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.

24 October 2009

Latticework purse progress

This is after approximately 20 hours of work. Ground is 40ct linen.

27 September 2009

Spider silk textile project

A friend sent me an interesting article on a project involving a million spiders, and the resulting textile woven from their silk. Read that here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/spider-silk/

03 September 2009

An email from the ether..?

This afternoon I received an email from a Dr. Anna Kyritsi about a 7-day "EU Grundtvig Workshop in Cyprus" on needlework and traditional 'female' art. It mentioned the possibility of a grant that would cover even the cost of travel. Naturally, I'm intrigued, and yet I have no idea how this email came to be in my inbox. It doesn't appear to have been forwarded by anyone whom I know, nor do I ever recall signing up for any such email notification. And it made it past my spam filter.

Do any of you fellow textile people know anything about this? The website is this: www.biolearning.eu

01 September 2009

13th century brick stitch pattern, revised version

As promised, here's the pattern I've come up with to account for the tantalizing gaps in KIK/IRPA object no. 43380. 49% squinting at the computer screen, 51% guesswork:

Warning: the image is pretty big. Probably bigger than it needed to be.

The grey areas are where the ground fabric seems to be consistently exposed. Much like the last pattern I posted, this could be due to caustic dyestuff eating away the threads, intentional picking out of thread (maybe it was gold!), left like that intentionally for a textured effect, or perhaps some other reason that I just can't think of yet. I have no data yet as to which reason is more likely.

31 August 2009

Blue, white & gold purse finished!

Based on a late 13th century Spanish reliquary purse; KIK/IRPA object no. 43380. I designed the pattern myself, based on the portion of the extant piece that was generally intact and unobscured. See Medieval Arts & Crafts for a slightly different interpretation. I am currently working on drafting the rest of the pattern, after lots of squinting at those archival photos and a healthy dose of guesswork. I'll post that pattern soon.

Materials for this purse: 32-ct ground (cotton, I think), light blue linen lining (just something I had laying around). Embroidery worked in Kreinik silk floss (1096, 2016, 5013 & 7172).

The drawstrings were worked with pairs of individual strands of the Kreinik floss in a broad lace of 5 loops; the suspension loop with single strands in a lace piol (braids #1 and #14 in Tak v Bowes.., respectively). While I'm very happy with the quality and fineness of the suspension loop—if I may say so myself!—I do think it's proportionally too small for this purse. However, since it took me around 8 hrs to make that length of braid, I wasn't about to scrap it and start again.

The gimp thread for the turkshead knots were also made from the Kreinik floss, plied and wound around a linen core. I'm not entirely happy with the result (at this point, I was just trying to be consistent by using the same type of threads for everything), but the resulting knots are passable for my first attempts. I may replace the first two I made at a later date, since I quickly got better at tying them, and they look noticeably worse than the rest (at least to me!)

The side-stitching, as you can see, was worked in two colors. I was very happy with the result, except for the fact that I should have doubled the threads in each tablet hole; the woven band ended up being slightly too narrow for adequate coverage of the seams and some "blank space" can be seen peeking through, as well as the warp-stitches. Live and learn..

23 August 2009

Brickstitch purse with gold: finished!

Based on the 14th century bag in the V&A Museum's collection, object 8313-1863

Embroidery pattern adapted from A Stitch Out of Time by T. J. Mitchell (aka Richard Wymarc).

Materials: 32-count linen ground, silk (unknown remnant) lining. Embroidery worked in Kreinik silk flosses (1119, 2015, 2017), DMC linen floss, and gold passing thread.

The drawstrings were worked with pairs of individual strands of the Kreinik floss in a broad lace of 5 loops; the suspension loop with individual strands in a lace bend round (braids #1 and #25 in Tak v Bowes Departed, respectively).

The side-stitching was woven with 16 2-hole cards threaded with individual strands of the Kreinik floss.

27 July 2009

Side stitching on purses

OK, someone a few posts back commented that they'd like to know how I finish my purses. I was taught by a friend of mine, Lois S., a method that's a cross between finger loop braiding and weaving. I was going to try to come up with sketch to illustrate the process, but I ran across a post on the Medieval Silkwork blog that has an illustration already. So, I'll just point you in that direction. If you can't read Dutch any better than I can, fear not, it's frightfully simple: As you switch the loops between fingers (and be consistent about which loop passes through the other... for example, bottom always passing through top), you're creating a shed. The weft — here, your needle and thread — spirals through the shed, than into the edge of the purse, then into the next shed, etc. Continue until it's finished.

