Saturday, April 25

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.

Monday, April 20

What my weekend has been about...

Experimenting with all the achievable varieties of one and the same frilled veil. They seem endless.
I'm just giving a sneak preview in the photo's: my thesis will have lots more on this subject :)

Sunday, April 19

Thesis stress strikes

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

Saturday, April 18


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

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

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

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 8

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 7

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.

Sunday, April 5

Silk yarns: a comparison

I thought, now that I have done some embroidery in filament silk, that it would be interesting to do a detailed comparison between yarn types and medieval originals.
In the images above you can see a comparison of modern spun silk, modern filament silk, and medieval filament silk. You will notice that the modern filament silk is much more similar to the medieval original. On original medieval embroideries in most cases you can not tell if the yarn is S- or Z-spun, which is an important characteristic to loose twist filament silk.
The original shown in the above photo's is a reliquary purse from Maastricht, dated ca. 1300.
Filament silk is made by reeling one continuous silk fibre from the silk cocoons and plying those together to form one thread. This results in very strong yarn, since one firbre is over 1 km long.
After the reeling process shorter fibres stay behind. When these are combed they can be spun into yarns. This results in a less strong and less shiny yearn.
A discription of the silk reeling process can be found here.

Filament silk

  • basic characteristics: very strong, shiny, very even thread
  • suitable for period embroidery, narrow wares, possibly less suitable for tassels
  • modern option: e.g. Devere Yarns - 1200 dernier silk, Au ver a Soie - Soie Ovale

Spun Silk

  • basic characteristics: less strong and shiny, not as even as filament silk
  • less suitable for period embroidery, suitable for tassels
  • modern option: e.g. Au ver a Soie - Soie d'Alger, Aurora Silk

An interesting discussion about this subject can be found on the Soper Lane forum. You can read it here. 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, April 4

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 3

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.


Wat I happened to stumble upon this morning: something of interest to all of you interested in earlier textiles:

Textiles and costume of the High Middle Ages: an article by Swiss Textile specialist
Antoinette RAST-EICHER with several very interesting archaeological finds.

Thursday, April 2

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!