Showing posts with label pouches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pouches. Show all posts

Thursday, March 15

Embroidery in the exhibition "Splendour and glory of the Middle Ages

A few weeks ago, we were in Koln, Germany, to visit the Exhibition "Splendour and glory of the Middle Ages", in the Schnutgen Museum. And finally, I've got time to show you some of the embroidery highlights.

The embroidery fragment in the museum flyer is a close-up from this 14th century brick stitch pouch.

This 14th century pouch is one of my favorites. It's embroidered in gold, with a little dog in 3D, and it's got a mesh cover. This pouch is part of the collection of the Kölnischen Stadtmuseum, where it is usually on display. It is described extensively in the book “Mittelalter in Köln: Eine Auswahl aus den Beständen des Kölnischen Stadtmuseums”.

The images above are from the Bildindex. This site has wonderful pictures, but it's quite difficult to browse. For some reason, I can't link back to the images. I know that you can use the RBA code (see caption in the images) to browse, but I don't know how... If you happen to know some tips & tricks for browsing the Bildindex, please let us know!
And finally, I really liked the “Kölner Borten”: wool and silk tablet woven bands with embroidery. The colorful designs are just lovely! This type of borders were manufactured in Koln between the 13th and the 16th century, and were mainly used to adorn ecclesiastical garments.  You can read more about these borders in "Kölner Bortenweberei im Mittelalter. Corpus Kölner Borte" . The borders below are from ca 1450. 

image from Kultur Online

Thursday, July 14

A ca 1340 French pouch

Last week I was in Krakow, Poland, for a conference. I took some time off to visit the Wawel cathedral museum, and it was such a nice surprise to see this pouch. It's a French pouch from ca 1340, embroidered in silk and metal thread, with a lovely row of tassels :-) It measures approx. 15, 5 * 14,5 cm, height with tassels 21 cm. Now I'm really really motivated to give this type of tassels another try :-)

ps: click on the images to enlarge

ps: this pouch looks familiar to me, but I can't remember where I've seen it before. A book? A site? If anyone knows, we'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 3

Embellishing the seams of a pouch with gold thread

We haven't posted for some time, sorry! Isis just started a great new job (she'll tell you all about later), and I had a busy time at work...

I'm finishing the seams of a pouch in pink silk and gold thread. It's slow work, and I still need to finish the seams at the top. I really like doing this type of embroidery, but I'm not always concentrated enough :-).

This technique involves braiding two loops together while at the same time stitching them over a seam. We wrote tutorials about it here. Most examples of this type of braids were done in two different colors of silk, but I also found some examples in which both silk and gold thread were used:

Staufer, A. (1991), Die mittelalterlichen Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung Riggisberg, p 158, a Spanish 135th century pouch, with a braid in green silk and spun gold thread (a metalic strap wrapped around a core)

Schmedding, B. (1978), Mittelalterliche Textilien in Kirchen und Klöstern der Schweiz, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung, p 190, a 15th century Swiss pouch with a braid in spun gold thread and green silk, p 288, p 230, “Reliquienhülle” with braids in gold and blue and gold and red (long strips of brick stitch embroidered cloth, I don't know what they were used for...)

Some notes on gold thread

I think chapter 3 of Nancy Spies' Ecclesiastical pomp and aristocratic circumstance is a nice basic introduction to the different types of metal thread that could be used in the Middle Ages. She gives quite a number of references, and she also included some interesting pictures.

This is another great book, because it describes, among others how, “thin” metal thread used in pouches could be, e.g. around or less than 0.2 mm in some cases: Ceulemans, C. (1988), Tongeren. Basiliek O.L. Vrouwe Geboorte. I. Textiel van de vroege middeleeuwen tot het Concilie van Trente, Leuven: Peeters

In my pouch, I' m using 4 parallel strands of spun gold thread of less than 0.2 mm thick each. It's a metalic strap wrapped around a core. I do think it fits the picture described above, but I don't know what it's made of. I bought this thread at an antiques fair, last summer. The vendor told me it was French, but didn't know more about it. (it's the one on the left)

Here are some on-line shops which sell spun gold thread, with a % in gold or gilded silver:, e.g gold, 2 % wm smooth passing thread nr 4

I must confess that the Benton & Johnson website is a bit of a mystery to me. Has anyone ordered there yet? Does anyone know if they have the type of thread I described above?

