project can be found here.

Medieval tablecloths

Two years ago, I saw a picture of a piece of embroidery with a very cute 'grumpy' griffin. I found out that it was part of a 14th century Swiss white linen tablecloth from Feldbach. I'd like to know more about how it is done, and maybe try to recreate the style.

I found an on line paper on tablecloths 13th-20th century. No matter how remote or obscure the topic, there is always someone who writes about it... I'm always amazed by that :-)

Das Tafeltuch vom 13. zum 20. Jahrhundert, Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

The paper includes a picture of the Feldbach tablecloth and other medieval tablecloths. There is more interesting information about embroidery on this website as well, some of it in English and some in German!

Hand dyed silk embroidery yarns

Just a short notice: I found out that this shop just recently started selling handdyed filament silk embroidery yarns! At the moment they only have three colours, but I suspect they will have more soon!

And then of course I want to welcome Machteld! She makes the most stunning embroidery as you could already see in her first post!
She started doing medieval embroidery only a short while before me, and it was thanks to her I got so hooked up with it eventually.

I'm really enjoying the thought of writing this blog togehter!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Let me introduce myself: a new blogger

Isis invited me to share this blog, so let me introduce myself. My name is Machteld and I'm interested in medieval textile arts, embroidery and literature. I'm especially interested in:

-all kinds of embroidery techniques
-techniques for transferring an embroidery design on to fabric
-medieval literature as a source of information about embroidery and the use of embroidered objects in every day life (e.g. purses and clothing)

This is some of my work. The dress isn't finished yet, because I have to change the sleeves (they were too tight...)

The small purse is a copy from a fourteenth century German bag from the Victoria and Albert in London. Isis made the same purse, using different colours.

The big purse is a copy from a Swiss 1320 purse, which is on display in the Landesmuseum in Zurich. I still have to make a drawstring for it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Green dress

Me, in late 14th century dress. The dress is made out of very fine wool, woven with a twill pattern, and lined with off white fine linen. It's laced up at the front (at the moment I'm still using a cotton lace, but I'm about to order beautiful silk in two shades of green to make a matching lace). It has buttons around the wrist which are unbuttoned in this picture, so that's why you can see the lining there.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Kruseler Project

Yesterday I've been working on my article about late 14th century kruseler, and a possible construction method. The theoretical part of the article is almost finished, but I still need to write the part about my own experiments. I haven' tcompleted all experiments, so I'll need to do that first.

In the meanwhile, it's fun to read what other researchers involved in the Kruseler-project are doing: click here to see.

An official description of the Kruseler Project can be found here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Shade cards

I'm not being a good student today. I should be in class at the moment. But. I really didn't sleep well tonight and also went to bed way to late. And I got up with a soft headache, that started getting worse around twelve o' clock. And I had lots to do before I had to go to college, so I was completely stressed out.
I'm trying to make it up by working for university at home, which means reading articles and more articles.

And in between two articles I take a break and make good use of the opportunity to write something here!

I have been wanting to add some text to Saturday's post, but Blogger didn't want to coöperate last weekend. So now, as you can see, there are only pics. I'll add some more info here then, allright?

Here we go...

What I wanted to write is something about the lining of this purse, and medieval purses in general. I used a piece of yellow silk and sewed it to the embroidered parts, leaving about one mm uncovered at the sides, to give me enough space to sew the sides together later.
I have no idea wether this is the correct way to do it, or at least the way used on medieval purses. I have'n been able to study original purses close enough to see how the lining has been made.
I have also tried a different method: making a seperate little 'bag' with the lining-fabric, and then put this inside the embroidered piece that is sewn together at the sides. So in fact you have two purses, lining and outside, that you sew together at the top.
I used this method for this purse.

The first method works better for me. But I really wonder how other people do this, and how it was done on the original pieces!

This afternoon I finally found the shade cards of DeVere Yarns I've been waiting for so long. Now I can order the silk I need for making the gimp cord for the turk's head knots to cover the heads of the tassels for this purse with.

That's all for now, back to Environmental History!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fingerloop braiding

Making a 15th century doublet also implies making laces to lace the doublet up. One lace for the front, and in this case also two laces for the sleeves.
Fingerloopbraiding is a technique based on the exchange of loops held on the fingers. The braids can be made by one person, but there are also variations that need more workers (depending on the lenght of the braid and the amount of loops used).

There are some medieval depictions of the practice of fingerloopbraiding.
The oldest known depiction dates to the 13th century, and can be seen on a wall-painting in Konstanz, Germany.
There also is an Italian fresco (Florence) which shows the Virgin Mary and the little Christ working on a two-looped braid, that is being used to edge a piece of clothing. Although the date for this fresco is not known, it seems late 14th or 15th century to me. More information can be found in this issue of the LM BRIC News.
Probably Mary is using this technique, described by Frieda Sorber in "Tongeren Basiliek O-L-Vrouw Geboorte. Textiel. Uitgeverij Peters, Leuven, 1988." Which is quite interesting. So far I only know about this technique being used on purses, but now it seems it can be used on clothing as well. I have suspected this for a long time, but couldn't prove it.
A drawing of late 15th century altar piece in a little curch somewhere in Spain can be seen here. I had a black and white scan of a photo of this piece, but can't seem to find it at the moment...

