Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tablet weaving: practice run part II

Thanks for all your comments on my SOS post! This is my second attempt, in pink and white silk (1200 dernier) from Devere Yarns. This silk gives a very smooth, soft and shiny braid :-). The braid is about 1 cm in width. In the upper row, you can clearly see the point where I reversed the directions of the tablets. It's not so obvious as in my first attempt, but I'm not sure whether I like it: it really disrupts the smooth surface... I also found it difficult to maintain the tension of the weft. I guess that in my next attempt, I have to pull the weft a little tighter, because now it really shows at the edges.

(A reenactors dilemma: reversing the tablets is done in the original work, but the braid looks much better without it. To go for "authentic" or to go for "beautiful"? I'm inclined to go for beautiful...)

I want to use this type of braid to make some 14th century garters. (I've put my embroidery projects on hold and I'm currently focusing on a set of ca. 1370 clothes. )

You can find a picture of the original in
Crowfoot, E., Pritchard, F., & Staniland, K., Textiles and Clothing c. 1150-c. 1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, 4. London: The Boydell Press, p 133 braid C.
A pattern of this braid can be found here.

Recommended reading: Ecclesiastical Pomp and Aristocratic Circumstance

I just added a new book to my collection, Nancy Spies, Ecclesiastical Pomp and Aristocratic Circumstance: A thousand years of brocaded tablet woven bands. Nancy Spies tried to track and describe as much brocaded tablet woven bands as possible from the period 600-1600 (in Europe). The resulting book is a gem which offers a wealth of data.

The book consist of two parts and three appendices. In the first part, Spies describes the historical background of (brocaded) tablet weaving. She covers issues such as production, use, techniques, designs and tools. The second part is an amazing “DIY” craft manual: she describes how to weave brocaded bands (tips, tricks and trouble-shooting included) and she presents pattern draughts of a large number of bands from different museum collections, together with technical and bibliographical data of each band.

Appendix A present a list of bands by function in chronological order, very useful if you want to know more about e.g. brocaded bands used in 14th century relic pouches. Appendix B explains double-faced 3/1 broken twill, and Appendix C is a catalogue of bands listed by country, city and museum.

The book concludes with an extensive, annotated bibliography, which was put on-line by Weavershand.

The part of the book I'm reading currently deals with the analysis of metal threads (pp. 60-65). Spies discusses some really interesting references (see bibliography above), I hope I can find some of them :-).

A few posts ago, we discussed gold work on leather, and whether it was used on shoes ( I'd really love to have golden shoes, too bad that's not historically accurate for a 14th century craftswoman...). On p. 32, Spies shows a drawing of the shoes of King Philip of Swabia (1198-1208) “trimmed with brocaded tabletwoven bands sewn together with a looped stitch using gold threads.” Apparently, it could be done, if you were very rich...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tablet weaving SOS

I'm trying to practice some tablet weaving, using, among others, the great tutorial from string page here.

I'm doing a simplified trial run (sszzss) in thick cotton of the 14th century striped braid described here:

There is something I'm doing wrong, but I don't know how to correct it.

Each time I turn the tablets in reverse direction (e.g. 4 turns backward and then 4 turns forward), the weft shows through the surface. This happens only at the point where I reverse the tablets from one direction to another. (Each of my turns is one quarter of the tablet, so in 4 turns, I'm in "home position" again.) You can see this happening in the white stripe left of the pencil, where the red weft thread is visible in a way that shouldn't be...

I know the weft should not be showing, but I don't know what I'm doing wrong. If anyone knows how to solve this problem, please let me know :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rogier van der Weyden, embroidered pillows?

Yesterday I visited the Rogier van der Weyden Exhibition in Leuven, Belgium. It was interesting, with some beautiful paintings, scuplture and embroidery.

This blogpost is called embroidered pillows, because my attention was drawn by a detail from The seven sacraments (ca 1440-1445). In the left corner of the painting, where the 7th sacrament is depicted, a dying man lies in bed on a pile of pillows. When I looked at it closely, I thought that maybe the seams of these pillows were embroidered with some kind of interlacing stitch. Unfortunately, the picture of this painting in the Web Gallery of Art is not very detailed:

Seven Sacraments (right wing)

Oil on oak panel, 119 x 63 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

This type of pillow appears again in another painting by (the workshop of?) Van der Weyden: the Madonna of the dyptich of Jean the Gros. (this painting is not part of the exhibition). This time, the on-line picture is more detailed:

Portrait Diptych of Jean de Gros (left wing)

Oil on oak panel, 36 x 27 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tournai

Interlacing stitches were used to sew pieces of linen fabric together in a decorative way. There are some examples of tablecloths, and of course the cap of St Birgitte.

