About This Blog

My current research obsession is centered around purses and pouches from the European Middle Ages, and the accompanying hardware and passementerie. It is my hope to not only study extant items but also learn via reconstructive experiments; these will be limited for the most part to the textile components, however in the future I hope to explore the production of the metal frames.

31 December 2008

Purse mock-up, part 2

OK, here's the second half of the side stitching. The tension was much better this time around, although of course the sides of the mouth are slightly different lengths as a result.

I had two goals with the second half: experiment with adding a little ear to aid in opening the purse; and see what I could do about hiding the unfinished end from the first half. I cut off the knot and buried it between the fabric edges. This mostly worked, but was a little sloppy, as the corner was difficult enough on its own.

Another idea I had a while ago, which Rebecca reminded me of, was the fact that these ends could be turned into tassels or covered by knopps of some sort.

30 December 2008

Purse mock-up, part 1

Here's my first attempt at the seam stitching for my purses, and I have Rebecca to thank for the extra two hands. I feel pretty good about it, although I had some tensioning issues when I started resulting in some puckering. I am very happy about this one!

This was actually done yesterday. Rebecca and I finished the second half today. And I will post pictures of that tomorrow.

Fingerloop braids

Working from Tak V Bowes Departed:

From left to right:
A Lace Bend Round (#25), A Broad Lace of 5 Loops (#1), A Broad Lace Chevron (#29), A Thin Lace of 5 Loops (#3), A Lace Endented (#18), A Lace Chain Broad (#27), An Endented Lace (#6), A Round Lace of 5 Loops (#2), A Lace Baston (#4)

25 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

I received my copy of Tak V Bowes Departed this morning! I may try out a braid or two shortly after posting :)

Happy holidays, everyone!
UPDATE (26 Dec): Since posting, I've practiced 'A Broad Lace of 5 Loops' (#1), 'A Condrak Lace Departed' (#10), 'A Thin Lace of 5 Loops' (#3), and 'A Broad Lace Party' (#23). I've found that the Condrak one is quite difficult in terms of tension control, but quite nice looking regardless. Not sure what I'd ever use it for, however.

12 December 2008

A question for all you embroiderers

I've only recently started using silk for my projects. I began buying silk floss from Kreinik (their Silk Mori), in part because it was available (in very limited amounts) in some local craft stores, and later because it was simple to order online. Aside from relative ease of acquisition, their colors seem to be consistent*, meaning that if I ever ran out of a color, I could just order more and not worry about later skeins being slightly "off".

I'm not ready for the jump yet, but I've been thinking about the future of my embroidery. That is, not using your typical (and obviously modern) spun/plied silk. As an example, compare one of the close-up pictures from my previous post with this, or any close-up picture of that German Altar Frontal in the Cloisters (go to Textiles from the Cloisters for some great close-ups).

So, here's my question: Where can one get silks like this? I'm assuming that I'll probably need to dye it myself, but I'd just like to know what's out there. Any suggestions?

*OK, in all honesty, this DID happen to me once. And for a "medieval" project, why bother complaining about it? Nothing wrong with a little inconsistency there.. I'll point this out when that project is done and I have pictures of it.

UPDATE [17 Dec]: Kathy Storm posted (Medieval Arts & Crafts) her opinions on several type of embroidery floss available. Helpful - and with a visual aid! Do check it out.

02 December 2008

Some close-ups...

...of the two embroidered purses I'm currently working on:

Bonus Image! This is me:

01 December 2008

Progress is being made

The picture isn't the best, but you can see that I have, indeed, been working!

Again, for those of you who may be new to reading -- is it egotistical of me to believe that more than a half-dozen people read this thing? :-) -- this is the pattern I redacted from IRPA Obj# 43380.

14 November 2008

Back to work!

My box o' stuff finally arrived in the mail. After what seemed to be an inordinately slow journey between New York and Prague, my embroidery supplies and I have been reunited.

Thanks, Mom.

12 October 2008

In the interim

I know I haven't posted much here since I arrived in Prague. This is due partially to work keeping me more than busy on the weekdays, partially to the absence of my embroidery supplies which are still in NY, and partially to not finding any more purse or purse-related resources since the last museum I posted about.

