Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coif Patterns

Several years ago, I worked up these sewing patterns for Tudor and Elizabethan coifs.  I thought it might be nice to post them here, since I do a lot of embroidery on small projects, like coifs. 

The final pattern on this blog post is a pattern that, historically, has the most embroidery.  You can find pictures of extant pieces on this site:

The forehead clothe is warn under the final coif pattern below.  The shaped forehead clothe is usually warn with, what I affectionately call, the "ear wing" coif:

This next pattern is a plain brimmed coif.  I like this one because it sews up easy and stays on my head, no matter how active I get.  You may remember a few blog posts back where I posted about embroidered joins.  The coif picture from that blog is made from this pattern:

And finally, the iconic Elizabethan coif!  I have played around with the measurements on this pattern, so that some of my coifs are more "baggy" than others.  They are very comfortable to wear, and can be embroidered pretty heavily, as shown in the coif gallery link above.

What's in your library?

As a dutiful criminology student, I have a library full of crime theory and law books.  Everything from forensic psychology to legal ethics.  This year, I have finally started to round out my library with some decent costuming and embroidery books.  I have Moda a'Firenze, Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion, The Tudor Tailor...I also have several books on the Elizabethan era, everything from Sex in Elizabethan England to analyses of Court life.  (Boy, I hope that title doesn't pull adult ads for my blog *shudder!*)

As to embroidery, my most recent purchases are both on goldwork.  Goldwork Embroidery; Designs and Projects, by Mary Brown, and A~Z of Goldwork with Silk Embroidery from Inspiration Books.  Both have decent tutorials in various goldwork techniques, though they pretty much have the same information, in almost the same sentences.

So, what's in your library?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blackwork Practice

I'm a bad Ren...  Yep, I hooped this project, rather than using the frame, but I was so excited and inspired by Ianthe's pattern book that I couldn't wait to get home to my frame!  I found a decent weave material in The Guy's material stash, drew out the lines for an Elizabethan coif and started transferring a pattern with the light box.  I admit it; some days, there is no conquering of the ADD impulsivity!

A few things....

First, this pattern is not a replica of a period blackwork pattern, according to Ianthe's book.  However, I really liked it, and it is a close match to a beautiful fabric I picked up several months back that has become a loose gown for The Gal, a doublet and slops for The Guy, and a doublet and underskirt for moi. 

Second, though the fabric is not linen (*gasp!*  I do have an order coming for last minute linen projects before Pennsic,) the thread I am using is purple silk, from White Wolf and Pheonix.  It stitches beautifully and feels luscious as I work!

Third, don't pick on me...this is, quite literally, the first serious blackwork that I have ever attempted.  (Feel free to give that second *gasp* ; )  I've played a little with blackwork on partlets in the past, but the precision needed to make blackwork look decent is hard for my ADD mind to grasp, especially when the fibro-fog hits.


Again, here is the link to the pattern book.  My greatest gratitude to Ianthe for all of her hard work!

Monday, June 27, 2011


I would like to draw your attention to a blog from Atlantian fiber-geek Ianthe d'Averoigne.  She has published a compendium of blackwork patterns that sent me drooling yesterday!

This is an AMAZING resource for anyone who likes blackwork.  In fact, as soon as I finish my current project, I have ideas swimming around for blackwork coifs...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Frame of Mind part 2

I have almost 10 inches done on the neckline border of the shift.  The fleurs are in purple silk, the stems are in black DMC.  The fleurs are in satin stitch, edged in split stitches, the scrolling stems are in chain stitch.  The fabric is 100% linen.

Thank you to Brian for taking this photo, as my hands were shakey and, after five attempts resulting in five blurred pictures, he came to my rescue, as always : )

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Frame of Mind

It has been a while since I have pulled out my embroidery frame.  During the moves, it was packed into a box and I only dug it out a few months back.  The smock project, however, requires a frame.  Hello, old friend!

