Advent calendar 2021 – 24 December

Our twenty-fourth and 2021’s last Advent calendar post 2021 is:

Silk fabric. This exclusive item was a long-distance import item for us up in the northern part of Europe. But still there are many goods just produced by Bombyx mori. Silk fabrics and silk yarns. Today we turn our attention to the silk fabrics. Silk fabrics can be woven in brocades with weft of gilded threads or only with silk thread as weft. The fabrics with silk and silk is the once we are looking at today.

These often appear as bottom fabric in various embroideries. They can be in different colors but also appear in natural white.

Here we can see a thin silk fabric as the base for an embroidery. The embroidery from Söderala church is today broken and little remains of the yellow fabric. The same goes for the embroidery with Holger Knutsson’s grave coverlet. Here the silk fabric is thin and in a green-blue shade. Söderala is dated to 1350- 1499 and Holger Knutssons fabric is dated to the same period.

Both embroideries can be found in the collections of the Swedish History museum.

Silk fabrics can be used for many things. If we look at how some fabrics are depicted in art, we can assume that silk fabrics have been used. A wavy veil could very well be made of silk. Like the one depicted in the Lutterell psalter. Or those depicted in sculptures, thin as paint. Like this one from Lincoln Cathedral. Here we can see the mouth marked under a very thin cloth. So thin that we suspect that the sculptor intended to show a silk fabric.

Text sources show that silk fabrics were used as banners on the battlefields as markers for various army commanders.

A thin hand hemmed fabric of silk can serve as: the bottom of an embroidery, a bottom fabric for painting a banner or as a wavy silk veil. Or for that matter – perhaps like a shawl in modern life.

We hope you have enjoyed our Christmas calendar this year. For those of you who have also bought the physical calendar, we hope that we have also offered some inspiration on what you can do with all the different yarns, fabrics, tools and necessities. Since we have received questions about how to buy next year’s calendar, the answer is: email us at historical.textiles@gmail.com if you want to know when we were going to release next year’s calendar.

Thank you to all 12,354 readers of Historical textiles Christmas calendar 2021! Merry Christmas!

/ Amica and Maria

Photos by: Historiska, British Library

Advent calendar 2021 – 21 December

Our twenty-first Advent calendar post 2021 is:

A mix of slightly different things with the common denominator “a thin two-plied wool thread”. First in our batch is a tablet woven band from Gotland. Dated 800-1100 AD. Today the band is exhibit in the new exhibition The viking world. The exhibition text says: “Tablet woven ribbon of wool with individual turns. Woven with a two-plied wool yarn where the thread’s high twist gives the pattern a certain depth. The ribbon is woven with twelve tablets. The two edge tablets on each side are threaded with four threads in each tablet, while the pattern tablets are only threaded with two threads in each. The lack of threads causes a relief pattern to occur during weaving. The pattern is obtained by turning the tablets individually so that the missing threads end up in a specific pattern. Width 0.8– 0.9 centimeters, preserved length 28 centimeters. This ribbon from Gotland differs from the ribbons found in Birka as the latter have silk in the warp and picked pattern elements in gold or silver thread. Part of depot finds “in pasture”, from Lilla Ringome, Alva parish, Gotland.”

The second find is a find that is interpreted as a cushion. Grave find from Birka, Bj739, Adelsö parish, Uppland.
Hhere we can see something as unusual as clear colors on an archeological textile. Both red-purple, blue-black and yellow. The weaving technique is tapestry and soumak. Dating 800-1100 AD

The last picture is from Lödöse. Here we can see a small piece of a finger loop braid. Made with two different colours on the wool yarn. Dated to 13-14century.

The viking age finds are from the collections of the Swedish History museum.

The 20/2 wool thread is versatile and can be used in many projects such as, tablet weaving, embroidery, sewing, braiding and more. It dyes really good and we always try to have a range of colours when working. The pigments we use are madder, cochineal as a kermes substitut, indigo and woad, birch, weld, tansy, walnut, gall apple. Together with alum, cream of tartar, iron and pH-modifier we can produce countless nuances.

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 19 December

Our nineteenth Advent calendar post 2021 is:

Items sewn from linen or hemp cloth. There are countless things preserved to our day of just linen or hemp. Unfortunately, there are 10,000s of times more that have not been preserved to this day. But we know enough myclet to be able to say what these fabrics looked like. Linen and hemp are almost entirely woven in plain weave. In cases where they are woven in another technique, it is a twill variation. These are always for towels. Old towels can sometimes be found as, among other things, as embroidery bottom fabric.

Here we can see trust different mixed images. A mended knitted sock, a coif, a mended alba, a sudarium x 2, a chasuble and an appliqué M.

Linen and hemp are both bast fibers and are very difficult to distinguish with the naked eye only. They have the same characteristics. The fiber has high tensile strength but less good wear resistance. It gets stronger in the wet state. We use both linen and hemp in our reconstructions. A piece of 50 x 75 cm works well as a veil, or as an embroidery base, or as lining in a garment etc.

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 16 December

Our fifteenth Advent calendar post 2021 is:

To unknown backside of the Ärentuna embroidery. Ärentuna is not one but two different embroideries. The big piece have red contours and the small piece have brown contours. They are made in the same pattern but in different colors. This is most likely a recycled bit from another embroidery. The yarn is a wool yarn.

The cushion is dated to 14-15th century. And the original is in the collections of the parish.

When making embroideries it’s a good idea to have many colors in to work with. We plant dye our threads ourself and to make brown we use walnut, sometimes in combination with iron to get a really dark nuance.

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 15 December

Our fifteenth Advent calendar post 2021 is:

A selected mix of medieval embroidery with applications made in different fabrics. The medieval gilt leather embroideries often have several different fabrics, often in different colors and in different qualities.
Here we can see applications from the coverlet Dalhem 1.
The Ilsbo coverlet, unlike Dalhem 1, does not have gilt leather strips on the edge but twisted linen strips.
Skepptuna have lovely hearts in gilt leather. Masku coverlet have cute flowers in purple.

There is also a chasuble with nice little applications on. It has silk, wool fabric, gold thread and wool yarn in a wonderful mix. The wool yarn is used a bit as a contour or here as a stem.

Bonus is the Bexheda coverlet, also this embroidery has gilt leather strips on the edge and appliqués in fun colors. This one is not 15th century as the others but from the 17th century. So the tradition lives on.

Applique embroidery is not a Swedish phenomenon, but since we have access to museum collections here, we often write about it, but there is a fine embroidery from today’s Germany. The Tristan wall hanging that is available at V&A is a wonderful example of just application. This embroidery is dated to the latter part of the 14th century and it is easy to see that the people in the embroidery have fashion clothes from the era. This one also have silk embroidery and additional spangles. And of course gilt leather.

Dalhem 1 and Skepptuna and the chasuble can be found in the collections of the Swedish history museum. Ilsbo can be found in the collections of the museum of Hälsingland. Masku can be found in National museum in Helsinki. Bexheda can be found in the collections of Kulturparken Småland.

Small pieces of wool fabric are invaluable when embroidering appliqué. If you also want to embark on embroidery with gold leather, gilt leather strips are very necessary. Even small pieces of gilt leather are good to have! Pieces of wool are also very good to have if you are going to repair clothes that have broken. Maybe you need to repair a hose? Then put on a patch! It can feel fancy to have a plant dyed patch under your foot.