As for the direction of the side-stitching: I don't know if anyone's researched this in depth or not. I've gotten into the habit of starting on the top corner, moving across the top edge, and down the side. This way, when I finish I can use the leftover 'warp' for a corner tassel. I can't tell you if this is an historically accurate way of doing it or not; I have neither seen nor done the research myself at this point. As always, comments and criticisms are always welcome :-)

The main problem I've found with the above method is due to the fact that it takes two people to work: one manipulating the loops, one stitching, and both trying to maintain a consistent tension. At the moment, I don't have anyone around to be that second person. So, I've been experimenting with a one-person method; replace the finger loop idea with a series of tablets, with only two threads per tablet, and alternating between Z and S orientation. Move the pack of tablets forward a half-turn for each pick.

With a bit of practice, and some luck, I managed to make it work!

See that blue thread holding on to the purse on the left? When the time comes to turn the corner and work down the side, I'll put another loop through the fabric under the corner, and then attach that to the anchor at the left. This way, you're always working in a straight line, which is obviously what the threads want to do anyway. Obeying the laws of physics is key to not going insane during a project like this..

A new pattern

I've been intrigued by the late 13th c. reliquary bag IRPA obj. 21717 for some time now; between yesterday night and this morning I had nothing better to do, so I came up with a possible interpretation of the pattern, and also a small sample (below). What's interesting about this is that it seems to mix brick stitch (with which I've become quite familiar by now) and a kind of lattice motif made by — I assume — using an awl to spread apart the threads and stitching it open, essentially like a lacing hole on a garment. It also has portions where the ground fabric is visible. Unfortunately, I can't determine whether this was intentional or not; I suppose the stitching could have been destroyed by caustic dyes, or picked out (for example, to recycle gold thread). I've just gone with the notion that it was intended that way, and built my pattern to match that idea.

Here's the sample that I did on some scrap fabric (32-ct, I think) with cotton embroidery floss:
You may notice that the yellow-bordered latticework doesn't have vertical stitches. I hadn't originally put them into the pattern, but by the time I got to the white portions and the unbordered latticework (where the ground fabric can be seen) I decided that it did need those stitches on the top and bottom, otherwise it would look strange.

The website states that the purse is made of sheep's wool, silk (?), and gold. From just looking at the available pictures, I can't seem to determine where the gold is. I believe this is yet another purse referenced in Frieda Sorber's Tongeren Basiliek O-L-Vrouw Geboorte. I really must get myself a copy of that book.

I'd be interested to hear/see any ideas or alternate interpretations of this piece!

25 July 2009

Purse update

Well, although I got all my silk dyeing supplies together, that project got put on hold. The person helping me with that is out of town at the moment... but not to worry, I've used the time for the purses instead.

I've done a few finger loop braids for the drawstrings and suspension loops. My favorite so far is this one:

A Lace Piol (Tak v bowes.. #14)

I couldn't find my ruler, so I just used a quarter and .50€ piece for reference (they're about the same size). Because I used Kreinik silk for the embroidery of my three in-progress purses, I wanted to use it for all the detail work as well (for consistency's sake). I pulled apart the individual strands.. it took me about 8 hours to get a decent length. Definitely the finest and most time-consuming braid I've done.

The other thing I did was prepare the embroidered panels for being side-stitched; I put the lining in, and basted everything together to keep it from moving around during the final process.

In the last one, what I decided to do was put the suspension loop through the edge. It'll get run over by the side-stitching to be extra-secure.

Soon (hopefully Monday, but I don't want to make any promises) I'll write a post on the side-stitching process. While I was in Prague I used the two-person method, but there's an equally awkward way to finish it with only two hands.

03 July 2009

Quiet, but not unproductive!

Since getting settled back in my hometown (including finding employment and all that), I've had a chance to get back into my hobbies. I've been taking a bit of a break from the purses (I'll get back to them soon) to do a bit of dyeing and weaving.

I just got my order of cochineal in the mail today, and I already have a good amount of silk thread to dye. So stay tuned for pictures (hoping to do my dyeing sometime in the next week and a half).

06 May 2009

Excuses, excuses..

To my dear readers,

I know, I haven't posted anything in the last month. Life happens, as you all know. Currently I'm working on enjoying the remainder of my Czech adventure, since I'll be returning to the states in about 2 weeks. There, I'll be putting my nose to the grindstone to finish up undergrad - which I ungracefully abandoned two years ago. After that, who knows..?

This is by no means the end of Taschen (in fact I still have some pictures to share from Dresden, etc), but I'm just focusing on travel for now. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

28 February 2009

How could I forget?!

Last April, during a 2-week holiday in Switzerland (I really needed to get out of NY and away from my job, who could blame me?), I happened upon this velvet purse in the Historiches Museum in Lucerne:

Unfortunately, I don't have much information to share with you. It was described as a "purse of blue velvet lined with buckskin"; the acquisition number is 2E-2.04.01.

