Monday, April 30, 2007

13th century - mid 14th century embroidered tassels

I was working on a few tassels, and I thought that I might as wel write another tutorial about it:

I think most (late) 14th century tassels were adorned with a turkish head knot. However, I saw some examples of tassels embroidered with gold thread too. This type of tassels were used in the 13th and 14th century, probably until ca 1350. You can find pictures of these type of tassels in:

  • Hoving, T., Husband, T., Hayward, J. (1975), The secular spirit: Life and art at the end of the Middle Ages: New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art v
  • Schneider, J. (1975), Textilien. Catalog der Sammlung des Schweizerischen Landesmuseums Zürich, Zürich: Verlag Berichthaus
  • Wilckens von, L. (1991), Die textilen Künste. Von der Spätantike bis um 1500, München, Verlag CH Beck

For online pictures, click here (insert LM 1825 a, LM 1825 b), here or here.

This is how I make these tassels. I used Aurora 2 ply silk for the tassels and Tanja Berlin's Japanese gold K4 (beautiful gilded silver thread!)

Make a basic silk tassel and a roll of linen

Wrap the linen around the tassel head

Wrap a silk thread around the linen core and attach with tiny stitches. And have a lot of patience! For me, this feels more like sculpure than embroidery :-)

Wrap the gold thread around the tassel head and attachit with tiny silk stitches.

The finished tassel

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Finishing the seams of 14th/15th century pouches

{ Edit (by Isis): I thought I'd add a link here to an older (Dutch) post I did on the finishing of seams. Also it might be worth noticing that possibly the "lussenvlechten" as described by Machteld in this post, also seems to have been used on clothing. Read about this here. }

The internet connection stil works, and I've got a few days off, so it's time for a post I promised a few weeks ago :-)

Finishing the seams of 14th/15th century pouches

The outward seams of (embroidered) textile pouches can be finished in at least two ways. One method is to cover the seams by tablet weaving. There are some examples of textile pouches finished with this technique in Dress accessories (Egan, G., Pritchard, F. (2002), Dress accessories. c.1150- c.1450, London: The Boydell Press). The side seams of the 14th century London textile pouches discussed in this book are covered with tablet weaving.

Another technique is that of “embroidered braids”. The technique is described by Frida Sorber (Ceulemans, 1988, in Dutch) and she calls it “lussenvlechten”. I haven't found an English translation yet, so I just call it “embroidered braids”, because that's what the technique is all about. Some authors present descriptions of pouches, and seem to try to describe this type of braided finishes. In his embroidery manual “A stitch out of time” Wymarc, for example, describes his observations of the finishing of the German14th century pouches in the Victoria & Albert as follows: “The seams of the bag are covered with a decorative stitch. The stitch is composed of alternating colors, red and what might have once been gilt. I cannot be sure how the stitch was done, but I have re-created it using two needles (one for each color) and threading each color up through the previous stitch and back down, in a kind of double running stitch.” (p 41) Schmedding (1978) describes the finishing of a Swiss 15th century purse as follows: “Alle Kanten sind mit Grünen Seidenzwirnen und Goldfäden (...) in einer Art Flechttechnik befestigt.” p 190

It seems to have been quite common technique in the European mainland in the 14th and 15th century. You can find examples of purses finished with embroidered braids in these books and/or musea:

the Netherlands , Maastricht St Servaas Cathedral
Staufer, A. (1991), Die mittelalterlichen Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung Riggisberg
Belgium, Tongeren
Ceulemans, C. (1988), Tongeren. Basiliek O.L. Vrouwe Geboorte. I. Textiel van de vroege middeleeuwen tot het Concilie van Trente, Leuven: Peeters
Germany, e.g. in Victoria and Albert Museum
Wymarc, “A stitch out of time”
Switzerland, Zürich, Sweizerisches Landesmuseum
Schmedding, B. (1978), Mittelalterliche Textilien in Kirchen und Klöstern der Schweiz, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung
Schneider, J. (1975), Textilien. Catalog der Sammlung des Schweizerischen Landesmuseums Zürich, Zürich: Verlag Berichthaus

Some conclusions drawn from the literature discussed above and my own observations of purses in Maastricht and Zürich:
each seam is covered with a braid
use contrasting colours in silk or silk and gold thread
tassels are attached over the seams

This is how I apply the technique:

attach two loops of thread (A and B) to the inside of the pouch

attach loop A

attach loop A, finished

pull loop B through loop A and attach loop B

pull loop A through loop B and attach loop B

cover all sides

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I probably won't be posting as much as I would like to, the next few weeks (months??).. My life is a bit chaotic at this moment:
- finishing the phd
- networking to find a new job
- moving to a new city and finding a house there
- ...
And my home internet connection will probably be cut off soon (hopefully not to soon!)

Anyway, I hope I will be able to keep in touch every now and then!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A fretworked veil? The headdress of Catherine De Beauchamp

The following article was published (in Danish) in: Sturtewagen, Isis (2007), En kruset hoveddug; Catherine de Beauchamps hovedtøj. (A Frilled Veil; The Headwear of Catherine de Beauchamp) In: Peter Vemmning (ed.), Middelaldercentrets Nyhedsblad, vinteren 2006/07, pp. 20-21. Nykøbing: Middelaldercentret.

