Monthly Archives: September 2012

Pearls pearls pearls

It’s been a little while since I posted, but not for lack of making progress on the gown., well the sleeve.

I finished the very frustrating chore of appliquéing down the sun. A few things I found out:
1. By tucking the linen up underneath it naturally curves the appliqué very much like many extant examples of goldwork applique.This is a great finding.
2. The very pretty tightly spaced gold ends up with gaps after the linen is tucked under. It’s also very hard to get it right to the bottom. Could be why so many were edged in something. This was frustrating.
3. My nice pretty pointy ends of the rays disappeared. Points on linen don’t tuck we’ll.
4. If I did it again, I would probably put the gold right onto the velvet or use a fabric that didn’t fray so much, do a period fray check and just trim it close, and cover the edge.

Anyways it’s pretty.

Now I am laying out the stems. Leaves and the ribbon. I am finding it challenging to Kep a balance between the modern and medieval eye. So I ended up adding more leaves. The large stems will be a row of pearls with a line of #1 gilt purl on either side. For the smaller stems I am going the opposite way. A strand of super fine gilt purl with seed pearls on both sides of the gold. The pearls will also completely outline the leaves.

The ribbon wrapping around the sun and stem is the silk ribbon I found. Saves cutting out silk bits however it is much thinner than the silk I am using for the leaves. It does challenge me to actually think about the movement of the ribbon winding around things vs making shapes to fit.

On the inspiration gown the ribbon was outlined in a bead of possible similar color, so I will be outlining mine in coral beads I found.

So cutting out tiny leaves from silk is a pain. Does it shred. So I am doing a slightly deeper stitch and hoping crouching pearls over everything will stabilize it.


That is a picture of where I left off last night. It’s very slow work and I do worry about my set deadline which is February. But one thought I will leave you with: couching pearls is very relaxing. It sets a rhythm like knitting or counting worry beads. And this way I am catching up on shows that I wanted to watch on Netflix :)

Attack of the white fuzzies

So the next step in the project was to fit the sleeve to get it started. Dress form should be in next week and I will start the doping of the gown itself.

Hubby helped with the sleeve. Cut it out and laid it out onto linen o I could better put it into a frame. Trying to decide right now how to work on it. We got a used Grace standing frame which I am going to try. It’s small but if I am careful it will work for now.


Next I laid out when the sun is going to go.i figured I might as well get it sorted out first. I need to order more gold purl so there will be a delay before I start the rest of the project.


Problem one
The linen I did the sun on was great for the goldwork. Nice , reasonably tightly woven and not too much stretch. But to appliqué it, bit of a nightmare. Have to trim it close to turn it under but too close and now it is leaving white fuzzy bits everywhere.

I decided to tuck the linen under the appliquéd part vs stitch it down close to the edge because i felt it would be stronger and the linen wouldn’t show as much. Well, the tips of the sun were impossible to turn and tuck the linen under nicely.

One side effect of this is that the sun is now raised slightly do it now looks line some of the padded goldwork you see in period embroidery. That was my intention all along , I promise!!!!

Laying gilt purl along the edge to finish it, but need to order more. “sigh”


Sun completed

Well it didn’t take as long as I thought it would to finish the sun ( which is the main sleeve element) .all told probably about 20 hrs over 7-8 days.

Things I have learned.
1. I will probably never use imitation gold thread again. Using the real gilt just made it so much easier. It laid where it was supposed to. It didn’t unravel or twist up. And i was able to get nice sharp bends.

2. When trying to space the crouching stitches evenly it’s very hard when going around curves. Especially sinuous ones: one direction they got further apart in subsequent rows, the other direction they got closer together. It is also harder working from the outside in. Next time I think I would go from the inside out. This would also eliminate some of the crowding issues I had on some of the curvy rays where my drawing was not 100% exact.

3. Point number 2, well it’s never perfect, and we are our own worst critics.


Next steps: the pattern

I need to start the pattern for the gown to at least get the sleeve draped. I am doing the variation with the sleeve open at the back and laced up, like the “house book ” dresses which were very common in the artwork of the late 15th century.

Once I have the sleeve drafted I will cut out the sun and get it placed and stitched down. I will be putting a row of metal purl around at least the center, possibly on the outer edges, and maybe pearls. That is to be determined.

I also found a possible option for the ribbon that will wind around the sun and leaves. Instead of embroidery I am going to try using silk ribbon.

I found 13mm colored silk ribbon, made by River Silks. It’s a woven tabby and according to the website it’s supposed to be extremely durable ( the use it fr canvas work without fraying) . Available in 240 colors, I may have found my new bindings for necklines etc on my gothic gowns.



So I decided to experiment during my lunch hour yesterday with the appliqué.

I tried a thin row of back stitch along the edge and it failed as expected. It will not hold up to the strain, the silk shredded.


Small whip stitches held up to me pulling on them.


Added some wool roving under the silk to see if I liked it padded, ( jury is out still ) and tried out the medium size of the seed pearls.

Overall happy with the outcome, and somewhat relieved it will not take an eternity to do the appliqué.

Starting the embroidery

I decided to jump in and start with the sun since that is the central element on the sleeve.
I am using two strands of #5 gilt smooth passing thread from Hedgehog Handworks

It will be couched down using two strands of Au Ver A Soie ( also available at Hedgehog).

Day 1
Day one, August 30th, about 3 hrs of embroidery


A close up:


Day 2
Progress, another 3 hrs or so


Day 3
Saturday!! Spent doing laundry and embroidery!


Day 4-6
About another 6 -10 hrs or so into this.


And the back in case anyone is interested.


Only a few hrs work left.

Embroidery design

As I said in an earlier post, I wanted the design to incorporate some of my heraldic elements but also look like the inspiration gown. The gown in the portrait as oak leaves, which is a strong heraldic element throughout Germany. It is also very symbolic of strength etc.

My first design looked like this:


It looked very modern and somewhat like a tattoo. I decided that I was trying to put too many elements into the design.

Design 2
This was the next design, just filling in space with oak leaves like the portrait.


It still felt off ( I was later told the scale was off slightly and that’s probably why it felt wrong)
So it was back to the drawing board literally.

After looking at embroidery and manuscripts I found one that I fell totally in love with:


A german manuscript from around the same time period, it had everything i wanted: lovely lines, some flowers to add color , incorporates elements from one of the other Swabian gowns and will fit with my personal elements .

So the design is not redrawn yet. I may just literally design as I go. We will see.


My biggest concern right now is how to mount the sleeve and bodice to work on them. The levee needs a frame at lest 24×24. For a slate frame I need 4 inch learance to mount the fabric. The sleeve is about 21 x 21 so the slate frames available will be too small. Also that’s a huge piece of embroidery to work on holing it which means a stand: another expense I m not willing to sp end right now. So that I will tackle as I go .