If you know of other shops/vendors which sell spun gold thread, we'd love to hear from you! And, if you know other interesting references, we'd love to hear that too :-)

Thursday, September 9

Eyelet stitch embroidery I

Recently my attention was drawn again to this purse from Tongeren, Belgium (see more info and images here). It is dated to 1276-1300. It exists of a woollen ground fabric - as does this purse I posted about earlier this week - with silk and metal thread embroidery. The embroidery is a mix of brick stitch and eyelet stitches. Tristan from Taschen did a pattern redaction of this purse, with which I do not fully agree (I have been wanting to do a redaction myself for some time, I promise I'll do it soonish). You can find it here. His finished piece is gorgeous too! Also have a look at this detail shot.
For a long time I have thought this was the only piece of embroidery with eyelet stitches from the medieval period in Europe. Apparently not!

Just this week I was browsing the website of the Needleworkers Guild of the West Kingdom, where I bumped into this fabulous piece of eyelet embroidery here. As opposed to the purse from Tongeren this embroidery pattern is built up from eyelet stitch only. The colour photo by Catrijn shows that the piece was done in red, blue and yellow/green silk, and metalic thread. It is situated in the Uppsala Cathedral Museum. Has anyone got more information on this piece of embroidery, or interesting literature about it? Recommendations are always welcome.

Sunday, August 29

Gebroeders van Limburg Weekend, Nijmegen

Isis is finishing the seam of a pouch

This weekend, Isis and I were at the Gebroeders van Limburg Weekend in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The weather was terrible, but the public was friendly. We met some nice new people and caught up with some old friends. We even met some people who read our blog and told us they liked it. This made us very happy, thank you!!

I only managed to take one "normal" picture because, yes, the weather was THAT bad...

Wednesday, July 28

Last week, I was in Brussels where I visited the Jubelparkmuseum/Musee du Cinquantenaire

They have a lovely piece of 14th century whitework on display:

Images from

You can find these images and more in the Kikirpa database, searching for object nr 20016337

While I was browsing this database, I also found this supercute 14th century mermaid pouch. It's in the same museum, but not on display (too bad!!) (clichenr A50420):

Image from

Friday, June 11

Heraldic pouches continued

Thanks for all your comments! It's nice to know that we're in a community, doing research and craftwork together!

I really do not pretend to have the “definite” answer, but I'm inclined to think that it's embroidery rather than knitting. Chris L., thanks for pointing the Spanish pillow out to me and dropping the word “long-armed cross stitch! This reminded me of some sources that were “sleeping in my archive”. I happened to make a scan of the Spanish pillow some time ago, which clearly shows the changes in direction you refer to. The changes are not only at the edges of each square, but also occur within the heraldic motives. With my knowledge of knitting, I think it's technically not possible to change directions like this.

Image from Gomez-Moreno, M (1946), El panteon real de las Huelgas de Burgos, Madrid: Consejo superior de investigaciones cientificas, Instituto Diego Velazquez

There are two papers on long-armed cross stitch by the Westkingdom Needleworkers Guild. Do take a look at them, because they also contain pictures of the Spanish pillow and a close-up of a purse in long-armed cross-stitch which looks very similar to that blogged by Racaire (this close-up also shows the surface “ridges” which surprised me so much)

Westkingdom Needleworkers, thanks for these papers!!!

So, it may be long- armed cross stitch (or a chain stitch?), which allows you to changes directions

Racaire also suggested the technique might be similar to that used in a “Codex Manesse” pouch. I saw this pouch a few years ago, fell in love with it instantly, and made a copy myself :-). This pouch is made using “versetzter gobelinstich” and couched goldwork.

A picture and a description of the original can be found in:
Schneider, J. (1975), Textilien. Katalog der Sammlung des Sweizerischen Landesmuseums Zurich: Zurich: Verlag Berichthaus

The Cloisters Museum, New York, owns a similar purse, see here: 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

Thursday, June 10

14th century heraldic pouches: what type of stitch is this?