I found a nice scroll pattern for the neckline embroidery of the smock I want to make for Pennsic on the Needlen'Thread blog site, by Mary Corbet:

I used my light box to transfer the pattern onto linen strips I cut last weekend with the rotary cutter.  Because Master Creador reminded me that hooping linen can warp the fibers, and because I would have to hoop over my embroidery as I worked along, I thought it best to frame this project.  This is a scroll frame that will turn the fabric as I go, wrapping it around the hold bars.  I have a stand that goes with this frame, as well, which is nice when working on a table top, since it is a bit bulkier than a hoop.

You can barely see the pattern, though it is there.  Similiar period smocks use black embroidery, though I am thinking of embroidering the leaves in purple silk I picked up from White Wolf and Phoenix.  I have four strips to embroider, so this will make a nice project to work along on when I am not sewing or studying : )

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nimble Fingers

I haven't gotten much accomplished today on the embroidery front.  I had some papers to write and I did get quite a bit of sewing done.  As I sat down at the laptop tonight to blog, I had a sudden cloud, obscuring any ideas I had on hand to blog about!  Doh!

Outside of this week's Motif of the Week, I am starting to plot out the embroidery for a new smock.  I will be displaying at the Artisan's Showcase at Pennsic and what kind of embroiderer would I be without wearing *something* embroidered, myself!  As I usually give all of my work to others, (much is commissioned, many are projects I want to do for others,) there are few pieces of garb that I own, that have my own embroidery on them!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Motif of the Week, Tudor Rose

Well, I wasn't able to dig out a scanner, (though we return to the family house tonight,) so the picture is taken from my Blackberry:

I still don't like the right side leaf, and I am tempted to take out the stitches and re-stitch them.  I also would like to build up the white parts of the flower petals, so that they look like they are folded over.  Otherwise, I am quite pleased with this!

Stitches used:

Flower-detached buttonhole, lined in split stitches
Leaves-satin stitch, lined with split stitches
Stem-chain stitches

Silk and cotton embroidery threads, Japan silk #5 for the stems, gold filament for the outlines.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Knots and Loose Ends

Woo, what a week this past week has been!  I am utterly exhausted!  This will be short, a teaser until I can post the Motif of the Week later this evening.  I am posting from the western home; we had work being done on the plumbing at the family house, so I came out here to avoid the mess and chaos, and get a hot shower!

To respond to comments (please, please forgive me!  I am still having issues with responding to comments as they are posted,) Elmsley Rose asked about last week's Motif of the Week, "what is filigree?"  Well, that is Ren speak for "filament"...sometimes my words get mixed, which can create interesting misunderstandings ; ) 

Last year, I found a gold filament embroidery thread at Joannes.  I believe it is 6-ply, and it is very, bvery cranky to embroider with, as the gold tends to break easily.  It is relatively cheap and I have found that it adds great dimension when used for outlining with split stitches.  I also used it on this aumoniere I have been working on, (the gold around the lion is in filament):

On the most recent blog about the Tudor rose motif, Elmsley writes, "what do you mean by basket weave satin stitch?"  Well, I was attempting to criss-cross the satin stiches to make it look like a basket weave, sort of an elongated herringbone stitch.  Needless to say, it didn't work...though I would gladly accept ideas on similiar stitches that would add some depth to satin stitches!

It is my intention to post a pic of the newest Motif of the Week, tonight.  The embroidery is all done, I just need to dig out the scanner.  Tata for now!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Rose is a Rose

Greetings, various and sundry!

This week has been intensive; I was a might bit inundated with schoolwork.  I am in the final throes of my masters degree in public administration, (law and public policy, specifically) and between schoolwork and high fatigue, I was shying away from my computer.  The good news is, I have been working every free moment on this week's motif of the week-a Tudor rose!

I am very enamored of the Tudor and Elizabethan eras in history, as you've probably guessed by now.  I've embroidered many a rose over the last two years, since they were so popular in Elizabethan embroidery.  Normally I embroider them using detached buttonhole stitches, but this week, I've added leaves embroidered with satin stitches. 

The darker green inside the leaf is stitched using a basketweave style of satin stitching.  It looks messy and I am not yet beyond taking the stitches out and just embroidering them with straight satin.  The lighter part of the leaf is plain, old satin stitch. 

It is my goal to have this motif finished by Friday.  Unfortunately, with Pennsic looming in the near distance, I have a project list a mile long...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Motif of the Week

I am wading through emails, after a great weekend of getting things done outside : )

I've decided to challenge myself to embroider at least one motif a week, from the Elizabethan palette.  This week's motif is the honeysuckle flower.

Elmsley Rose pointed me towards this website, which is an amazing resource for anyone interest in Elizabethan embroidery.  It is a databse of embroidery motifs, with some wonderful photos!

Here is the page on honeysuckle:

Here is the photo of the motif I embroidered this past weekend, between yardwork and such:

The red thread is silk, and the rest of the threads are plain ole DMC floss.  The gold is Japan silk #5.  The gold veins in the leaves are embroidered with gold filigree.  The center of the flower is couched gold, and the stems are gold embroidered with a chain stitch.  The leaves and flowers are embroidered with detached buttonhole.  The veins in the leaves are embroidered with slip stitches.  Over all, I think it turned out pretty well for a weekend project!  This will be one of the sweetbags I am embroidering for Pennsic.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Life Reflection

We currently have three kitties in the house.  Rascal was abandoned here and when we moved in, we took great pains to make him feel loved and wanted.  He is an older cat, and fairly obese.  He has arthritis in his hips, and just wants a nice home where he can retire, lazing on the bed all day and being hand fed treats every now and again.  I spoil him as best I can, and sometimes let him growl at the other kitties because he's earned the right to be a carmudgeon.  This is his normal pose...

Little Bit is a teenaged cat.  She had a rough start; she was the runt of the litter, and needed help being born.  She was funny looking, but very, very courageous.  Little Bit came to us over the New Year's holiday, when I had surgery and needed a pick me up.  Little Bit has taught me so very much about resiliency, and she has been no end of love and inspiration.  Here she is, napping on the wine rack (I gave up on trying to train her not to do things like that ; )

Rascal and Little Bit have little interest in my embroidery.  Well, let me amend that; Little Bit occasionally has to attack my thread, just so that I will put my projects down and return to something more productive, giving her attention ; )

This is the new girl.  We are still working on a name, though the kids have settled on Gurgi, (after Gurgi in The Black Cauldron.)  I call her muffin because that's about the size she is.

That is my embroidery basket, that Gurgi/Muffin is sleeping in...Rather than take the chance of her getting pricked by one of my many needles, I had to make up a special basket just for her.  I found one that was round, and roughly the same size.  I put some linen scraps in, so it was just like mine.  She curled right up in it, and it is now her favorite napping spot!  (And so much cheaper than the kitty hammocks I bought for them to play and nap in *sighs*). 

She loves to watch me sew and embroider, and doesn't attack my thread. 

Each of the three kitties have been such a godsend to me.  Their distinct personalities have rounded out the pieces of our family.  Rascal is the grampa cat, always complaining about the kittens walking on his lawn.  Little Bit is so intelligent and creative.  Sometimes, I swear you can see her thinking.  Gurgi/Muffin is a snuggler.  She loves nuzzling hands, necks, chects, you name it. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Embroidered Joins

I have spent the majority of this week hand sewing medieval braies and chausses.  Without going into great detail about the research I've conducted, period garments were sewn differently than we sew garments modernly.  The pieces were hemmed individually, and then joined together by either whip-stitching or a decorative stitch, called faggoting. 

A few years back, I hand sewed a coif, using a faggoted join for the brim.  The finished join is a modified herringbone stitch.  The coif is made from white linen, and I used simple DMC embroidery floss for the join.

 This is the completed coif.  Below is a close up of the faggoting join, and a flat scan of the coif.

This is one of my favorite coifs to wear, because it stays put n my head, no matter how my hair is cut or styled, and because it sewed up so easily : )

I am currently researching some period shifts that employed faggoting stitching for joins.  I like to "feel pretty," and embroidered shifts feel very luxurious to me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The First Thread...part 2

Here is the potholder...I  must have been about 12 years old?

