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.

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).