I wonder whether these type of stitches were also used for pillow cases? If you know more about this, please let us know!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Catherine’s world: devotion, demons and daily life in the 15th century

Museum Valkhof in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) presents an exhibition about Catherine of Cleves: Catherine’s world: devotion, demons and daily life in the 15th century.
Read more about it here.
The highlights of the exhibition are the pages of the famous Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c. 1440) from The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, which will be displayed separately. This is a unique opportunity to see these beautiful miniatures from up close :-)
The miniatures are rich in detail, for example the one below in which Catherine gives money to the poor. It's difficult to discern in this picture, but close-ups of this folio show that she's got a beautiful blue and gold/yellow alms pouch with three tassels, also in blue and gold/yellow. It also seems to have to golden/yellow knops at the sides.
image from

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kunera: a database of medieval badges and ampullae

Kunera is a database dedicated to the study of medieval badges and ampullae. In their own words:

"The website Kunera offers access to over 15.000 badges and ampullae of religious and profane subjects. The pilgrimage sites and the sites where the objects were found are mapped out visualizing the dissemination of the objects and the travel routes at a single glance."

You can find the database here:

I write about this, because I really like the badges in the form of different types of pouches from circa 1375-1425. Search for "beurs" or"purse"
and you'll find lovely badges such as this one (object 00818):

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick update from Isis

Hello dear readers!

These past months, I haven't been able to write on this blog, for which I am truly sorry.

I got a bit of a thesis whiplash, so to say :) Mr. B. has moved so I've been busy helping out with renovating and decorating the new house. I went on vacation for three lovely weeks (to France and Switserland). I visited two evens recently, one in Germany and one in Holland. I started a new study: Textile conservation and restoration, in Antwerp. My phd. proposal is slowly getting shape.
But alas, I have not made any progress on getting my thesis published yet. One: step in the right direction: before the end of this week I'm going to buy a laptop, this means I can work during long hours of train traveling! Yay :)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Museum Mayer van den Bergh

This week I visited the museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp, Belgium. It's a small, charming museum with an interesting collection of medieval art: embroidery (opus anglicanum), sculpture (wood, ivory) and paintings.

I really liked this panel from circa 1400, because of the colors and details such as the apron and the shoes. (read more about it here, go to "collections" and then "Antwerp-Baltimore")

The picture below and more nativity scenes can be found here. Too bad I can't read it, but the pictures are interesting!

Gold thread used in backstitch?

Note: please read the comments to this post for new insights

Bertus from Deventer Burgerscap told me about this nice picture of a 15th century leather pouch, embroidered in gold thread:

The embroidery used to decorate the pouch raises some very interesting questions: Is gold thread used in techniques other than couched work, i.e. techniques in which the thread disappears at the back of the work, such as brick stitch or backstitch? If so, then how is this achieved?

Usually, there are two arguments against the use of gold thread in techniques other than couched work:
1)gold thread is too expensive to be used at the back of a work, where it will not be seen
2)gold thread is not flexible enough to be used in stitches such as backstitch or brick stitch.

Still, it appears to me that in some rare cases, gold thread is used in techniques which involve sewing the thread through the fabric. The pouch above, for example, seems to be embroidered in backstitch rather than couched work.

Other examples , complete with close up pictures, of this particular use of gold thread can be found here:

Takacs, I. (2006), Sigismundus Rex et Imperator. Kunst und Kultur zur Zeit Sigismunds von Luxumburg 1387-1437., J.P. Himmer, Augsburg p 96 embroidered cloth from ca 1830 with unknown purpose/function

Tongeren, Basiliek O.L. Vrouw Geboorte. I Textiel. (1988), Leuven: Peeters. On the cover is a close up from a pouch dating from ca 1300.
See also Isis' documentation on this pouch here:

It would be nice to know more about this (rare) use of gold thread. If anyone knows more about it, please let us know!