So I invite my readers to read my other blog, Tristán in Europe, in the meantime.

31 August 2008

St Agnes of Bohemia, continued

Quick post tonight, about the other noteable purse representations in the convent-cum-museum:

Epitaph with the Assumption and Donors by Hans Pleydenwurff (Nürnberg, ca. 1470): a slim rectangular leather purse, suspended from (and attached directly to) the belt via a pair of chains. Looks like the attachment points at the belt were shaped like spades, and the attachment points on the top face of the purse were shaped like spades. I think I'm reading too much into it already by identifying them as such and such shapes, but honestly.. that's what they looked like. There was also some sort of plaque in the middle of the flap.. something you'd assume, on a modern purse, would conceal a snap-closure behind it. Again, I'm reading into it from a much too modern a perspective. But, haven't not seen any extant examples of this type, I don't know else how to describe it.

Another tidbit about this piece of art, in general, was the paternoster carried by the donor's wife (?). I wish I had a picture for Chris Laning at Paternosters, although maybe nothing she's never seen before, there was a nice single marker bead ("ave"? I think I meant gaud) that looked like a sphere of silver encrusted with tiny gems.

In another piece by Hans Pleydenwurff, the Beheading of St Barbara, there was a nice frame purse; black with a gold frame.. no tassles, but there were several knopfs that seemed to be decorated with pearls. No sketch of this can do it justice, I just really need to get permission to take a picture.

Lastly, St Christopher with the Infant Jesus (Sv Kryštof s Ježískem)... a wooden relief, by an unknown Bohemian artist ca. 1500-1510, with what Goubitz referrs to as a "harp frame" purse. When I'm reunited with my copy of the book I'll recheck this (otherwise back me up or correct me), but I seem to recall that he categorized this "type" soley on examples in art, since he had never seen an extant example. It is frustrating, because it's really difficult to figure out how they work without being able to hold one, or at least see one in the flesh.

P.S. Regarding the taxonomy Goubitz established: I love K. Larsdatter's site, particularly the purse page. However, I don't think I completely agree with some of the examples she's listed under the "harp frame" type. Of course, again due to the fact that these examples are all artistic representations, it can get a bit subjective. So that's just me :-)

That's all for now!

25 August 2008

Ask, and ye shall recieve; Part II

Here's a small - but not terrible - view of the Visitation scene from the St James Altarpiece (mentioned in the St Agnes of Bohemia post).

Ask, and ye shall recieve..

..albeit in poor resolution.

Here's a picture of the Třeboň Altarpiece scene I mentioned in my last post. You can barely make out the buckled strap since the image is so grainy, but it's better than nothing. I will still attempt to get either a drawing, or a much better photograph posted before long.

24 August 2008

A visit to the St Agnes of Bohemia Convent..

..wherein resides an impressive collection of medieval art. There, I had the chance to see - quite possibly - more wood-and-polychrome Madonnas With Child than I would ever expect to find under one roof.

Fortunately for me (as, let's face it, M.W.C.s are not really my medieval cup o' tea) there were some pieces of art that had purses in them! Good thing I brought my little notebook. I wish that photography was allowed (even though I don't have my camera, I could steal someone else's next time.. but it's a moot point) so I could share some pictures, but alas. At the very least, I'll try to make some drawings based on my notes and in-museum sketches, but don't hold your breath.

First off, a nice clear example of a ring-frame purse in the Entombment (Kladení Krista do hrobu) scene of the Třeboň Altarpiece (Oltář třeboňský) by [surprise!] the Master of the Třeboň Altarpiece (Mistr Třeboňského oltáře), dated at around 1380-1385. The purse is worn by one of two men who are lowering Christ's body into the tomb, while the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene(?), and a few other haloed persons* watch. It's undecorated, and I can only assume that it would've been executed in leather. What drew me to it was the way it's attached to the man's belt (even though I can't really see a belt at all.. there's a fold in his tunic, I'll have to assume he's got a belt under there somewhere). Around a tertiary loop on the frame** is wound a small leather strap, complete with buckle. The strap also shows a few extra belt holes as well. Why? Is the ability to adjust your purse by a few centimeters closer or further from your midsection all that necessary? Could it be that the gentleman in question had only a leftover bit of belt/garter/etc strap to which he could fasten purse to belt, or was the strap "part" of the purse itself? I have no idea; all I know is I haven't yet seen many extant examples of fastening devices included with the purse.

