Since I had the advantage of being able to take part in not just one but TWO brigandines in the collections at the Livrustkammare, I feel that it would be wrong to withhold you the second, when the first one seemed to be so appreciated.
This brigandine is a supposed to be a war booty from Warsaw 1655-08-30 when the Swedes brought a number of booty home to Sweden. It’s dated to the 16th century. The brigandine consists of a very vivid deep red silk velvet and on the inside there are a large number of overlapping steel plates riveted to the velvet. The plates are small and thin, ca. 3 x 2 cm. They are homogeneous and finely worked. There are also traces of a linen fabric between the velvet and the metal. The rivets that join the plates together are round-headed brass rivets. The brigandine ends at the bottom with cut tabs. The flaps have raw edges and are very coarsely sewn, with what appears to be a yellowish silk thread. The closing device has been on the side of the garment, but this is now missing. The front piece measures in length 64 cm and in width 81 cm.
I only had the opportunity to see the front of the brigandine, the back part was in another box. But since there are pictures taken on this for the database, I have chosen to also include these. Sometimes it turns out that the older pictures can tell that an object has changed a bit over time, even since it was first photographed.
The brigandine deserves a more thorough review later on and there is every reason to return to it. Feel free to collect your questions here in the comments so I can look at it on occasion.
Link to the front in the database and link to the back
Today I had the pleasure of getting a quick look at an exciting object in the collections at Livrustkammaren. Here are therefore a few short observations that I noted and you must be forgiving since it’s far from a complete article. It is an object that is entered in the database as brigandine or as it is called in Swedish “liv-jacka” where liv means upper body. In short, this is a protective garment to wear on the upper body. The brigandine is constructed in one piece and buttoned at the side and over the shoulders.
The outer layer is a grass green silk velvet. Under this velvet fabric is a thin layer of goat or sheep skin and on the back of this, a large number of steel plates. These are overlapping and the entire inside of the brigandine is covered.
The edges are covered with strips of linen. The strips are cut at an angle, there may also be some straight cuts of the linen strips. The rivets are beaten through both the fabric and the leather and there appear to be leather washers under the rivet head on the front. However, these are today very small, either they have been damaged and fallen off or they have always been small, it is not possible to determine.
The tablet woven belt in silk is unusual for it’s time and has had patterned borders. 23 tablets are required to weave this.
The bottom part is incomplete and it’s difficult to know the original shape. According to the database the brigandine seems to be produced in Arboga, Sweden in the 1560-ies.
The brigandine is a fantastic object and I hope we have the opportunity to return to it and analyze it more carefully in the future.
Bees wax. Sewing wax to be precise. It’s difficult to know people used sewing wax during the Middle ages, but a small lump of wax have been found at Läckö, Sweden. It’s both calming a charming to see that the historical person that once slid the linen thread over the wax created the same trace in the wax that we do today. This piece of wax shows in a wonderful way a contact with a human hand, even if the time elapsed is at least half a millennium.
The wax is from the collections of the Swedish History museum.
1- sorry for mixing days up for all you advent calendar people. 2- wax is an absolute necessity in the sewing box. Waxing linen thread before sewing starts is important so that the thread does not wear out more than necessary. That is why wax is very important in our sewing kit.
/ Amica and Maria
Photos by: Historical Textiles CC-by please cred if sharing the pictures
Silk embroidery on linen or hemp fabric. From the latter part of the Middle Ages, there are several different embroideries with silk thread embroidered on a linen base. Here is a sudarium sewn in with double running stitch. Made by the Birgittin sisters in Vadstena, Sweden. We love the fact that one row of stitches seems like it was never finished… Bonus- a very cute silk band.
In the collections of the Swedish History museum.
We love silk on linen or hemp fabric. And double running stitch is very simple. Just follow the threads in the fabric and create your own cushion, handkerchief or purse.
/ Amica and Maria
Photos by: Ingela Wahlberg. First 3 and the second 2 Historical Textiles CC-by please cred if sharing the pictures
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.
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.
Gilt leather embroidery. These embroideries are as simple as they are ingenious. The same pattern shape is cut out of two different colored pieces of fabric. Most often, this is a mythological animal. Then the cut pieces change places and are sewn on with small whip stitches, edge to edge. A thin linen thread has been used for the medieval embroidery. A thin gilded leather strip is then sewn over the joining seam, also this one with whip stitches. Strips are also used for decorative elements on embroidery and of course applications, which we have already written about. Here ve can see two griffons from the Skepptuna coverlet. The animals are individually decorated.
The Skepptuna coverlet is C-14 dated to the latter part of the 15th century early 16th century. And can be found in the collections of the Swedish History museum.
When making embroideries you need to work with fulled wool fabrics to be able to make tiny stitches without fraying the edges since you work with basically 0 seam allowance. We like the Melton quality sold by Medeltidsmode. (scroll down) they offer a mix of colours. The white dyes very good if you are into plant dyeing. Even smaller pieces work good as a test piece. Why not make a fancy pin cushion or a purse when trying out the technique?
Fulled fabrics. The fabrics during the Middle Ages were often fulled. When fabrics from that time is found in the ground, the majority of the nap is often gone. That means the fabrics that we find give a different surface then the fabric originally had. Also fabrics other than archaeological, may have lost a lot of its fulled surface. Here we can see some evidence of that.
The examples are both from gilded leather coverlets, where the gilded strip ( or a twisted linen strip) has fallen off and exposes a fabric that has significantly more nap than the rest of the fabric. Both fabrics are dated to 15th or 16th century.
Down. A material that we know was used a lot during the Middle Ages. Not very many down filled items are still around. But luckily we have a few cushions in Sweden, still filled with down. Or at least what we believe is down. They have not been opened… yet.
The weight and the fluffiness feels like down. And sometimes even a small down find it’s way out though the cushion fabric. As in this case with the lovely gilded leather embroidery cushion from Aspö church.
Dated to late 15th century. Possibly also early 16th century. Now in the collections of The Swedish History museum.
Today’s post is a very basic but very important item, a band or a ribbon. This small band in linen have served it’s owner well. Today it’s very little of it left. Woven in single spun linen thread. Most likely in a rigid heddle. Just 8 mm wide.
It’s a small find from the Secret Italian collection. Dated 1470-1530
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