Category Archives: Pleatwork

Testing out Embroidery Patterns – Pleatwork

So I decided to work on a new long term project to chart out patterns from some of the German Modelbuch’s and then recreate them in both white and black (embroidery). Well I got 3 done, and only in black. The charting is the easy part, but I quickly realized that it would take much more time than I expected and its very tedious.

However, the results are very cool. One of the big questions when looking at pleated and embroidered garments is it “trim” or “embroidery”.

People also like to interpret some of the embroidery as “blackwork” which is doable over pleats but would not be what we modernly consider blackwork.

I am going to designate this as monochrome embroidery on pleats. The technique used is modernly known as pattern darning. Its a very common technique, dating from likely 12th century onwards.

Sample 1

“Ein new Modelbuch auff außnehen vnd borten wircken … Anno Domini 1526”

Johann Schönsperger (der Jüngere), 1526, Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Kunstbibliothek

http://www.bildindex.de/bilder/kb17720014a.jpg (Thanks to Katherine Bairch) http://jillwheezul.livejournal.com/245929.html.

I did however reverse the colors.  This is the chart and the resulting sample embroidery:

DSC00021 DSC00018

Sample 2:

DSC00020DSC00016

 

Sample 3 is a test from portraiture.

DSC00017

 

Sample 4 was done to try out the embroidery on the shirt from Portrait of the Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach c1511 

http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hans_S%C3%BC%C3%9F_von_Kulmbach_002.jpg

What I wanted to test if a silk could hold up to being carried over on the front of the pleats or was this more likely a stiff medium such as metal thread. I embroidered over 5 pleats using Soie Ovale ( a flat filament silk). It seemed to hold up, but over more pleats it would start to droop. So it was most likely a stiffer floss, or a fine fine metal thread.

File:Hans Süß von Kulmbach 002.jpg DSC00013

 

TAKEAWAYS so far:

1. Silk for embroidery should be equal in size to the size of the pleats for the best effect

2. Very tight pleating (like Sample 2) will replicate trim / brocades

3. Not all patterns work for pleats. You cant have the thread carry over too many pleats or the pattern starts getting distorted.

More to come… next white..

 

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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

20131216-122008.jpg


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:

20131216-120905.jpg


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.


Pleats, pleats and more pleats

The pleating for the new shirt is done.  Because I always get questions about the pleating process I thought I would spend some time talking about it.

Figuring out the pleats is probably the hardest part of the entire process.  The shirt needs to fit a 19″ neck. This style will fall a bit below a normal “shirt” neck, so I am figuring on the actual size being about a 21-22 inches around. I will be constructing the shirt using four panels of fabric: front, back and 2 sleeves. The linen is about 58″ wide. Using a full width for the back and front and 1/2 a width for each sleeve it adds up to 174 inches minus and inch or so for seams.

The neckline is not ruffed at the top, so rather than finish the edge, I am folding it over the depth of the proposed embroidery. This will give me a finished edge at the top, and will give more body to the neck. If you look at the inspiration shirt and others similar to it, they look very stiff.

Pleating up the fabric: Pleating is easy. It is simply rows of stitches. Each stitch should be approximately the same size and distance apart. Each row should be parallel to the previous row. They do not have to be perfect! If there are slight variations in the size the actual embroidery will even them out. They do not have to be perfectly lined up either. That being said if they are too far out of alignment the pleat will twist. See examples of the gathering rows in the images below.

Test samples: I did about 3 test samples before I even touched the actual shirt. I finally settled on a pleat size of about 1/8 in. The test sample that I liked ended up being about 6 inches of fabric to make  1 inch of pleated fabric.

The ungathered test piece

The ungathered test piece

gathered up

gathered up

Round one:  172 inches on a 6:1 ration puts the  neckline at 28″. Way too wide. I pleated two rows to double check ( I was optimistic it would work). Nope… too big ( time spent 4 hrs)

Round two: Since I had to reduce the neckline by 4-6 inches, it meant I needed to reduce the amount of fabric, or increase the size of the pleats. I didn’t want the neck too thick, so decided to leave the size the same, and reduce the amount of fabric.  I had two choices I could trim a few inches from both the sleeves and the body, or I could rethink the design.

My first pleatwork shirt, from a later period, did not pleat in the sleeves. By following the same design, it would solve all the size problems. But, after studying the portrait I felt that this was the wrong approach. So I reduced the amount of fabric from each side, then again ran two rows of gathering threads around the entire neckline . The neckline was now going to be the right size, but the shirt no longer had the volume of fabric that I wanted or that the portrait indicated. Back to the drawing board ( time spent – 4 to 5 hours).

Round Three: I went back to the original sized panels for the shirt and decided that I would make the pleats a big bigger. I know from doing other pattern-darned projects that I could also tighten up the pleats more than I did in the sample. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Showing the gathering threads

Showing the gathering threads

A couple hours later, I pull up the gathering threads to check the size. I love how the natural curve of the neck is starting to form. The neckline is still too big, but I am going to run with it and see what happens. At the worst I can fudge the size somewhat later.

Neckline is curving

Neckline is curving

Completed pleating: I ran a total of 8 rows of gathering threads, placed about 1/4″ apart. I recommend that you pleat up at least one row more than you need in order to give yourself a good foundation for the embroidery.

Neckline is pleated.

Neckline is pleated.

Final Notes: I am often asked about using pleaters, or dots for doing the pleating. Pleaters are great tools. I have one, I have used it. They produce perfectly even pleats. However, they can be challenging to use, they are expensive, and you can’t adjust the depth of the pleats.

Another method is to iron on dots or use a ruler to “dot” the fabric. You then “pick up” the dots. This also produces even / regular pleats and if you are using a ruler you can adjust the depth of your pleat. I am not a fan of the dots because it is time consuming to mark out the fabric and you are also only running the gathering thread through the top portion of the pleat. This lets the pleats fan out at the back and I find them much less stable to embroider.