In another painted panel, the Visitation (Navštívení Panny Marie) scene of the St James Altarpiece (Oltář svatojakubský) by the workshop of the Master of the Rajhrad Altarpiece (Mistr Rajhradského oltáře), dated around 1430, St Elizabeth is wearing a purse very similar in design to this French purse: LACMA obj. M.91.165. St Elizabeth's, however, has a main knopf/tassle on the base of the purse, and one on each of the two drawstrings (does that French purse have 3 drawstrings??). Also, I noticed that there was some sort of donut-shaped bead right about the opening. I was curious as to whether or not that was some sort of slider to help keep the purse closed (as if gravity weren't enough) or to keep prying fingers out (as if they couldn't simply cut the suspension loop and run off with the whole thing.. see Goubitz's Purses in Pieces). It could be something akin to the 'ears' seen on the French one (to aid in opening), but I'm not convinced. I'm not actually convinced that both those knopfs on the French purse are 'ears'.. there's something going on in the one in the background.

There were two more, but this post is getting a wee bit long, and believe it or not, I actually have some work to do :-( I'll discuss the other ones later, and hopefully have some sketches at some point too!

*OK, I have the details somewhere, just not with me at the moment. It's besides the point anyhow.
**I promise a diagram!

18 August 2008

A frame purse tracked down

When I started all this purse madness, I wasn't very diligent about keeping track of my sources.. at least online sources. This proved to be quite aggravating, because after a year or so of staring at a few images that I had taken from SOMEONE's webpage SOMEWHERE.. I essentially gave up and filed them under "Well I hope I run across it in a museum one day."

Fortunately, one such mystery was solved tonight, after browsing around the Historické kostýmy a střihy site.. which looks like it was just updated today(?).

It's this little beauty right here. There are a few other purses scattered about the extant accessories section, as well as some nice belts, shoes, gloves, and other tidbits.

P.S. I still haven't tracked down the mystery purse from my first post, anyone out there have any clues?

15 August 2008

A side note

While posting the pictures in the previous post, I noticed that the photobucket sub-folder containing all these images is called "15th C purse project". Whereas Timothy Mitchell (A Stitch Out of Time) describes this particular stitching technique as being fashionable in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, it wasn't really my intent to pidgeon-hole the examples I've shown so far to such a precise time. Not a big problem, but in retrospect it irks me. I'd change the name of the subfolder, except then I'd have to edit all the posts with pictures with their resulting new URLs. Not worth it. I just wanted to point it out - not precisely an error, but not entirely a lack of one. :-)

Since I can't work on my current projects...

...I'll show off an old one. My first completed purse worked in the brick-stitch (sometimes referred to as opus teutonicum although I'm not entirely sure that's precise.. any comments here?)

Worked in 6-strand cotton embroidery floss on 28-ct cotton evenweave, no seam on the bottom. The heraldic elements were adapted from the arms I display at living history events (e.g. SCA), and only appear on one side of the purse (which I consider the "front" side). The lining is white silk brocade that I had lying aroud.

- Not going to get into the cotton vs silk/linen issue here, as it was my 1st attempt and I was/am a poor student :-)
- As far as construction is concerned, I made this before I fully understood the more historically common treatments of the seams (e.g. the "Gobelien stitch".. not sure if I spelled that correctly).
- I understand now that tassle heads were rarely (if ever) left uncovered.
- With the above comment in mind, my treatement of the attachement between drawstrings and tassles could've been a bit more thought-out..
- Lacks a suspension cord.