Surprisingly the museum director, a Dr. Heinz Horat, was kind enough to speak with me. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to produce much more information than what I already had (yes, he actually went and dug through paperwork for me). He explained that many of the museum's acquisitions were collected in the 19th century, during which time the building was an armoury. Thus, when it was turned into a museum, they were rich in artefacts but poor in documentation. Dr. Horat surmised that the purse dated from the 18th century.

19 February 2009

Embroidery complete

The brickstitch embroideries I've been working on are complete, and ready to be turned into purses. Here's what they look like so far (not to scale):

16 February 2009


Living history and fiber geeks alike can all drool over this with me.

While looking around online for textiles to use for my purses, I stumbled across Malleries. They have some pieces of (and I'll have to take their word on this of course) 16th century Italian silk. Imagine using 400-year-old silk for your clothing and accessories, eh?

It comes at a price, though. This bit, reincarnated as a table runner, costs $2,800, and this bedhanging can be yours for only $6,400!

14 February 2009

A selection of pictures from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum

First, a trapezoidal purse. Well, not just any trapezoidal purse, but one I've seen black and white images (here, here, and here) of before, and now have finally seen in person:

Bestickte Tasche mit Liebesgott und Liebespaar (GNM # T 1213)
ca. 1301–1315

I'll definitely be talking more about this (and trapezoidal purses in general) in a forthcoming post, so I'll hold off commentary for now.

Some hunting purses. These were all amazing, particularly the second one down for its embroidery and beadwork, and the third one down for sheer size. Dimensions weren't given, and I'm not so hot about eyeballing size. But let's just say that normally when I think of "purse", I think of something dainty, or something small but utilitarian to strap to your belt. This thing reminded me more of a book-bag. Seriously, you could stuff one of your hunting dogs in this thing.

[top] Jagdtasche, sog. Schwedler (GNM # ???), ca. 1650 - 1699
[center] Jagdtasche, sog. Schwedler (GNM # W 3188), ca. 1600 - 1649
[bottom] Falknertasche (GNM # W 1576), 1728

Still not sure how to translate "Falknertasche", but possibly a falconer's bag? I'll ask my German teacher.

Next, an extant girdle pouch, and some artistic representations. Would you believe that the museum didn't have a little info plaque for this little leather beauty? Me neither. I'm pretty sure I circled the case a few times looking for one but all in vain. Better luck next time (yes, I really hope there's a next time).

[top] leather girdle bag; acq. # ???, date ???
[bottom] details from the Geißelung Christi (GNM # Gm 113a), ca. 1400 - 1410
Click here to see the whole painting.

A reliquary bag. I'd be very interested to try an make something like this, with the small metal plaques and pearls and metal thread everywhere. All my photos of this piece are a bit hazy, due to the glare off the glass. However, I'd like to point out the fact that, yes, there is a mirror placed underneath the purse, so you can see the reverse side. What a novel concept! Other museums, take note.

Reliquienbeutel (GNM # KG 562), ca. 993

Lastly, two paintings and a sculpture:

[left] Werkstatt des Hans Traut (?), Altar aus der Nürberger Augustinerkirche
(GNM # Gm 142-148), 1487
[middle] Meister der Lyversberger Passion, Die Anbetung der Könige
(GNM # Gm 989), ca. 1460
[right] Adam Kraft, Relief von der alten Stadtwaage
(GNM # PI 2849), ca. 1460 - 1509

There are plenty of other pictures I could put up here, but these were the highlights. More detailed commentary will have to wait for another day.

03 February 2009

The calm before the storm..

..the image storm that is. Went to Nürnberg this past weekend, and I have a ton of images - mainly from the Germanisches Nationalmuseum - to share here. Just need a bit of time to sort through them all, so stay tuned!

25 January 2009

A webpage of interest..

Hémiole's blog; mainly costume and accessories, of particular interest (to me at least) are her two interpretations of "netted" purses (aumônière "en filet"), found here and here. The site is in French (the reading of which, if nothing else, will give me some significantly missed practice..)

03 January 2009

More fingerloops and a sketch

First things first.. more fingerloops. From left to right we have: A Lace Dawns (#13); A Lace Bend Broad (#24), strange but interesting; A Grene Dorge (#38), which is the first fingerloop pattern I ever learned, taught by Lois Swales herself (a researcher of such things whom I know from Ithaca); and A Broad Lace Party (#23), which I really like but holy hell is it time-consuming.

In other news, a second trip to the St Agnes of Bohemia Convent yielded this sketch of Pleydenwurff's Beheading of St Barbara (first referred to in this post). I am no great artist, much less with a pencil and paper. But at least you can get the gist from this. Or I can. Hopefully you all can visit it in person, because this doesn't do it much justice: