Today’s post is about dyes. Or in fact dyed wool fabrics that are from the beginning of the 14th century and STILL in great condition. Check out thees seal bags, protective bags in fabric for wax seals on legal documents, written 700 years ago.
They have been stored in archives from when they were written until today. And they are dated on the exact day they were created and is by far the best source we have come across when it comes to textiles.
Now in the collections of The Swedish National Archives. Please cred us if sharing photos!
Wanna learn something new? Have you ever tried plant dyeing? Then maybe our plant dyeing kits might be something for you? Red with madder, pink with cochineal or yellow and green with weld. Check this link out!
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
Photos by: Historical Textiles CC-by please cred if sharing the pictures
Long legged cross stitch in wool. From the embroideries Fogdö, Ramsele and Trönö, Sweden. They are all sewn with a 2-plied thread. Blue is almost always present in all medieval embroideries. Here we can see a backside from Fogdö and fronts on Trönö and the cute birds of Ramsele and a detail of their legs. They are all dated to 15th century. They bottom fabrics are a linen weave in basket weave.
All embroideries can be found in the collections of the Swedish History museum.
We love how often blue is represented and therefore we always dye blue in various shades. Both light and dark is needed. We use indigo and woad.
/ Amica and Maria
CC-by please cred us if sharing the pictures
Bonus- check out the diffrent style and directions of the stitches.
A the patterned part of a Danish wool textile. This is a textile find from Hvilehøj in Jutland. The bottom fabric is analyzed and is in a red color, the pigment is kermes. Although today it is mostly brown. But it can be seen that the patterned thread is of a different quality and of a different color. The bottom fabric is woven in plain weave and the pattern is picked. The pattern thread is originally assumed to have been white. It is 2-plied and the thread in the weave is a single in both warp and weft.
HERE you can read more about the entire reconstruction work done by researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen. Scroll down in the text.
The fabric is dated 900AD.
With a 2-plied thin wool thread you could weave such lovely patterns. But you can off course also use it as warp in a tablet woven weave. Or as sewing thread. Or make embroideries with it. We love our white 2-plied thread since it’s strong and natural white and not bleached.
A selection of blue linen linings. Quite often chasubles, copes, embroideries, purses have a lining made out of blue linen (or hemp) lining. Even queen Margaretha’s golden gown have a small piece of blue lining inside the dress, attached at the neckline. The chasuble from Ösmo have a lovely dark blue fabric. Dated 15th century. The embroidered altar frontlet from the Birtgittin nuns in Vadstena dates to 15th century and have lovely piecing on the backside. The linings are dyed as fabric and not as yarn. The dyes is most likely woad. There are also relic purses with blue linen lining.
Today, you find these finds in the collection of the Swedish History museum.
With a woad or indigo dyed fabric you could line the neck of your kirtle. Or use as lining in a small embroidered purse. Why indigo? Indigo and woad a chemical siblings and not even a color analysis can determine which pigment was used, we use indigo since we find the quality of indigo powder higher than wood.
/ Amica and Maria
CC-by please cred us/ Historiska if sharing the pictures
Bonus- Check out the pretty lousy sewing that was going on on the backside of the embroidery. White sewing thread to blue fabric is also very common.
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.
Red blood drops on Jesus body. The red wool yarn is a 2-plied and have a pretty high twist. Most likely dyed with madder. This is a detail from the Fogdö embroidery, Sweden. The embroidery is BIG and measures 0,9 x 7,9 meters long, originally it believed to have been over 15 meters long. The embroidery shows scenes from the life of Christ. The stitches are long legged cross stitch.
The embroidery is dated 1480-1500 AD.
When sewing long legged cross stitch, we always use a 2-plied thread like the original. And we also sew a bit more like the medieval style, in more or less in all directions. The medieval people were less neurotic then our crafts teachers in school..
Today the embroidery can be found in the collections of the Swedish History museum.
This year we presented our paper at Nest XIV. “Colours in medieval textiles versus archeological textiles from Swedish cities” was the title of our abstract. Nest XIV was supposed to take place in Oulo in Finland but was first postponed a couple of times and then became a digital version on Zoom. All participants sent in their paper presentation in advance and only the session discussion was a live talk. A lot of interesting papers were presented! We can’t wait for the publication!!!
We are so happy that we finally can share some of our research that we have been working on the last couple of years, it has taken long due to the pandemic… But finally we can share the amazing colors and fine fabrics from the medieval seal bags from Riksarkivet / National archive
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