Some things I learned from this:
- Why the suspension loop is a good idea. (Because if you suspend it from the drawstrings, you will anger yourself every time you try to fish something out of it.)
- How to assimilate designs to 'fit' the style: better to lose some of the 'realism' of the design (e.g. my heraldic trebucht) in order to achieve a consistent look to the piece. It's easier for me to intuit this than to put it into writing. At least for now.

Here's a view of the back:

28 July 2008

Other things I'm working on

Here's a finished piece of embroidery to be turned into a very small reliquary purse. The pattern, simple as it is, is in fact documentable (although perhaps not the colors) to the late 14th century German (Lower Saxony?) wallhanging that's on display at the Cloisters. Silk over cotton (I know, the cotton's not really appropriate, but in the end no one will see it). UPDATE: Here's a decent image of the whole piece, but not very detailed.

Beneath that is something a little more recognizable, based on (not stitch for stich, but the general pattern and approx. dimensions) one of the V&A Museum's purses, no. 8313-1863. This one I've done silk and linen on linen. I will include the gold thread eventually. For the pattern I have T. J. Mitchell's A Stitch out of Time to thank. Except for the portions underneath where the gold thread will go. That part I had to make up, so I'll take responsibility for that probably not being "right".

Unfortunately, I won't get a chance to work on these for a while – but that's only because I'm moving to the Czech Republic and it doesn't fit in my luggage. But it'll get sent out there at some point, and once I'm established and have a bit of time, I'll get back to it!

Pattern Redaction, part 2

So this is the pattern that I adapted from the extant piece in my previous post. Not much there yet, but I really like how it's coming out.

28 June 2008

Pattern redaction, part 1

I'll say this again: Difficult up close, even harder using photographs, and migraine-inducing when using digital images (at least when the image resolution is so small that it's hard to distinguish between pixels and stitches).

There are a few areas that are obscured in the photo (this is IRPA Obj# 43380) but I have the main motif worked out. I've adapted it to be repetitive, so that I can use it on its own, but at some point I hope to work out the whole thing. May need to wait until I can visit it in person though.

Here's my redaction thus far (colours are not meant to be exact):

A new old book for me!

Got my hands on a copy Boudet and Gomond's La Passementerie. Now it is time to brush up on my français.

27 June 2008

Just because I haven't been posting...

...doesn't mean I'm not working!

- I've finally made myself some silk gimp (made two attempts).
- Attempted a Turk's Head knot with one length of gimp, although it turned out to not be long enough to make a substantial knot.
- Embroidery continues.
- Occasionally working on redacting embroidery patterns from a few extant pieces (although this is made extra difficult by the fact that the only sources I have are digital versions of conservators' photos..).

In the near future I hope to be doing a trial run of the - for lack of better terminology - woven purse seams (as per L.S.'s research).

I will post pictures of some of these things as soon as I'm able.. for the one or two people who read this blog ;-)

17 June 2008

More good pictures

Another good one from the Royal Institute for the Study and Conservation of Belgium's Artistic Heritage webpage: An embroidered trapezoidal ring-framed purse (object 40752). Check out all the additional images; there are pictures of the individual pieces of textile (did they deconstruct it?!) and also a shot of the drawstring mouth (usually hidden under the flap). A close-up of the embroidery is included as well. All good pictures; just wish they were larger.

13 June 2008

The internet IS still useful!

Royal Institute for the Study and Conservation of Belgium's Artistic Heritage

Object search for beurs reveals many many interesting finds, particularly this gem: Object 10359

The photographer (bless him!) took a picture of the side of the piece:

Take a look at the frontal pictures, particularly the drawstrings. I wonder if those large turks-head knops are not in fact part of the drawstring, but there to aid opening the bag.. in which case the drawstrings appear to pass through a hole in the center of each.

Go out and buy...

...Olaf Goubitz's Purses in Pieces: Archaeological Finds of Late Medieval and 16th-century Leather Purses, Pouches, Bags and Cases in the Netherlands.

28 May 2008

Have you seen me?

I found this image a few years ago somewhere online. I can't remember what site, or how I found myself there. Thus I have no data for this object. If you have any idea what museum/collection this purse is in, please please PLEASE let me know! Thanks!