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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
Today, we go back in time and visit Högom, Sweden. The chieftain of Högom is famous for his grave and the amazing items in it. The textile fragments in the grave shows sophisticated and specialised crafts, like the table woven bands with soumac in horse hair. Hopefully, we will have reason to return to those later, but today we focus on the cloak of the chieftain; more specifically, the tassels of the cloak. They are made with a red 2-plied wool thread and have a cute braid ridge on the flat side.
The cloak is dated to the 400-550 AD.
Today, you find the cloak in the collection of the Swedish History museum.
With red 2-plied wool thread you can make your own tassels in this style.
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