Racaire just posted a picture of a 14th century heraldic pouch on her blog. It reminded me of these images from the Bildindex I downloaded some time ago. Does anyone know what type of stitch is used here? I have no idea, and I even thought of knitting, but that's probably not true.. We would love to hear your ideas on this!

Wednesday, October 14

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 6

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):

Saturday, September 5

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 ...)

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 15

Interesting website: 14th century knitted silk pouches

Sophia/Susan made one of those knitted 14th century pouches. She describes how to draw a pattern and she also uploaded some great black and white pictures of the original knitted pouches (the ones with the flowers that I like so much!):

ps: this is the 100th post of medieval silkwork :-)

Friday, January 11

Braided drawstrings of 14th century knitted purses from Sion

Here's a paper on the braided drawstrings of the 14th century knitted purses from Sion, Switzerland:

The paper mentions that these purses are on display in drawers. If so, does any one know more about this? Isis and I visited Sion just to see these purses, among other things, but we couldn't find them and the museum people didn't seem to know about them either...

And in the same issue of this newsletter, there is cute picture of a fresco of the Virgin and Jesus working on fingerloop braiding together:

Wednesday, January 2

What's this?

Because I've got a new job at another university, I had to return some books that were on my desk for ages... One of those books was an absolutely fascinating book about 13th century textiles found in tombs of the Spanish monastery “ El panteon real de las Huelgas”, in Burgos:

Gomez-Moreno, M (1946), El panteon real de las Huelgas de Burgos, Madrid: Consejo superior de investigaciones cientificas, Instituto Diego Velazquez

I really like some of the pillows that were found.

In the book, these pillows were included in the chapter on embroidery, but they were described as follows: “Una segunda categoria, dificil de rastrear en sus origenes, es el punto de media, hecho con agujas, sin base alguna que recuerde el tejido” (p. 84). According to this description, they were made with the technique “punto de media, hecho con agujas”, which is some kind of crochet or knitting, made with needles. Hmm.. what would that mean... I don't really understand this part either: “sin base alguna que recuerde el tejido”. Does it mean that the pillows do not have a base that ressembles woven textiles? If it is somehow crocheted or knitted, that is quite logical. In addition, the author says that is is difficult to trace the origin of this technique, and the pillows were probably made in Andalucia.

This pillow, for example, is 28 cm, made in red, cream and grey wool. The heraldic figures are probably fantasy figures. The buttons on top of the pillow cover are interesting too (but they're not included in the catalogue description):

These pillows remind me of something completely different: a series of Swiss 14th century purses described in this book:

Schmedding, B. (1978), Mittelalterliche Textilien in Kirchen und Klöstern der Schweiz, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung

As fas as I can see from the pictures, the surface texture of both pillows and purses looks similar (but maybe that's just wishful thinking :-). Here is an example of one of those Swiss purses. Schmedding suggests that this purse might be made using a knitting frame:

These purses are so beautiful! There are also some with horiontal rows of flowers in red, blue and yellow (on top of my wishlist of “Things I'd love to try to make one day”).

Maybe it's not possible to compare objects from such different times and places, but I do wonder whether similar techniques were used to make the pillows and the purses.

If you know more about this technique, please let me know!

Tuesday, December 11

It's finished!!!!

The pouch measures 10x10cm. The tassels are about 5 cm long, each with a turk's head knot. It is embroidered with silk on a linen ground and lined with silk fabric. The seams are finished with loopbraiding and the string is made with fingerloopbraiding. On the back (not shown in the photo's here) a coat of arms is worked into the embroidery pattern. You can see the coat of arms here.

In the mean time I have someone making a square embroidery frame, based on period artwork. I can't wait to finish my other embroidery project on it!

Thursday, September 13

Another purse

Take a look at this beautiful purse from a German reenactment group:

The tassels are embroidered with gold thread, amazing!

I like the rest of their website too (both content and web design)

Saturday, August 25

Progress on the purse

Still need to finish a small piece that needs to be sewn closed with the decorative stitch, and make the fingerloop braids, and then ... it's done!