BTW: the leather pouch is for sale. Please let me know if one of you has bought it! (it's too expensive for me ...)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Picking colours

White satin lining
Purple tassels
White turk's head knots
Ochre braids


White satin lining
Purple tassels
Ochre turk's head knots
White braids


White satin lining
Purple tassels
Red turk's head knots
Ochre braids


White satin lining
Purple tassels
Red turk's head knots
White braids

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fabric for pillows

Maria from Albrechts Bösser has been weaving some custom fabric for me, to use for making medieval bed pillows. Yesterday she posted some photo's of the work in progress on facebook. The weave is made from linen yarn with a blue/white checker pattern.
It is based on several late medieval iconographic sources, but the pattern is specificly taken from a 1370-1372 dated fresco from Tirol. Maria had tried to recreate the pattern of the pillow with black chekcs in the above photo, but with blue instead of black yarn.
I decided to have the fabric custom made after a very long search for the perfect type of checked fabric. It seemed impossible to find. There are lots of internet stores selling antique linnen with checked weaves, but the checks are mostly red, of red and blue combined on a white ground, or the pattern of the checks is just not right.
I am very happy with how Maria's work turned out, and am waiting with excitement for the moment I can hold the fabric in my hands and sew it into pillows :-).

Friday, June 05, 2009


I was just going trough some old photo's today, as I came accross the ones below. The first one is from 2004, the second from 2006 and the last from 2008. In 2004 I didn't do any embroidery but my textile work was more focussed on dyeing wool. 2006 were my very first steps in embroidery, it was also the year I started this blog. 2008 was a year of progress (notice the embroidery frame, and I also made a complete new set of clothing).

I hope to work on some of the following things this year:

* make samples of different types of embroidery to show the public

* make samples of different types of finger loop braids

* make samples of tassels

* finish a couple more purses for display

* tansfer my yarns to replica thread reels

* I could go on for a couple more hours...

But, as I applied as a freelance craftswoman for Stichting Hei (Historical Educational Initiative) I want to work on the educational aspects of my 'performance'.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

New things to read!

Look what arrived in the post yesterday! The new MT&C v. 5! I've been waiting a bit with ordering it, because of the price ticket, but now I got one secondhand from for a bargain :) And it's still in mint condition too.
I'm looking particluarly forward to reading "French Hoods: Development of a Sixteenth-Century Court Fashion" by Melanie Schuessler and "One Quilt or Two? A Reassessment of the Guicciardini Quilts in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museo del Bargello" by Sarah Randles. If I only had the French Hood article at my disposal while writing my final thesis... It would have been of great help!
For the full table of contents of this volume, click here.

ALSO: thanks a billion for all your wonderfull reactions on my last post! It has now become the most commented post of this blog! I feel totally honoured and warm inside :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's finished!

My thesis is finally finished and handed in.
I can still hardly believe I wrote a book-size work (it's about 200 pages and several ten thousands of words long) in one year time!
I will see what the possibilities are for publishing it in English. Any news on this matter will be put here on the blog to keep you all updated.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


My thesis is nearly finished. I have to hand it in coming Monday but want to have everything printed out and bound by Friday evening.
I am now in the procress of editing my text. Most work I will have on putting my bibliography in order. This afternoon will be my last visit to the library to check some dates and details on written accounts.
Below I have included the French and English summary/abstract to my thesis. If you should have any comments on the language, please leave a reaction to this post! I would be endlessly thankfull!

