Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A pouch in Or Nué technique

This post is also the documentation I wrote for this piece of embroidery.

A pouch in Or Nué technique

I decided to embroider this pouch because I wanted to show the orders in which I am a member of in a fitting way. I decided on Or Nué, because it was a technique that I hadn’t tried before. Or Nué has always seemed too complicated and hard to learn, but I wanted to try it. I decided to make a pouch because it would be a useful piece where one can showcase embroidery. The two sides of the pouch would give a perfect reason to make two different patterns on one piece. The most important reason is of course the fact that a pouch is not a big item and can be finished in a reasonable time, even when the technique used is time consuming.

The Panache pattern was pretty straight forward, I only used the prettiest heraldic feathers I could find. As the embroidery technique is fairly late period, I could take later period heraldry to take the feathers from. The Lindquistringe dragon is a bit more complicated. I took inspiration from the existing embroidered badge of the Order of the Dragon, now on display in the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, to make my own dragon pattern. 

Or Nué

The Or Nué embroidery technique is simple in principle: the gold thread is couched down in horizontal lines covering the whole embroidered area by irregularly placed colored silk threads. The picture will be formed with the couching stitches which are used to form areas of different colors over the gold thread. The spacing of the couching stitches can either leave no gold, glints of gold or a lot of gold to shine on the embroidery, depending on the skill and the wish of the embroiderer. This, as well as the subtle color changes in the couching silk thread, can be used to a great shading effect where needed. (Synge 2001)
Or Nué technique was developed in the 15th century, probably originating in Flanders (Synge 2001, Schmidz‐von Ledebur 2010) and reached its peak in Italy and Flanders during the 16th century. The greatest surviving examples of this technique are the Netherlandish mass vestments of the Order of the Golden Fleece, founded in 1429, which are now on display in the Treasury Museum in Vienna. (Synge 2001, Staniland 1991)


The materials that were used in this type of embroidery were of the highest quality. The ground fabric was fine dense linen, the embroidery thread un‐spun filament silk. The gold thread was usually very fine and thin and used in double rows when couching. (Bauer 1989)

The fabric I used was silk, because I wanted the pouch to be made according to certain religious rules (dating back to the pre‐medieval times) which restrict plant and animal fibres to be mixed in the same work. Silk was the only animal fibre I could find at the time fine enough to work as the original linen background fabric would.

As the gold thread I used non‐tarnish gold passing thread nr. 5 from The Hedgehog Handcrafts internet shop. This proved to be a mistake, as the thread is too thick and made the finished embroidery very stiff even when used in single gold lines instead of the usual double lines. The gold thread used in this type of embroidery should be much thinner.

For the couching stitches I used colored filament silk threads which were as close to un‐spun thread as I could find. It is usual to mix the terms filament and un‐spun together. Filament silk refers to a thread that is made with unbroken silk fibres and it can be either spun (i.e. twisted) or un‐spun, in which the fibres run parallel to each other and the thread has not been twisted. The un‐spun thread gives the embroiderer a wider range of control over the thread when working with fine silk. The silk I found in internet shop was fine filament silk that had been twisted together from two strands of un‐spun silk threads giving it almost the same properties as pure un‐spun silk. The cord on the finished pouch has been made with thicker spun filament silk threads.

The Or Nué embroideries were often richly decorated with pearls and stones. (Synge 2001, Schmidz‐von Ledebur 2010) I decided to decorate my Lindquistringe dragon with a pearl eye. I used a glass pearl because I didn’t happen to have a freshwater pearl that would have been small enough for the dragon’s eye. Glass has been used as substitute to stones and pearls in existing period pieces of Or Nué embroideries (Bauer 1989) and the eye of the dragon in the badge of the Order of the Dragon was also made with a glass bead. (Staniland 1991)


The embroidery was a learning experience. I noticed that it is sometimes hard to keep the gold thread lines straight and parallel to each other, when the amount of silk over them changes according to the pattern. I made the Panache side first, and after making the lower half of it with stitching the gold and making the color pattern at the same time, I switched to stitching down the gold with the back ground color grey and outline color black until all gold was couched down and adding the other colors on the feathers later. This speeded up the work considerably, as I didn’t have to tackle so many different color threads at the same time as the gold thread. I continued this on the Lindquistringe side as well.

While I was making the second side of the pouch I tried different ways of doing the stitches in rows to find the optimal way to save thread. This also meant almost no jumping from one place to the other with the needle on the reverse side of the work, so that at most I had nine different threads and needles

in use at the same time to couch down the gold, changing needle every time there was a space between stitches. I learned a lot about saving thread and tackling with many threads at the same time.

The first side of the pouch took me about 250 hours of work. The second side was faster, as I had learned how to work faster and took about 150 hours. Finishing the pouch took still a bit, about 10h making the total amount of work hours put in to this piece about 410 hours.

I’m fairly happy with my work. I learned a lot while making this piece and the end result is beautiful even if not perfect. I’m considering adding a couple of tassels on the lower corners of the pouch to make it a bit more spiffy.


Bauer, R. The Burgundian Vestments, in Krimstad, K (ed.) The Conservation of Tapestries and Embroideries, Proceedings of Meetings at the Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique Brussels, Belgium September 21‐24, 1987, The Getty Conservation Institute, The J. Paul Getty Trust, Tokyo, Japan,1989
Schmidz‐von Ledebur, K. Der Messornat des Ordens vom Goldenen Vlies: Sticker im Dienste der burgundischen Herzöge, in Bergemann and Stauffer (ed.) Reiche Bilder ‐ Aspekte zur Produktion und Funktion von Stickereien im Spätmittelalter, Beiträge der internationalen Fachtagung des Deutschen Textilmuseums Krefeld und des Zentrums zur Erforschung antiker und mittelalterlicher Textilien an der Fachhochschule Köln, 2010.
Staniland, K. Medieval Craftsmen – Embroiderers, British Museum Press, London, 1991.
Synge, L. The Art of Embroidery – A history of Style and Technique, The Royal School of Needlework, Woodbridge, 2001.

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