Basic instructions for the making of fingerloop braids you can find here:

Information about medieval fingerloop braids here

Another very interesting website is this one: Loop-Maniputlation Braiding Research and Information Center. They have information about fingerloop braids from all over the world and from different periods.

You can discuss fingerloop braids here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Afwerking van een beursje - Finishing of a purse

Sorry to all you not understanding Dutch, but the rest of this message will be in Dutch. Maybe I'll translate it sometime later.
Ik kreeg onlangs de vraag hoe de zijkanten, dus de zijnaden, van middeleeuwse beursjes afgewerkt werden. Er zijn verschillende mogelijkheden:

  1. Er is geen speciale afwerking. De naden zijn gewoon zichtbaar. Voor zover ik weet werden geborduurde beursjes wel steeds afgewerkt. Ik heb zichtbare naden enkel nog gezien op effen zijden tasjes.
  2. De zijnaden zijnafgedekt met een opgenaaid fijn stukje bandweefsel. Dit kan effen zijn of een patroontje hebben. Het is gemaakt uit hetzelfde garen voor het borduurwerk zelf, in dezelfde kleuren.
  3. De zijnaden zijn afgewerkt met een fijn stukje opgenaaid bandweefsel. Dit kan effen zijn of een patroontje hebben. Het is gemaakt uit hetzelfde garen voor het borduurwerk zelf, in dezelfde kleuren.
  4. Een vierde techniek is het lussenvlechten, zoals beschreven door Frieda Sorber in "Tongeren Basiliek O-L-Vrouw Geboorte. Textiel. Uitgeverij Peters, Leuven, 1988." Deze techniek werkt het makkelijkst wanneer gedaan door twee personen. Er werden zowel één als twee kleuren voor gebruikt. De aanwijzingen vind je op de tekening hier onder, een foto van het eindresultaat op de onderste foto.

Naar een afbeelding uit "Tongeren Basiliek O-L-Vrouw Geboorte. Textiel. Uitgeverij Peters, Leuven, 1988."


"Archaeology is rather like a vast, fiendish jigsaw invented by the devil as an instrument of tantalising torment since:
  • it will never be finished
  • you don't know how many pieces are missing
  • most of them are lost for ever
  • you can't cheat by looking at the picture."
Bahn P., Bluff your way in archaeology,
Ravette Books, Horsham, 1989.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Work in progress...

I haven't been working very much on medieval handwork last days... So in the mean time, I will show you some work in progress... Above you can see an unfinished purse in burgundy silk with a linen lining. Instead of tassels it's got three tiny bells. You can see a 14th century purse with bells here and here and here and here. (They are really cute, don't you think?)

This weekend I will be on a medieval event in Nijmegen. I hope to be doing some embroidery there, and show some pics of it next week!

Sleep tight!

Friday, August 18, 2006


What a day! Alas it was less colourfull as the yarn on the picture beneath. I really have got the feeling I have done nothing. Well I did five things that were on my to-do-list, studied for an hour or so, went to the butcher and the backery, ate something, did the dishes, studied for one more hour, made one corsage, did a fingerloop braid for a purse, and then I guess I did nothing for a while because the first next thing I can remember is cooking dinner and eating it. The past hour I've been re-organising my computer a bit.
So ok, I did something, but it doesn't feel like it. It doesn't feel like a good productive day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What a mess!

I can't believe I can still work and live here. My table is full with unfinished and finished purses, balls of wool and other threads, finished corsages, bags with buttons, books, a piece of frilled veil, pencils, scissors, AND a computer.
It's a mess, that I really need to clean up.

But first someting on recent work I have been doing. Here is a picture of a purse I have been writing about some days ago.
It's a comission from a member of the Liebaart. I used his heraldic colours and coat of arms. The original (In the Sint Servatius Kerk in Maastricht) hasn't got a coat of arms on it and has got gold thread instead of yellow.
I have already made the tassels, but still need to do the gimp to cover the heads with.
And then I only need to put all the pieces together and do some fingerloopbraids.

I always keep forgetting about the silk I need to order for the gimp-cord. As I forget about lots of other things I need to do. I have just made a to-do list. I hope that helps.

Monday, August 14, 2006

To start with...

As I have to start somehow, I'll just start here...

About ten years ago, when I first started reading 'historical' children's books from writers such as Thea Beckman, Simone van der Vlugt and Paul Kustermans, I started to devolop my passion for late Medieval history. Five years later I first heard of Reenactment and Living History, and started looking anxiously for such a thing in Belgium. I found the living history group the Liebaart. Later I also joined another group: Die landen van Herwaerts Over. Now I am a first year archaeology student at Ghent University, Belgium.

I am completely fascinated by late medieval textile crafts (especially 14th cenury), such as dyeing, weaving, embroidering, tailoring, and so on. Apart from doing the required research, I especcially love to use my hands, and make reconstrcutions and interpretations.

On the picture above you can see the first embroidered purse I have made. It's loosely based on an original in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
I have also made much more simple purses like the one beneath. It was a gift for a friend's birthday.

At the moment I am working on some other embroidered purses based on patterns I found on originals in the Netherlands and Germany.
A few months ago I joined a research group looking into the history and reconstruction of women's frilled headwear. I am looking into late 14th century honeycomb headwear. I have done some experiments by now and am planning to make a full size honeycomb veil for myself as soon as I can.
On this blog I want to share some of my experiences with other textile -or other- freaks such as me.

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