opus mariss

Embroidering through Time and Space

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And sew it begins

I have recently started a large scale Opus Teutonicum project that has been floating around in the back of my mind for a bit.  One of the identifying markers of Opus Teutonicum is the scale of the project.  The extant pieces are to a modern embroiders mind HUGE.  Many of the altar cloths we have are four or five feet wide and twelve feet or longer (yes I said feet) some of the Lenten veils are as big as 9′ x 12′.  I wanted to get a feel for working on a large project, but I am one person and the O.T. embroideries where worked by teams of stitchers. 4’x12′ seemed like a lot to bite off, but a banner sized project in the 3’x 4′ range feels doable.  The next question was, what should I embroider?


Another of the identifying factors of Opus Teutonicum is the imagery used on the textiles these cloths where used as liturgical furnishing, mostly in convents.  They usually feature Roman Catholic religious iconography.  I don’t personally feel that I need, nor particularly want a 3′ x 4′ embroidered image of the crucifixion of Christ. Its just not my thing.  So as a card carrying member of the Society for Creative Anachronism http://www.sca.org/ I thought something pertaining to SCA life might be nice.  I decided to design my project around the secular iconography of my local SCA chapter the Barony of Tir-y-don. http://tirydon.atlantia.sca.org/ Tir-y-don’s baronial arms features a heraldic red dolphin,  we call him Fin. We like him a lot, and think of him as our mascot.  I think Fin should be the central image in my white work banner.

I had a piece of white linen about the size I wanted left over from a previous project, so I squared it up and marked the area that I wanted to be border (I’m going to keep the border design a secret for a bit) leaving me with central rectangle approximately 22″w x32″h. I sketched a dolphin onto drafting velum and when I was happy with the pencil sketch drew over the lines with a black sharpie marker.july182014 random stuff 140 Here he is taped the sliding glass door I use as a light box.

I then had to decide what the best way to transfer the cartoon to my fabric would be.  For white work I prefer to baste the design onto the cloth. I then remove the basting thread when I’m done stitching.  I’ve found that using an archival pen sometimes leaves marks that you can see though the white stitches.  Prick and pounce can smudge and flake off.  Pencil can be both smudgy and leave visible marks on the cloth.  I also wanted this project to be easily packable and portable.  Because of the size of the finished product stitching it onto a stretching frame and basting through the paper wasn’t going to be a practical solution.  Another option would be to use a disappearing marker to transfer the design directly to the cloth.  But, those work best for short term quick projects, and this is a long term project the marks will fade long before I get this one finished.  Water soluble marker might work but I live in coastal Virginia, and its humid here all the time.  Damp air and the moisture from your hands will also fade the ink from those.  I decided that even though it might be a bit more work initially the best way to transfer this design from the paper to the cloth would be to use two steps.  First I used a water soluble marker to transfer the design initially, and then then I basted over those lines with a running stitch.

Fin banner 1 001 Here you can see where I have drawn the design onto the ground cloth using a blue water soluble marker.


Fin banner 1 014
Then used a running stitch in a contrasting color. I used a medium blue mostly because it was the first spool of thread I found.


And then finally I rinsed the blue marker off of the ground cloth. Fin banner 1 018









Now to get stitching.



Stitches from Altenberg – open chain stitch

This is another tutorial for the embroidery class I am teaching, utilizing stitches found on altar cloths embroidered by the nuns of the Altenberg on Lahn convent in Germany. Chain stitches are used in several of the extant textiles dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. In particular this Lenten veil is stitched almost completely in chain stitch.  This cloth is currently in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland Ohio here is a link to learn more about it.  http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1948.352?collection_search_query=altar+cloth&op=search&form_build_id=form-3GLIcR92Z9MhgpJjasMJi92ZrM0m3mv5ZIlnZmWFnsE&form_id=clevelandart_collection_search_form

cleveland altar cloth

Altar Cloth Germany, linen on linen embroidery, Altenberg on the Lahn, Premonstratensian Convent, 14th century Date: c. 1350. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Ohio Accession No.: 1948.352

Here is a close up detail of the same cloth, you can easily see the open chain stitches used to outline the beast.


Detail view -Altar Cloth Germany, linen on linen embroidery, Altenberg on the Lahn, Premonstratensian Convent, 14th century Date: c. 1350. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Ohio Accession No.: 1948.352

Open Chain Stitch also called Ladder Stitch

Chain stitch is a very easy stitch to learn and I personally feel that it is one of the basic stitches that every embroider should know. It can be used for outlining a design and also for filling areas. The look of the stitch can be altered by changing the width of the legs. It works well on both straight lines and in curves. It is a very popular stitch and the basic chain stitch can easily be altered to make more complicated stitches such as heavy chain, Hungarian braided chain. and couched chain. I work my chain stitches in reverse, I think it gives me more control over the placement of my stitches.

For Open Chain also known as Ladder stitch start by making 2 tiny stitches parallel to each other the width you want your line to be.     july182014 random stuff 101

Next bring you needle up from the under side of the fabric and gently thread it between your stitches and the cloth. 

Draw your thread through the two stitches and take your needle back down to the under side of cloth parallel to where you came up at.
july182014 random stuff 109
Pull to adjust your tension.

Repeat these two steps as needed.
july182014 random stuff 121


july182014 random stuff 124  It should look something like this.   The back will look like this.  july182014 random stuff 125

Here is a detail view of Open Chain used in the project for the class I am teaching.

july182014 random stuff 007

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Central Asian Boar’s Head Project

This project has kind of stalled. Hopefully if I go ahead and post it here as a work in progress it will get moving again.  The original piece dates from the 7th century c.e.  It is a silk on silk embroidery from central Asia, most likely the area where China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan all come together.  It is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Here is a link to the original piece http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/72582?img=0


detail view of Textile with Boar’s Head Roundels, silk on silk embroidery, 7th century, central Asia, 22 1/16″ x 18 7/8″. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York accession # 2004.260

Silk on silk embroidery –

for my recreation, I have chosen to use a stranded silk embroidery floss from Needlepoint INC. Silk. I picked this particular silk thread because my local embroidery shop carries this line in a wide variety of colors. I also feel it has a better sheen than Soie d’ Alger.

The colors I am using are:
#565 Iris Blue Range
#352 Pistachio Green Range
#984 Taupe Range
#867 Pumpkin Range
#992 Black & White Range

For the ground fabric I finally settled on a silk Matka in “Oatmeal” from B. Black and sons in Los Angeles. The fabric is amazing and comes in a wide selection of colors. I found that it was a little “soft” for embroidery, and lined it with a linen gauze which gave it the stability needed. Also the fabric has a very soft hand similar to a cotton flannel and you do need to take some care when stitching not to rub against it more than necessary.

cartoon on vellumdesign basted onto ground fabricpaper removed split stich outline
Outlining has begun. Split stitch over the basted design lines. Basting threads are removed after they are stitched over.
starting to fill in colorpositioning lines for peacocks

Starting to fill in the color. Split stitches following the contour of the boar’s head.
The embroidery of the central roundel is finished. I am now moving on to the four peacocks. Here is an image of how I positioned the peacocks in relation to the roundel.
boar with basting lines for peacockfilling in the birds
Outline of one of the four peacocks basted onto the ground fabric.

Starting to fill in the peacock’s body. Again, using split stitch following the contours of the outline.