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.

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