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St. Birgitta’s Embroidery is a Pain

June 2, 2014

So women in the 14th century must have had a lot of time on their hands to do fiddly embroidery projects, especially when it came to making fancy coifs to cover their hair!

I spent quite a bit of time last week working on the St. Birgitta cap I wanted to submit for the Andelcrag Baronial A&S competition on Saturday.  Luckily, Their Excellencies were OK with submitting a work in progress with documentation and an explanation of why it wasn’t finished…

Cap 1st HerringboneCap 1st EmbroideryThe first attempt I made had two passes of herringbone stitch joining the two halves of the coif and then the looping stitches interwoven through the herringbone.  While this made a nice pattern, it was far too loose of a connection between the two pieces of fabric and left too much open space.  It also looked nothing like the structured grid pattern charted out in the Medieval Clothing and Textiles article on this piece.

So this all got taken out in preparation for a second attempt.

The second attempt had four passes of herringbone.
Cap 1
Cap 4After that, I followed the chart in the MC&T article but the embroidery did NOT work out as the chart indicated it would.  Instead of following a traditional over-under-over-under path, the interweaving threads frequently went UNDER several threads in a row, particularly at the edges of the design where the diagram indicated there would be a loop remaining in the finished pattern.  Because the weaving thread went under so many other threads, the loop slipped to one side instead of staying in place so again, the embroidery formed a pattern, but it was not the pattern indicated in the article based on the original piece.

When I could tell the pattern wasn’t going to work out correctly, I decided to submit the piece as it was with an explanation of why it was unfinished.  I’ve been working on charting out a correct stitch path since then, and I’m going to try out a sample on some smaller pieces of linen just to see what happens before I make a third attempt on the actual cap pieces.

Blank 20Last week I also made a new scroll blank that was submitted to the A&S competition as well.  The requirements were a little looser this year, but typically one of the factors is that at least one item is in support of the fighting arts – either armored, fencing, or archery.  I did a blank based on some of the images from the Morgan Picture Bible, a 14th-century illuminated manuscript that has a bunch of nice images of combat of various types.  I’ve done fencing and armored combat awards before, so I decided to make this one a blank for a Dragon’s Barb – the award for archery in the Middle Kingdom.  If I’ve kept my count right, this is scroll blank #20 since I started last year and it is #55 overall in my production.  I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out.  I like doing these whitework borders and the little details on the castle were fun.  This manuscript also has some other little architectural border elements that I may incorporate into some future pieces.

The end result of all of this was that I ended up a little behind on my grading for real-life work (but I’m catching up, after having worked most of yesterday and today on discussion boards, tests, and essays).  However, I was honored to be selected as the A&S Champion for the Barony of Andelcrag on Saturday!  I am happy to have been selected and the other entrants submitted some lovely works as well.  I’m sure it was a difficult choice for Their Excellencies and the outgoing champion.  Now I just have to decide what I want to put into a display for the A&S activities at Border War in two weeks.

Andelcrag A&S RegaliaThe position of champion comes with some neat regalia – a baldric with the A&S and Andelcrag insignia, a lovely leather pouch with the Andelcrag device on it, and some feast gear (because we all need more stuff to haul around, right?).  Word is that the feast gear may be retired in favor of a more simple goblet for each champion at some point in the future.  I’m already thinking that if that ends up being the case I will make some simple pouches to hold the goblets, perhaps with the device of each office embroidered on it.  But that’s a project for the future…

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