Category Archives: Embroidery Projects

A Pleatwork Apron – Flemish Style

Inspiration strikes at the oddest times. I was visting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my husband and was walking around enjoying the exhibits when we stopped to look at a tapestry. It was pretty cool, having a harvest scene surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. I walked away, stopped and walked back, something catching my eye.

There was a pleated apron on one of the women in the tapestry. Not only that it was different than anything I had seen before. So I took a picture and continued on wandering around the museum. After I got home, I started looking at the few picture I took and there was the picture of the tapestry and that apron. I HAD TO MAKE IT!!

Now I have been making pleatwork aprons for almost 10 years. I own two, I have given piles away. I really dont need another one. So I put the call out to see if anyone wanted one if I made it. Well one of the people who answered  happened to have a middle class Flemish persona (in the Society for Creative Anachronism). Her research has been in cooking. Who better to need and get an apron!!.

My challenge with this project was just trying to figure out what the heck was going on. The apron was a strange merger of what I consider a Flemish Apron (rectangle of fabric) and the pleatwork aprons that were a favored accessory in the Germanic areas during the 16th century.

What I found was more and more pictures of aprons. While I did not uncover another image that looked like this one, what I found were images of aprons that had various elements of my inspiration image. Once again, it all came together and a new apron was born.

This was my third entry in the Kings and Queens Arts and Science Competition for the East Kingdom of the SCA and the one I think was the most “fun”. I actually had to keep trying it on to show people all the fun elements. I have been accused of spreading apron fun through the SCA. If this is the influence I have had, then that is a good thing indeed. I mean really, who does not love a pretty fun accessory:)

As with the other projects, below is a link to the write up, and some pictures.

https://medievalhandwork.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/a-flemish-apron.pdf

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A Knight’s Hood – 14th century appliqued hood

I have been honored  for the last few years by a good friend to serve as his consort in tournaments for the Society of Creative Anachronism,  in the East Kingdom. This past summer, Jibril al-Dakhil became a Knight of the Society. I had promised him that I would make him a gift befitting. As with many projects, this one had it’s challenges.

He did not have a preference between a hood or a cloak. He has fairly simple tastes and did not want anything too over the top, but that being said it had to kick ass:)

His persona is that of a son of a Spanish woman who fell in love with a moor (son of a nobleman).  He turned against his faith when forced to choose between family and service. He grew up in southern Spain, and went off to the crusades and became a squire to a European knight. While he still remains true to his roots he is a Christian warrior. As befits his somewhat humble background he prefers simple accoutrements, and in fact as a new knight he is still building his estate and his wealth.

This was  my second item entered in our Kingdom’s Arts and Science competition this past weekend. When I was asked to talk about the hood I brought his persona into my explainations of material and design choices. I think my favorite moments were when I was discussing  access to the fabrics ( Merino wool from Spain because his mother was Spanish, and the Cashmere wool, that he likely “aquired” during the crusades) and when I explained that unlike the elaborate hoods described in wardrobe accounts, he was still a lowly knight and had not yet made his fortune, so he would not have been able to have a garment dripping in pearls and precious metal. The documenation linked below talks more about this. 

My goal was to completely hand make a hood, representing his new order, incorporating his personal heraldry, make the garment as period accurate as possible, but also keep it practical for SCA use and his desire to keep it somewhat simple. In my opinion I accomplished this goal and also somewhere during making of it, I fell in love with it. I am very proud of how it turned out, and I only hope the recipient loves it as much as I do.

PS, as of this writing he has still not seen it:) Yes, I am mean that way. Enjoy, and please, I would like to hear from you on what you think.

https://medievalhandwork.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/a-knightly-hood.pdf


The Finished Project

The shirt is finished and it met all my expectations. When I set out to make this shirt, I wanted to first make a side opening version, because they are rarely seen, and two I wanted to test out some construction theories:

  • Stiff collars
  • Stand out from the neck
  • Rounded top edge
  • Geometric embroidery

I really feel that I accomplished what I set out to do.  By folding over the fabric for the collar, the edge once pleated provided a nice clean edge. The double fabric allowed for thick, stiff pleats. The added benefit is that you need less fabric in the body to pleat up the neckline. The pattern darning created the geometric patterning that I see in the inspiration portraits.

This was not the easiest project. I put a lot of hours in to rip out embroidery and redo it. But with each failure came more understanding and further success.