In May 2006 I was invited by Camilla Luise Dahl from the Middelaldercentret in Nykøbing, Denmark, to research the background to the quite remarkable veil worn by Catherine de Mortimer on her burial tomb. I have been supplied with detailed photos of the tomb by Catherina Oksen, an archaeologist connected to the Middelaldercentret.

Catherine Mortimer was born ca. 1314 in Wigmore, Herefordshire, England. When she was fourteen years of age she married Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick. Catherine died c. 1370. She was buried in a tomb, dated c. 1370-1375 in St. Mary's Chapel, Warwick, England, together with her husband. The tomb shows Catherine wearing a frilled veil, which consists of two elements: one twelve layered veil with a 'checker' or ‘honeycomb’ pattern and a single layered veil with small rounded pleats or frills on top (Fig. 1). The sides of the tomb are decorated with both male and female mourning figures of which the female figures also feature the ‘honeycomb’ veils. They consist of fewer layers (three to four) and are rendered more stylized and less realistic than Catherine’s veil.

Fig. 1
The face of Catherine De Beauchamp, countess of Warwick, enclosed in a frilled veil, featuring a fine lattice pattern, c. 1370-1375. Tomb of Catherine De Beauchamp, countess of Warwick, St. Mary's Church, Warwick. Photo: Catharina Oksen, by permission.

At least a dozen of other examples of this same type of headwear can be seen in contemporary artwork. The earliest known example of the honeycomb-pattern in headwear is dated to 1356. On the western north-portal of the Münster in Ulm, Germany, we can see Saint Mary wearing a veil consisting of three layers of fabric somehow attached onto each other. (Fig. 2)Other examples of this type of veil construction can be seen on sculptures in England, Flanders, Germany and Denmark.

Fig. 2
The Virgin Mary wearing a honeycomb veil consisting of three layers of fabric, 1356. The western north-portal of the Münster in Ulm, Germany. Photo: Isis Sturtewagen.
This type of frilled headwear, as discussed above, is often believed to be a mere stylisation, and was in reality no more than a pile of fluted fabric layers.
Several authors, on the other hand, interpret the honey-comb veil as being a sewn fretwork of layers of fabric. This technique is a method used during the 16th and 17th century for making frilled cuffs and collars. I have experimented with several methods to obtain the 'honeycomb' effect, as well as methods to achieve the single layered frilled veil Catherine wears on top of her fretwork veil.
Fretwork can be obtained by sewing several layers of fabric together at one edge in a certain manner. I first experimented with this technique by trying to reconstruct a sample of the veil as it can be seen on the western nord-portal of the Münster in Ulm. (Fig. 3)After that I did several samples of possible variations on the method described above, to achieve an effect similar to the one seen on the tomb of Catherine de Mortimer, and other sculptures showing veils of the same type. A sample of one of the experiments trying to reconstruct Catherine's veil can be seen in Fig. 4.

Fig. 3
Experimental sample of the veil of Saint Mary as seen on the western north-portal of the Münster in Ulm, Germany. Photo: Isis Sturtewagen.

Fig. 4
Sample (reconstruction) of a possible construction method for Catherine's frilled veil based on 16th century sewing techniques. Photo: Isis Sturtewagen.
A more detailed and thorough report of my research to this subject will be published in the book 'Trimmed with Frills: Crimped, frilled and ruffled edges in women's headwear in medieval and early modern times'.

Select bibliography
Dahl, Camilla Luise: Kruseler og Krusedug. Herolden, årg. 9, nr. 2, 2005(a), pp. 14-19.

Lehnart, Ulrich: Kleidung und Waffen der Spätgotik, teil II. 1370-1420. Karfunkel Verlag Wald-Michelbach, 2003.

Liebreich, Anne: Der Kruseler im 15. Jahrhundert. Zeitschrift für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde. 1. Band der neuen Folge, Jahrgang 1923 – 1925. Verlag von Walter de Gruyter & Co. Berlin, pp. 218 – 223.

Norris, Herbert: Costume and fashion. Vol. 2. Senlac to Bosworth 1066-1485. London: Dent, 1950.

Rady, Ottilie: Der Kruseler. Zeitschrift für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde. 1. bd, Neuen Folge, Hft. 5. Jahr. 1923-25. Verlag von Walter de Gruyter & Co. Berlin, p. 131-136.

Scott, Margaret: A Visual History of Costume: The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. B. T. Batsford Ltd. London, 1986.

Steenbuch, Lene: Et rekonstructionsforsoeg af det krusede lin, kruseler, In: Herolden, årg. 9, nr. 2, 2005, pp. 20-21.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Whitework sampler

This is my first "sketch" for the Feldbach tablecloth. The creature on the right is outlined using stem stitch, and I think I like that better. Below is a picture of this part of the tablecloth, from das Stickereiwerk. Next, I'm going to try the "rectangular" border below. It is done in interlacing stitch/ orientalischer Flechtstich. Help, it looks difficult :-) I found a picture of a 14th century German whitework wallhanging with the exact same border, so maybe this type of border was quite common.

Another 14th century tablecloth

I found this picture on Gunvor's website:

It looks nice, with the fringe and all!

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