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
When we analyse old textiles we use simple equipment. Phones, a clip on magnifier, glass magnifier, measuring tape, ruler and in special cases we use a USB microscope. Here you can see the benefits of using a clip on magnifier. It’s a simple thing that you can buy at any IT shop that sells mouses or charger for phones.
This piece is a linen fragment from the so called The time capsule . You can find more finds related to it at our blog.
The linen fragment have got lovely decorations at the edge. We don’t know what it was before it became a fragment. A part of a veil? A towel? A table cloth? It you have any suggestions- please write them in the comments! / Amica & Maria
Together with a group of dedicated people we have recreated five large embroideries. Four of the embroideries are large coverlets, and two are large cushions. All originals, except Östra Stenby, are to be found at the museum. Since they are too fragile to be exhibited in a too well-lit room, they are not on display right now.
Two of the coverlets, Skepptuna and Dalhem 1, have been exhibited before at the museum, but three new pieces are on view for the first time. We proudly present reconstructions of Skokloster 2, Dalhem 2 and Östra Stenby. All fabrics are off course plant dyed, sewn by hand and decorated with gilt leather strips and some with white wool fabric. The new interpretations of how to use the old technique to create new art in our modern times, have been made by the group Skapande broderi Stockholm.
Here are some pictures from the opening. Thank you Göran Wingstrand for the photos. The exhibition will be on show until 14th of February 2021.
We would like to thank everyone that have been sewing and helping out with the project to make this happen. Without you this wouldn’t have been possible. <3
Agnes Bohman Boyle Aina Hagman Anders Klintholm Lilliehöök Anna Malmborg Anna Odlinge Anna Sönsteby Lilliehöök Barbro Bornsäter Catharina Drakmården Catrin Karlsson Elina Sojonen Elin Andersson Elin Jantze Emil Lagerquist Emma Fryksmark Ester Spetz Eva Eriksson Fia Makalös Lindblom Hannah Ström Ida Berg Ingela Wahlberg Justine Arnot Kerstin Petersson Khelan Butén Lena Dahrén Lia de Thornegge Linnea Vennström Magdalena Fick Malin Ekberg Maria Franzon Mervi Pasanen Sofia Berg Thérèse Pettersson Rasmus Rasmusen René Guthof Tove Kluge Ulla-Mari Uusitalo Ulrika Mårtensson Vea Collins Ylva Nellmar
Thank you all!
Project leaders: Amica Sundström and Maria Neijman
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