Avant 1350 des fichus froncés étaient utilisés couramment dans les Pays-Bas et le plus part des pays Européens. A partir d’environ 1340 devenaient en vogue des fichus bordés avec plusieurs couches de ruches et apparaît une plus grande diversité régionale dans les genres des fichus froncés. A partir de 1350 ce fichu émerge chez la noblesse des Pays-Bas et à partir des années 1360-70 elle pénètre jusqu'à la population ordinaire. Après environ 1460 la coutume de porter le ranse apparaît de disparaître chez la noblesse, par contre que chez la bourgeoisie cette coutume continue jusqu'à environ 1475 ou plus tard. Le ranse était un vêtement coûteux uniquement porté par la noblesse, les bourgeoises riches et rarement par des femmes de métier. Les occasions dans lesquelles les fichus froncés sont représentés sont essentiellement de caractère formel néanmoins pas nécessairement de caractère cérémoniel.
La comparaison de l’art bas Moyen Age avec des techniques de couture et de tissage (post-) médiévales nous permet d’acquérir une notion des méthodes de construction pour les faire. Les données sorties des recherches expérimentales nous ont offert une plus grande compréhension de la construction des fichus froncés, ce qui nous permet de mieux les classer typologiquement. En plus des expériences démontrent qu’on peut créer une très grande variété de fichus avec très peu de moyens et que le fichu froncé était un vêtement très multiple qu’on pourrait accommoder facilement à la dernière mode.
Grâce à une base de données contenant plus de 200 exemples de fichus froncés des Pays-Bas, il était possible de composer une typologie détaillée des différentes espèces des fichus de cette région.
Simple frilled veils were already in use long before the mid 14th century, in the Low Countries as well as in most other European countries. From c. 1340 onwards frilled veils with multiple frilled edges became fashionable, and a greater regional variety of types of frilled veils came to be the order of the day. Around 1350 this multilayered style first appears at the courts of the Low Countries and about 1360-70 it reached the middle classes. After c. 1460 the frilled veils seem to disappear as a noble fashion, wealthy townswomen held on to wearing them until at least c. 1475. The ranse was a precious piece of female attire that was worn mainly by noble women and the citizen elite. Rarely it can be seen being flaunted by the working class as well. The occasions at which the ransen were worn were generally of a formal nature, but were not necessarily ceremonial.
Comparisons between late medieval art en (post-)medieval sewing- and weaving techniques allow us to have some understanding of the possible construction methods used for this headwear. Experimental study has resulted in a better understanding of the construction and arrangement of the frilled veils, allowing a better typological categorisation of iconographic sources. The experiments also show that with limited resources a wide variety of veils could be achieved.Thanks to the compilation of a database containing more than 200 sources from the Low Countries it was possible to construct a detailed typology of the frilled headwear in this region.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Embroidery at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has a new online exhibition: Accessorize! with a selection of the (dress) accessories in their collections. All items in the exhibition are post medieval, but very worth your time!
In the image above are two pairs of embroidered slippers and a embroidered purse.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thesis stress strikes

... What happens after nearly 24 hours of sewing ...

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I call these my 'silly lasses'. They are illustrations to accompany the typology for my Master thesis. The writing is going slow: somehow these days I seem not in the mood for writing. I had lots of fun making these drawings though.
I made the first drawings like this for my powerpoint that accompanied my lecture in March. Now I am completing the series with the other existing types of frilled veils discusses in my thesis.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Winding up Part II

Stuttgart. Cod. Poet. 2° 2: Schachzabelbuch, 1467, fol. 196 v.

So, I found this image lingering on my computer. I made a drawing of it a couple of years ago for a friend who was writing about cloth production and needed an illustration to accompany the text. Looking at it again, I found this interesting detail in the forgeground of the scene. See the little box? It has two sticks pointing upwards with a horizontal bar in between. On the bar you can see a round disc or wheel, and on the left of the wheel a bow shaped thing. On the other side of the weel there appears to be a stick with yarn wound around it. In the box are more reels with yarn.

ca. 1509, penelope with the suitors, PINTORICCHIO, national gallery of london, Fresco on canvas, 125.5 x 152 cm
Laura made me aware of the existance of another work of art showing a very similar tool. Here the bow is missing, and the wheel isn't massive but it has four spikes connecting it to the shaft.

The bow shaped thing right a way reminded me of a bow lathe. Bow lathes were used in Medieval (and earlier) times for small turning projects, like bone beads etc. By moving the bow up and down you can turn round the object you are working on. However, with this mechanism your object also always turns in two directions: it will always turn back at you.
When winding up yarns you cannot have a mechanism that turns in two directions, because then the yarn will never be wound on the reel.

So someone with more insight in things like this could throw in some ideas?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A typology of Netherlandish frilled veils

The catalogue for my final thesis is finished. It counts 81 pages and has 201 works of art/objects featuring frilled veils in it. In those 201 objects there are to be seen 228 frilled headdresses.

Now I'm working on revising the typology of Netherlandish frilled veils I made last year. With new pictorial evidence it is now possible to make a better division between types, and to see the chronological evolution more clearly. The typology chapter will consist of small explenatory drawings showing a prototype of each subtype of frilled headwear, accompanied with a text giving more information about when and where the type was popular, and in which ways it was worn. There will also be references to the items in the catalogue of that particular type. Included in the typology chapter will be a timeline with frilled headwear types.

Ah, I got work to do!

Friday, April 10, 2009

New project: Swedish frilled veil Part II

Read part I here.