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 13 December

Our thirteenth Advent calendar post 2021 is:

A selection of spindel whorls. All made out of lead. Lead spindle whorls are found all over Europe during the Middle ages. They seems to vary in style over time. Here you can see a number of spindle whorls from a private collection. All in lead. from 6 grams up to 42grams. Both flax and wool have been spun with spindled whorls like these.
Did they only use lead during the period? No. Spindel whorls comes in a number of different materials. Femoral heads, horn, ceramics, amber, tin, stone are even wood. The most durable materials are the ones that can withstand degradation best and therefore they are just common among the archaeological finds. Few of tin and wood have survived to our days. The whorls on the pictures are dated from the 800. 1400 AD. They are all found in Germany and England. The sticks are rare and have off course a secondary use as firewood.

We like to spin on spindles. But we are staying off the lead when making whorls ourself. The singel whorl on the picture have been measured and have been modelling for us when we have made a copy of that one, but in tin rater than lead. A stick is also needed when spinning. That can be a simple stick carved by yourself or you can get one fancy stick made by our friend Helena Åberg. The stick on the picture is a simple sushi stick…

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 9 December

Our ninth Advent calendar post 2021 is:

Once again a detail from the Ärentuna cushion. But this time we focus on the bottom weave. It’s a linen , or hemp, fabric. Quite coarse and very evenly woven. It measures 8 threads per centimeter in both warp and weft, making it perfect for counted embroidery. The thread in the weave is a single thread. If you look closely on the bottom fabric you can see the imprints of the now missing embroidery.

The cushion is dated to 14-15th century. And the original is in the collections of the parish.

We use a 8th/cm in our reconstruction of the Ärentuna embroidery. If weaving a narrow weave with this thread count one could for an example use that narrow weave and make a small purse in counted embroidery.

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 8 December

Our eight Advent calendar post 2021 is:

A detail from an Icelandic wool embroidery. The embroidery is an antependium and is in really good condition consider it’s age. The technique is surface couching. The background is a linen fabric.

” Laid and Couched Work, is a form of embroidery where a thread (usually wool ) is laid on a ground fabric (usually wool or linen ). This stitch is created by laying a set of ground threads, that work from one side of the pattern to the other. Over these threads, in the opposite direction, are laid another set of threads at regular intervals . These cross threads are then held down by a series of couching stitches . The whole process results in an area completely covered in thread. This technique allows for large areas of pattern to be covered very quickly.” ref. Historical needlework

The yellow wool thread have faded over time, as yellow does, and was originally much brighter. The wool thread is thin and 2-plied.

The embroidery is dated to the 14th century.

We dye our own wool thread to be able to get a thin thread with a bright yellow. Reseda is the plant we use, as they did in the Middle ages too. To get is really neon-yellow, we add a small amount of ammonium. They used urin.

Today the embroidery can be found in the collection of National museum of Denmark.

/ Amica and Maria

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Advent calendar 2021 – 7 December

Our seventh Advent calendar post 2021 is:

Sewing needles from the lake Furen, Sweden. They come in many sizes. Many of the needles have corroded badly over time and are difficult to separate from one another. The have round eyes and are very delicate and a sign of hand from a skilled crafts person.

The needles are dated 1100-1499 AD.

When sewing one need to have a good needle. To be able to press the metal through the fabric it needs to be sharp and have a small eye. A good steel needle is possibly to sharpen. Therefor we choose needles of high quality when sewing. A good tool makes the task more fun.

Today the needles can be found in the collections of the Swedish History museum. 

/ Amica and Maria

Photos by Swedish History museum. 

Advent calendar 2021- 4 December

Our forth Advent calendar post 2021 is:

A detail from the Ärentuna cushion embroidery. The embroidery contains wool yarn of many colors on a plain linen weave. Also a white 2-plied thread. Since the white yarn contained more lanolin than the dyed yarns, the moths have prioritized the undyed yarn when feasting on the wool. Therefore the white and the brown yarn are badly damaged on the embroidery.

The cushion is dated to 14-15th century. And the original is in the collections of the parish.

We are working on a reconstruction of the Ärentuna embroidery. And we use a natural white wool thread, 8/2 in our reconstruction. It’s very alike with the original.

/ Amica and Maria

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