Friday, November 30, 2012

The Bling and Sparkle

In June I managed to get information about Gottfried’s upcoming Laurel elevation in October. I’m so happy that I had the time to make the gift I had planned for that eventuality. There is a portrait of Ottheinrich, Prince of Pfalz, painted by Barthel Beham in 1535. I knew that the gold embroidered collar that Ottheinrich is wearing in the portrait is one of Gottfried’s favourites. I wanted to embroider it for him.

Portrait of Ottheinrich, Prince of Pfalz, Barthel Beham, 1535

Portrait of Ottheinrich, Prince of Pfalz, Barthel Beham, 1535, detail

I studied the portrait in detail, to figure out what kind of embroidery it was. I also took a look at other late period German portraits with embroidered collars. I will write about them later. The gold is obviously couched, but there is clearly a pattern on it, that is a part of the gold surface. I looked at other existing embroideries and decided, that if one would paint a raised (3D) gold embroidery, it would propably look like the pattern in the portrait. 

Raised gold embroidery on a chasuble, Italy 1500, in the collection of Bavarian National Museum on Munich.
(Picture by me, 2010)

So, I drafted a little simplified version of the collar pattern. I had to put it into two pieces to be able to fit it in my embroidery frame. Therefore there is a seam at the neck, but I didn’t think that was a big problem.

I had the gold thread ready, because I was working on another gold embroidery using the same thread. It is gold coloured metal strip wound on a cotton core (since I couldn’t afford the real gold on silk core). Now I know that the thread is a little too thick for this, but it works well enough. Next time I would take much thinner thread. I ordered freshwater pearls and gilded sequins to be added later.

The first task was to make the padded surface, which I stitched on the linen fabric with linen sewing thread.

Linen padding on linen ground.
(Picture by me, 2012)

Then started the most time consuming part of this work, couching in the gold. I had not done raised gold work before and learned quickly, that it is very important to keep the tension on the gold thread constant, not too loose and not too tight, othervice you’ll either get bumps on the surface or loose the crispiness of the edges of the raised pattern. The gold is surface couched in yellow filament silk. I timed how long does it take to make one row of the gold: approximately 15-25 minutes.

 Gold embroidery in progress.
(Picture by me, 2012)

Gold embroidery done.
(Picture by me, 2012)

After the gold was done, I was already on the safe side. I had feared that I wouldn’t finish this piece in time, but in the end I had about three weeks left when I finished it. Sewing on the sequins and pearls was fairly fast job. Then I had to sew the two pieces together and add the gold cord to finish the edges and on top of the seam. The cord is made from the same gold thread by only twisting two threads together while sewing them on. After that I could add the sequins and a pearl on the neck over the seam to make it a continous pattern.

Now was the time for the last finishing touches. I added a piece of linen to cover the back of the embroidery and made two buttons by sewing 5 pearls tightly into a cluster. The buttons were sewn on the collar and the loops were made of the same gold thread twisted into a cord.

Tadah! All of 111 hours of work in one piece:

(Picture by me, 2012) 

(Picture by me, 2012)

The three weeks I had before giving the collar to it’s recipient were spent in a haze. I had to go back to this piece to just touch it from time to time. It’s my baby! I hope to see it soon used on a shirt, which Gottfried will have to make himself.

What I learned from this project: 
- It can be done, it just takes time. 
- Embroidering a raised pattern isn’t as hard as it looks like, but I need to practice more of it. 
- It’s good to keep track of how much time you have put into a piece of work. 
- Finishing touches really make a huge difference. 

And finally, I learned that it is possible not to want to give away something. This is the first time in my embroiderer life, that I have had it hard to give away something. At least I know that my baby got a good home and I have the possibility to see it every once in a while.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finishing things that should have been finished long ago.

This project has been going on for some time, since I put it down many times to do something else. I had wanted to make a present for Freiherr Gottfried for his Baronial investiture, but I didn't have enough time to finish it before the said event. His Lady, Baroness Magdelena got her present at the investiture, but he got his quite a lot later...

So What to make for a landsknecht? Not much to embroider there. He had some time ago finally got his coat of arms registered, so I decided to make him a banner with his arms on it. I managed to do some research on the subject, with Gottfried's and Magdelena's friendly assistance (He did not yet know about the project at that time).

A heraldic banner:

Landsknecht banners were very big and they look to be very thin as well. I think silk painting would be a better way to make them, but there are examples of heraldic banners made with embroidery or applique, so I felt it safe to stitch it, and so I did. I was a little worried about the weight of the seams, though. Would they effect the way the banner flyes?

An embroidered and appliqued heraldic banner at the Museum of Miltenberg, Germany. More information to follow soon.
(Pictures by Annika Madejska, 2011)

An embroidered and appliqued heraldic textile at the German National Museum in Nuremberg, Germany. This is an example of a medieval original textile of unknown origin. It was regarded as Charlemagne's flag before it was sewn into a tabard during the 19th century
(Pictures by me, 2012)

On to the planning stage! So, how was his coat of arms? HOLY COW! Couldn't he pick any more unstitchable arms? Well, I can do this. I hope.


So. I started with ordering some samples from, since I don't know much about silk and needed to touch the fabric to decide what type would be best. (Nice service from them, by the way. Unfortunately their site is only in Finnish.) They didn't have the colors I needed of the fabric I picked (Crepe de China), so I ordered enough of white and dyed it myself. I used modern commercial dyes.

The grey was tricky, since I had to figure out how much of the black dye I should use to get a light grey, but I managed to do it, to my great surprize.

It was horrible to cut the silks into so many small pieces. I had no idea if it's going to work at all. I stitched the top part together with the halberd on it first, that wasn't too bad... I had drafted a paper pattern of the banner to know how the background should be constructed, and stitched black and yellow striped strips of required lenghts. The seams are sewn with back stitch and seam allowances layed flat with whip stitch. The sewing thread had to be switched from black to yellow everywhere where the fabric color changes, to have the right side of the banner neat. The seam allowances have to be folded on the black side of the seam, or it will show through the yellow.

The strips were then connected into a rectangle, the top part was added and the Griffin was sewn on. That was an adventure in itself, since tracing the animal on the very thin silk was not easy at all, and I almost run out of fabric since I wanted to cut him as one piece. (That is why his other leg is smaller than the other.) The Griffin was first sewn on with a running stitch, then the edge was sewn on the background with whip stitch, the running stitch was removed and the background cut out behind the Griffin. After that I secured the cut seams on the background fabric and sew the edges on the griffin again with whip stitch. The detail lines on the Griffin are painted. I had thought of stitching them with thin strips of the black silk I had saved from cutting the seam allowanses, but in the end I got lazy and ditched that idea. Then it was "only" cutting the edges streight and hemming them. Due to the strip construction, the edges are on bias, so this was not as easy as it sounds like. The final measurements: 2m x 2m.

The finished banner:
(Picture by me, 2012)

He finally got the banner over a year after his investiture, but I hope it was worth the wait. He seemd to like it. And the banner got it's first test the next day, when it was first used in a very windy weather and then someone had removed it from the tent where it was put to be safe in case of rain and it got drenched during the night. Well, no ripped seams or bleeding of colors as I had feared, so all is well.

Here you can find a picture of me with the banner.