In the mean time I have ordered fine linen fabric to use for the veil.

I've been doing some calculating for the frilled veil I'm making for Maria from Albrechts Bössor. I figured the frilled edge should be ca. 70 cm long and the edge of the veil itself ca. 85 cm, in order to resemble the veil on the statue. The frilled edge will consist of two layers of fabric worked in frills of each ca. 1,75 cm wide. There will be ca. 40 pleats in total.

And now I remember where I saw this type of frills earlier. It was on this Netherlandish statue from the 15th century of St.-Anna-ten-Drieën (Saint Anne, the mother of Mary). It was made by an anonymus sculpturer, and is now in a private collection.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Frilled veils - Experiment 2

1. Mechelen, Schepenhuis, 1374-1385.
2. Hakendover, Goddelijke Zaligmaker Church, 1400-1404, statue was part of an altar that is partly preserved, but the sculpture in the photo is now stolen. You could already see a peek of this statue here.
3. Mechelen, Hof van Buysleden, late 14th or early 15th century.

These sculptures show a very similar style of headdress. On fig. 1 you can see a female head console with a single layered wavy frill on her headdres. Fig. 2 wears to layers of wavy frills on top of each other. In fig. 3 two layers of fabric are worked into one wavy frill.

Here is my reconstruction before starching, hence the pins still being in place. This is just a small sample. I didn't attach a veil part to it, just a small strip of fabric to attach the frilled edge to.

fabric = bleached linen
thread count = 26x21 / cm² (and a coarser linen for the veil-part, just what I had at hand)
width of fabric = 8 cm
length of fabric = 70 cm
length of final sample = 16 cm
pleats = small cartridge pleats of ca. 0.5cm deep, for the wavy frills I used my index finger as a diameter for the frills
Here's how I made it:
1. take a strip of fabric and sew it in tiny cartridge pleats
2. attach pleated fabric to veil
3. work the pleated edge into wavy frills using pins to hold everything in place
More detailed descriptions of all the experiments will be in my final thesis.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

New embroidery project Part III

Yesterday's progress...
The inventory with frilled headwear is now 72 pages long and nearly finished! YAY!

I also found the time to finally upload the promised pattern/information sheet on the Maastricht purse.

Find a pdf-file with the pattern and more information and photo's of the original here.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New embroidery project Part II

A tiny bit of progress! I added a touch of strawberry red and I decided the tassels of the purse should be blue. I'm not sure which type of tassels I should pick this time. Tassels with turk's head knots, pompom's with a turk's head knot or maybe even just the knots without tassels or pompoms.

We'll see :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

New embroidery project

I always seem to be doing a lot more things at moments I have very little time. It's isn't any different right now. I started a new embroidery yesterday. It's going slowly, but it is a good thing to do during my small breaks away from the computerscreen in between writing sessions.

I'm using DevereYarns loose twist 1200 denier silk. It is the first time I use this type of yarn for embroidery (I have been using it in the past for fingerloop braiding and tablet weaving), and I really love it. It is so shiny and smooth and it looks so much like the silk used on original medieval purses. Machteld did a comparison between spun and filament silk some time ago. More recently Kathy from Medieval Arts & Crafts did a comparison between different types of embroidery threads that is interesting to take a look at.
I decided I will not ever use a different type of thread to do silk embroidery ever again :-).

The pattern of the embroidery will be the same as I did on this one, except I won't be adding the coat of arms. the pattern is based on a ca. 1300 purse in the Sint Servaas treasury in Maastricht. the purse originates from the Liege/Maastricht region. I have made an information sheet on this purse in a pdf file, including the pattern and a photo of the original. I will be putting it in the new 'downloads' section on the blog soon, so keep your eyes open!

In the background you can see an image of a console from Diest, Belgium. It dates back to the second half of the 14th century.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Winding up

Winding up my naturally dyed silk yarns on reels is one of the things I have been doing these days besides writing. The spools are based on a 12th century find from London. It's the only reel find I know so far, I'd be happy to hear about other finds. Mikkel from the Danish blog Haandkraft made some really lovely reels loosely based on the same London find. In his post you will also find a photo of the original.

The yarns are, from foreground to background:
Redwood - Aurorasilk
Weld - dyed by Indra Ottich
Camomile - dyed by Indra Ottich
Madder - Aurorasilk
Cochineal - Aurorasilk
Madder - dyed by Indra Ottich
Redwood - dyed by Indra Ottich

I really like to use these yarns for making tassels and braids.