That is not a blood stain, either ; )

Here is a pic of the first time I ever attempted a detached stitch.  You can see how I progressed in the three roses; one is very messy, one is a little better, and the third is even more precise, though still not perfected.

The First Thread...

Somewhere around the house, I still have a potholder that I made in girlscouts when I was a child.  Mrs. Pratt taught us to embroider a French knot, and we made a flower out of knots, which was then sewn into a potholder.  I don't know how she got me to sit still long enough to embroider those 9 or 10 knots, but she did and I did.

I started embroidering, as an adult, close to three years ago, when I started delving into Tudor era fashions.  My health was on a downswing, and I needed something that was not physically intensive, but would challenge me mentally.  It didn't take long before I was hooked.  I jumped into later period embroidery before I learned the more "simple" chain and split stitches.  Now, I'm not ashamed to show my...learning pieces...however, apparently Blogger is doing maintanence and won't let me upload the scan of my first attempts at Elizabethan embroidery : (

I will make it up to you later this evening, with a pic of that piece *and* the potholder : )

Friday, June 3, 2011

Knots and Loose Ends

Yesterday was a day of vindication where I was able to make magic with the needle, embroidery and sewing, both.  Today, the CFS has struck and I've only managed to crawl out of bed to the couch.  My coffee still sits on the counter, as I wasn't able to go get it earlier in the day!

Bring in the reinforcements!  Miss Max came home from school and took to some chores.  Miss Sky came home with a feel better present!  Here is one of the, undoubtedly, many photos we will be taking in the coming years:

Now, the Beloveds are on the way from Jamestown for the weekend, and Keags will be home in about half an hour.  I also have a cup of tea!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Peas Porridge Hot...

Yesterday, between bombing on the plaited braid stitch, and having to pull out an entire section of or nue, I settled for something I *thought* I could handle...a pea pod on the current sweet bag!

This is a three dimensional component, embroidered in detached buttonhole.  I will be adding pearl "peas" into the pod, under the flap of the upper pod, as soon as I can find the box that has my pearls in where exactly *did* that box go?

You may notice that the flowers, butterfly, and underneath portions of the pea pod look strange for detached buttonhole stitches, which are normally much cleaner in rows...this is because I, for whatever strange reason, was turning the hoop, when I turned rows.  Um....once I realized what I was doing, I corrected my stitching, and you can barely see, but the upper portion of the pea pod is much neater.  Now to decide if I want to restitch the other components, or just let bygones be bygones?  ....Hmmm...... 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Conquering the Plaited Braid of...

If you haven't checked out this site, they have instructionals on many different stitches, as well as the various names for stitches in different languages:

I started off reviewing the instructional for the plaited braid stitch on the site listed above:

Looks easy, no?  No. Rather than destroy any of my gold or silver threads (they are a little more expensive...) I opted to experiment using a bamboo thread in a 10/2 weight.  Here are two shots of my attempt at following the directions:

Okay, not too bad, but obviously not as polished as I'd like...the loops are not even, nor are my entrance and exit holes.  I do not feel like I am interpreting the instructional correctly.  What to do?  How about we go back to a more basic stitch?  The just simply called "braid stitch." 

I decided to draw in parallel lines to follow, until I feel more confident about the stitch.

First things first...I realized there is no anchor stitch like in a lot of other stitches, so I moved my first entrance hole to the bottom line. 

Holding my breathe...

It seems that I am having issues with keeping my loops even and consistent.  That may be more easily corrected when I move to the gold thread, since that is less fluid.  I think with more practice today, I should be able to try the plaited braid stitch again by this evening...

Stay tuned...!

The Quest to Conquer a Plaited Braid Stitch

Today, I am hunting and practicing the dreaded plaited braid stitch! 

It was pointed out to me that the last picture I posted of the stitch, isn't really the plaited braid stitch : \  Thank you!  From, here is a picture of a coif, from the V&A Museum:

I have found some instructionals online, and once the plumber has unclogged my bathtub and empties my checkbook, I am going to play around with the stitch.  I will post pictures and a blog about my experiments later tonight, so stay tuned!