opus mariss

Embroidering through Time and Space

Leave a comment

Stitches from Altenburg – the Tiger Stag



linen on linen “Tiger-Stag” based on an altar cloth from Altenburg an der Lahn Kloster adapted and stitched by Mariss Ghijs



linen on linen, embroidered Atlantian Spyke with double interlaced herringbone border designed and stitched by Mariss Ghijs.

I’ve been working on examining five extant textiles produced at the Altenburg an der Lahn Premonstratensian Kloster between about 1200 and 1400.  This little guy is taken from an altar cloth http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1948.352 now in the Cleveland Museum of Arts collection.  He is stitched using Brick Stitch, Chain Stitch, Counted Satin Stitch, and a variation of Interlaced Herringbone Stitch.  This is the Stitch sample for the class I’ve been teaching about this particular altar cloth, and the stitches that are used on it.  Most of the stitches used on the original piece are your basic simple stitches but the interlacing stitch used is one I hadn’t seen before.  I am pretty familiar with the standard Interlaced Herringbone stitch seen here.


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

The IHbS is used throughout the middle ages as both a surface stitch and as an insertion stitch in seams of garments. The extant St. Birgitta’s cap is an example that uses a quadruple herringbone pattern that is then interlaced.  The border on the example with Spyke is the simplest of the interlaced herringbone patterns, using a double herringbone stitch for the base.  If you are interested in leaning how to do the IHb stitch I would highly recommend visiting http://www.needlenthread.com/ and following her links to the tutorial there.  Its one of the best I’ve seen and she has a down load available that will teach you everything you could possible want to learn about the stitch.  Modernly the IHbS is still used in many parts of the world, Kutch embroidery of India is one example.  But when I really looked at the Cleveland piece I realized that the border was not the traditional IHbS.  If you look at the Spyke on the right you will see that the “tabs” are set up in pairs, each pair opposite of each other.  In the Cleveland altar cloth the “tabs” alternate.

I was perplexed and spent hours trying to figure out how the grid and interlacing pattern worked.  It finally came to me, the grid is not a herringbone stitch, the grid is 2/3rds of a Maltese Cross stitch. Once I figured that out, it became fairly easy to graph out the pattern.   Below is a step by step tutorial on how to work this Interlaced stitch.

herringbone variation 1Step 1- building your grid. The grid can be as long or as short as you need it to be, I made my boxes about the width of the nail on my pinky finger, but I would highly recommend working this larger the first couple of times you try. So, that you can really see what you are doing. THE NEXT BIT IS VERY IMPORTANT – the long legs of your grid MUST match, top and bottom in their overs and unders. If they don’t, you wont be able to weave the finishing row into the grid correctly, and all your work will have to be undone.  This isn’t that big of a deal when you only have a few boxes while practicing.  But believe me when you are working an entire border and realize after you are done that you made a mistake halfway through…

Step 1 part 2 – after you finish making your  grid lines you will weave one final long stitch back into the bars to make 2 rows of boxes.





Step 1 part 1 – building your grid: don’t forget to make sure your vertical stitches match top and bottom in how they go over and under the horizontal stitches.


Step 1 part 2: weave the last stitch back through the middle of your grid.










Step 2 – Lacing the First pass.

bring your lacing thread up under your center grid line just past the first top box, this will hide your stopping starting point.  bring your thread under the long vertical stitch and then over the first shorter vertical stitch.  Then work your way around the corners of the square weaving your interlacing thread around the grid you built, in step one.


Step 2 – getting started, remember to hide your start point under the center grid line.


Step 2- continue weaving your lacing thread around the legs of the top row of boxes. You will need to make 2 over and 2 unders in a row when transitioning from one box to another. This will seem weird, but it will work out in the end.









Step 2 – the second pass  Once you have finished the top row finish the last box and keep weaving your lacing thread through into the bottom row.  Here is where the double overs and unders will work themselves out.


Second pass – coming around the corner


Finally you should have a row of interlaced boxes like this one. Stop your stitch by bringing your needle back to the underside of the cloth and the place you started. This way it will be hidden under your grid, and invisible to the eye.


Like many compound stitches it seems difficult at first, but once you have your AH-HA moment the pattern will become fairly simple to work.  I hope you enjoy and use this unusual stitch from Altenburg.



A little something for the Queen


Wool on linen, Bayeux Tapestry stitch embroidery by Mariss Ghijs 2015

Last fall Amie Sparrow https://amiesparrow.wordpress.com/ asked me to collaborate with her on a gift for the then Princess, now Queen of Atantia Esa Kirkepatrike.  Amie asked if I would embroider a slip with Esa’s personal arms to be applied to a German Goller.  Here is the embroidered slip.  The piece is stitched in wool on linen using the Bayeux tapestry stitch.  The yellow wool/silk blend was had spun by Lady Juliana de Chanberrey (MKA Julie Stubbs) http://www.exhaliastudios.com/squirrel/author/exhalia/ and had dyed by Baroness Kaleeb al-Akhdar (MKA Patty Ellison)http://kaleeb.galtham.org/.  The white tummy fur in the lower left was provided by my supervisor Frankie. P1040224 - Copy (2)