You can also see some late 14th - early 15th frilled veils in the background as well. Fragments of paper with parts of my catalogue are cluttering every table in the house!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Presentation handout

You can download the handout of Saturday's presentation here or by clicking the image.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cataloguing Netherlandish frilled veils

The first six of over 60 pages of catalogue.
The catalogue will contain over 170 works of art and objects that feature frilled veils. It will be added to my final thesis as an appendix.

I will also put the handout of my presentation last Saturday online this week, so that everyone who wasn't there can download it. It is written in Dutch but is has 30 pictures on only 8 pages to explain the text!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Courses in gold embroidery and other textile crafts

When you are in the Netherlands and looking for places to take courses or workshops in textile techniques, have a look at the following sites:


Needles4all organizes workshops and short courses in several locations in the Netherlands on a regular basis. Workshops/courses are announced on the Needles4all website and open to anyone who likes to embroider.
Needles4all's workshops and courses include: gold embroidery, needlebinding, smocking, blackwork, and more.

Creativiteitscentrum Boerderij Oud Woelwijck

This centre for creative arts offers a course in gold embroidery, taught by Ulrike Müllners, a professional textile conservater/restorator.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Frilled headwear presentation on Saturday

Here are some screenshots of my powerpoint presentation for Saturday :)

"A chest with ranssen [=frilled veils]"
Pleated and frilled headwear in the Netherlands of the Late Middle Ages

The name of a piece of female dress made of one or another fine fabric, probably a synonym of hovetcleet [=headdress], namely a bonnet or cap, that fals in folds from the face to the shoulders.

-> This is the definition that is given to the word 'ransen' in the Middle Netherlandish dictionary by Jacob Verdam.

Early examples of frilled headwear.

The places where examples of frilled headwear can be found in the Netherlands. Every dot stands for one iconographic example.
The veils themselves didn't always change much during the years. It is rather the hairdo's that change, so that a rather different image appears.


These three sculptures from Ghent once belonged to the mantlepieces of old townhouses across the city. They all wear a frilled veil and a crown-like thingy underneath it. The women on the first and last pic are wearing their hair loose, the middle one wears it in short braids. I have only seen these in the Ghent-region and not anywhere else. So they might be a very local fashion.

Has anyone ever seen anything like these crown-like things before? They seem to be made from semi-circular rosette like pieces is some kind of metal. They might be completely circular and then partly covered by the veil so that what you see is only part of the crown.
I'm anxious to know wether anyone of you has ever seen these from other places than Ghent en if you have maybe come accross archaeological finds of metal jewelry that resemble the crowns on these sculptures.

In the mean time I'm preparing a small lecture about frilled headwear for the LHO (a medieval reenactment society) on Saturday. It will be a good excercise in preparation of my thesis defendance in June.
I'm still writing crazy, so many pages still have to be put on paper before mid May!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Help! Illumination mistery

Does anyone know this image and where it comes from?
Any hints would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Mistery solved:

Illumination from the "Trojanischen Krieg"
Date: 1441
Manuscript: HS 998
Collection Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Frilled veils - Experiment 1

I am working on a new series of experiments with frills.
Here is n°1.

fabric = bleached linen
thread count = 26x21 / cm²
with of fabric = 8 cm
length of fabric = 3 x 70 cm
length of final sample = 22 cm + 4 cm fabric left over
pleats = 6 cm wide

The example is a chimney/hearth console from Bruges, in the collection of the Gruuthuse Museum. It is dated to the late 14th century.
Next to it is the first sample I did. I am not completely satisfied with the result yet. The two outer rows of frills do not stay in place as they should.

Above are some other examples of frilled veils from the Low Countries with box-pleats. The three on the top row are also in the collection of the Gruuthuse Museum in Bruges, on the bottom row the one on the left and the right are currently in the collection of the STAM museum. All date from the last quarter of the 14th century.

Above are two photo's of the progress.
More detailed descriptions of all the experiments will be in my final thesis.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


1. Sint-Michielskerk, Gent, Belgium - 13th century
2. Old townhall, Mechelen, Belgium - late 14th century
3. Village church, Eine, Belgium - 13th century
4. Village church, Eine, Belgium - 13th century

Does someone have a clue what these figures with bits in their mouths stand for? In the case of the male heads I can imagine it might have to do something with the legend of Aristoteles and Phyllis (see also fig. 2).