Below is the link to the documentation for the shirt. It was recently presented in the Arts and Science Competition for the East Kingdom of the SCA. I am also recapping details of the shirt below in a full gallery.

https://medievalhandwork.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/the-italian-shirt.pdf


Achievement unlocked: completed embroidery!!

Thanks to a requirement that I rest with my feet up ( it’s not sell it’s cracked up to be) and crappy weather I knocked out the embroidery this week.

Per my previous posts I knew this would take less time because I had half the pleats to embroider than I did before. Thirty eight (38) rows around 1/2 hr to an hour each row. Started it last week, finished last night. Total time about 32 hrs pleating and embroidery.

Next: fitting the shirt

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Take Two!

In my last post I was woeing the need to rip out a horrific number of hours of embroidery because I was not happy with it.

So I did. Here is what happened next:
I put the shirt back up on the dress form to see how much fabric I could remove from the body without changing the drape ( about 10 inches front and back) .
I did 3 more test runs with pleat size.( decided on a larger pleat) .
Re-fit the shirt to my test dummy ( hubby).
Made sure I had enough thread in the same dye lot.
Put in Christmas movies and started pleating again.

This time, because there was less fabric and they were deeper, there are fewer pleats. This will actually be good because it pattern will be much more visible. The embroidery will also be easier because they will not be as tight. And I know the pattern now, so round two should be faster.

Two nights to re-pleat it and here is the result:

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When things just aren’t working out

We all know we are our own worst critics. But there are times that I feel that an artisan should to take a step back and say ” this is just not working” or ” it’s not right” or “not to my standards”.

Last week I hit that point. Fifty plus hours into the embroidery on the hemd and I knew.
The thread I had ordered was a slightly different shade of white than the first spool but it took about 6 rows of the pattern to really notice it ( and the subsequent stripe).

The neckline ( per my previous posts) was too big. I was going to change the style slightly and run with it.

BUT.. I knew it wasn’t right. While I am doing this project to further my research, it is going to someone else and I want them to love it. ( they would have no matter what because the recipient is too nice to say otherwise. ) Better to stop part way through than put more time into something I would ultimately be disappointed in.

My friend’s reactions, were sympathetic of course, then everyone of them more or less said that if I felt I needed to tear it out then it needed to be: their reason? I have standards that I set for myself. They are high, but they are there so I always challenge myself. Again we are our own worst critics.

So what is the next step? Well if it’s a technique that is not working, I will go back to the drawing board to see what I need to do differently. If it’s a material failure ( or worse) it may be a case of cutting my losses and start it over.

For the shirt it means tearing out all the embroidery done so far, and the pleating. Re-measuring, doing more test pleats and see if it can be salvaged.

This is all a good thing btw. I do thrive on proving to myself I can do it. More to come !!!


A pattern emerges

Figuring out the pattern I wanted to use for the shirt was one of the biggest challenges I had.  There are two ways to do the patterning: the pleats make the design or the threads do. They are essentially reverses of each other.

This handout from my apron class shows an example of using the threads to form the pattern. http://www.pleatworkembroidery.com/articles/apronintwoways

Here http://www.pleatworkembroidery.com/recreating I have a example of an extant shirt fragment and the recreated version.

You have to make sure that you do not use a pattern that carries the threads over too many pleats or the threads will catch on things and sag. 

The other way to look at the pattern is to use the pleats to form the design. http://www.pleatworkembroidery.com/articles/15th%20Century%20Ladies%20Hemd

This is much more stable because the design threads are run through the majority of the pleats and only small stitches pass over the the pleats. I opted to go this route because after looking at shirts and necklines of similar design in the period artwork I decided that it would be closer to what I was seeing in these pictures.

The pattern is charted from an extant Modelbuch by Micholas Bassee. While the book dates from 1568, these patterns were widely used throughout German and Italian embroidery. 

The charted pattern

The charted pattern

The dots are where the thread goes over the pleats, the white spaces are where the thread goes through the pleat:

stitching the pleats

The first row is the hardest because that is laying out your pattern. After that, you can use the stitches in the previous row as a pattern guide. Hint: When doing the stitching, it is easier to pull the needle through multiple pleats as shown in the image above. It keeps the stitches lined up better and the rows even.

the pattern begins

This is the pattern after 10 rows. The pleats are pulled in very tight and the pattern is beginning to emerge.