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and tutor of Alexander the Great, allowed himself to be humiliated by the seductive Phyllis, Alexander's favorite courtesan, as a lesson to the young ruler, who had succumbed to her wiles and neglected the affairs of state. Encouraging Alexander to witness his folly, Aristotle explained that if he, an old man, could be so easily deceived, the potential consequences for a young man were even more perilous.
Source here.

However, I can not see why women would also be depicted this way and what the meaning is that is hidden behind it.
Any information on this matter would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Women's caps

Prefix: A short version of this post is also available in Dutch. An extensive article on medieval women's caps and the cap of St. Birgitta (a Swedisch saint of the 14th century) is to be found in: Dahl, C.L. & I. Sturtewagen, 2008, The Cap of St. Birgitta, Medieval Clothing and Textiles vol. IV, pp. 99-129.

1. Maciejowski Bible

White fabric caps can relatively often bee seen on women in medieval art from the 13th to 15th centuries. Examples are known from Italy, France, The Low Countries, Scandinavia, ... These images can teach us much about how the caps were constructed and how they were worn. Fig. 3 in particluar is very interesting because we can see the ties are not two seperate ribbons, but form a loop. On fig. 4 a seam on the back of the cap is clearly visible.

2. Tacuinum Sanitatis, c.1390, Paris, BNF, MS. Lat. Acq. 1673, fol. 11r.
3. Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, Frankrijk, c.1475-1500, Glasgow University,
MS Hunter 252, fol. 186r.
4. Liturgische kalender uit Kamerijk, 1275-1300, Den Haag, KB, 76 J 18, fol. 211v.

Also written sources give information about women's caps. The word that is regularly used in Dutch witten sources is 'huve' or 'huvete'. The word 'huve' is not exclusively used for female headgear, but also for men's. For a more detailed discussion about the terminology of women's caps see Dahl, C.L. & I. Sturtewagen, 2008, The Cap of St. Birgitta, Medieval Clothing and Textiles vol. IV, pp. 99-129.

Item off twe vrouwespersonen sick onder een ander dat huvete afftogen kijflicken, dat is vijff marck, Westerw. Landr. 53, 3 (Source: Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek).
TRANSLATION: About two women who quarreled and ripped each others 'huvete' [= cap] away, that makes five 'marck' [=monetary unit].
Van huven, die sy voir mire vrouwen gecoft hadde, Oorl. v. Albr. 308 (Source: Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek).
TRANSLATION: Of 'huven' [=caps], that she had bought for my lady.
Other written sources (eg. the ca. 1370 Bruges Livre des Métiers) tell us that huves could be made in silk or in linen and that they were often worn underneath a veil, which makes total sense. This may be the cause of the fact that women's caps are much more rare in iconographic sources than the well known male coifs. However this does not necessarily mean that they were worn less regularly. Also the caps for a good base for pinning upper veils to, and they are a less labour intensive alternative to knotted silk hairnets.

5. The cap of Saint Birgitte in the Birgittine Convent in Uden, photo's by Isis Sturtewagen.
An original medieval cap (dating between the 13th and 16th centuries) is in the posession of the Birgittine Convent in Uden, The Netherlands. This cap is believed to have been Saint Birgitta's of Sweden and is kept as a relic. On this original the ties were broken, so it is not completely clear wether it were two seperate ties of one loop similar to the cap in fig. 4 however it is very probable they formed a loop. This is also how the cap was restored during the conservation in the ealry 1970's.

6. Arrangement of the cap, Medieval clothings and textiles vol. 4. Fig 6.11 p. 122

The women's caps could have been worn in different ways, depending on how long the loop was en how many times it could be wrapped around the head. The method above is the same as we can see in the Maciejowski Bible and Tacuinum Sanitatis.

7. Reconstruction of the cap of Saint Birgitta by Isis Sturtewagen (nevermind the modern clothing)
Above is my own attempt on making a women's cap. It is made out of linen and lacks the emroidery that was found on the cap of Saint Birgitte. I plan on making a silk 'huve' somewhere in the future which will have all the embroidery applied to it.
I showed you a couple of reconstructions of the cap in a previous post on this blog. Catharina Oksen (from the Middelaldercentret in Denmark) has also made a lovely reconstruction (text in Danish).

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