Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As promised, better pictures of the basketweave pattern pouch

These pictures were made using a scanner and include some of the details of the purse. When I see something I would like to recreate I am always interested in the details of the finishing techniques. As I gain experience this is less important but has been vital for my first projects (this is only my second pouch).

To make the lining, I whipstitched a piece of bronze linen to the back of the embroidery. I then folded the whole piece together, right side out, and tablet wove the sides together. I started the weaving at the bottom corner of one side of the purse (at the fold). I passed the weft thread through the warp a couple times, then started passing the weft through the warp from left to right, stitching the warp through the edges of the side of the purse. The weft thread emerged from the purse edge on the left and I then passed the weft through the warp from left to right. The cards were turned after every time I passed the weft through the warp.

Once I wove up to the top of the purse I kept weaving in a normal manner, passing the weft through the warp from left to right, rotating the cards, passing the weft from right to left and rotating the cards again. This wove the strap of the purse.

When the strap was long enough I once again started weaving the purse edge, this time starting at the top edge of the purse side and working my way down. Before I started I made sure the strap was straight. I wouldn't want to have finished weaving the second side of the purse only to discover the strap was all twisted. I think I would have lost my mind if had done that.

At the end of the purse I stitched into the warp a couple times and tied off the weft. The leftover warp thread on both bottom ends of the purse formed part of the tassels.

So, how did I maintain tension as I was rotating the purse and weaving the second side? Is there a good way to do this? I don't know. I used my hand to hold the purse and strap and maintain tension manually while I used the other hand to pass the weft and rotate the cards. It was very awkward. I had planned to take pictures of the process but it didn't work out. Maybe next time if I ever try this again.

The top edge of the purse, where the linen lining was attached to the embroidery, didn't look finished to me so I did a stem stitch along the edge to cover the seam.

The drawstring resembles fingerloop cord but is actually kumihimo (I used 8 bobbins). Fingerloop would have been more authentic but I am really bad at it.

The holes for the drawstring cord to pass through were made with an awl and not finished in any way. According to descriptions of extant pouches this is how many of them were made. I will just have to see how this holds up to use. My last pouch I did buttonhole stitching on the eyelets so this is a new technique for me. It makes me feel nervous to do this to my embroidery that I put so much work into.

Materials: 2-ply silk thread from dyed using fustic for the yellows, indigo for the blue and fustic/indigo for the green; 24-count linen congress cloth from Needle in a Haystack (; bronze linen from my stash. I put samples of all the threads in a sunny window for several weeks. The fustic did not fade at all, nor did the green. The indigo faded slightly but still looks pretty. As I plan to store this pouch out of the light I think it will be fine.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Basketweave embroidered pouch - done!

It was two months and one day ago that I first posted about making this pouch. That is not actually a long time but it felt like forever to me. I was so excited to have it finished that I took this bad picture to post. Later I'll photograph it in natural light and get better pictures of the details.

The finished bag is 5.5 inches wide and 5.25 inches tall. The sides are finished with card weaving. I used 8 cards: 4 S-threaded, 4 Z-threaded, all the cards turned forward continuously. I elected not to use fancy patterns or multiple colors for the weaving because I wanted the simplicity of the weaving to set off the complicated embroidery pattern instead of being a distraction.

The tassels on the bottom are very simple and I did not put tassels on the drawstrings. I was not sure how complicated I wanted to get with that so I chose to leave it more plain. Later I can change it if I decide I would like that better. Now I just need to enjoy looking at it for a while.

Overall I am very pleased with the result. I plan to wear it with a simple gown so attention is drawn to the pouch.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Maru dai completed, now I have three!

It feels like such a long time since I last posted when it has really only been a couple of weeks. I took a week long hiatus from doing any craft type activities for a couple of reasons. First, my wrist was hurting and I thought a rest would be good for it. Second, I just started a new job and wanted to focus my energy on work.

Now it is almost time for school to start again. For me that means back to the woodshop and starting a new project. In order to be ready for new things it is time to finish off the old things. This week I finally finished these maru dai (stands to use for making kumihimo cord). I have been using them in their unfinished state and they worked fine, but it is good to have them done.

I chose three different heights as an experiment to see how it would feel to work with different sizes. The shortest one has 12 inch posts. It is convenient to use when sitting although I do have to tie up the cord coming out the bottom more frequently. The middle one has 17 inch posts. It was the first stand I made so the one I have used the most. It is not convenient to use with the tables I have at home but it is a good height when I set it on a low stool or when I am standing. The third stand is 24 inches high and is my favorite. It sits on the floor when I am sitting to weave or on a coffee table if I want to stand. Because it is tall I don't have to worry as much about tying up the cord. The drawbacks are that it takes up more space to store and was expensive to make, especially because I used walnut.

The tall and short stands are walnut and the middle height stand is red oak. The walnut is so beautiful but so much more expensive than other woods. I probably spent over $30 just for the wood in the tall stand and $18 for the short one. The oak was about half as expensive. I used a gel stain on all the wood, rubbed in by hand. This went on much better and more controlled than the liquid stain although it was harder to find a store that carried it. The walnut is stained with a dark walnut stain, the oak with a color called "Provincial" (a light-medium golden brown). All the stands are finished with multiple coats of Mylands wax, a blend of beeswax, carnuaba wax and other stuff not mentioned on the label. The wax gives a nice low sheen and doesn't make to wood too slick and cause the threads to slide around too much when in use.

Each time I make something new in wood I learn a new lesson. This time the lesson was: don't skimp on sanding with the low grit sandpaper to get the big scratches and flaws out. The finer grade sandpaper won't do it the flaws really show up when the piece is finished.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm trying to tablet weave

I am learning to do cardweaving so I can finish my basketweave pouch. Here are the practice samples I made so far,all using cheap crochet cotton. I only had one pattern, for the blue and white sample from the class I went to. It is a really nice pattern but will be wider than what I am looking for. What I really need is patterns for some narrow trim and I am not happy with my efforts to just figure something out. The book I have has all these fancy patterns and brocade. That's like college level equivalent. I am looking for kindergarten. This is a work in progress.

I made a little progress with my scissors case. I really like it so far. Another work in progress...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On looking for newer photos of old embroideries

It is wonderful to have some books about embroidery that were amazing resources when they were published, especially since nothing as good or complete has been published since. I am thinking specifically of A Pictorial History of Embroidery by Marie Schuette in 1964 and Niedersächsische Bildstickereien des Mittelalters 1150-1450 by Renate Kroos in 1970. At the time they were published fewer color photographs were used in books than now. When trying to recreate these embroideries or use these references as sources for documentation one thing is missing: color. Granted, many of the colors look very different now than they did when new due to fading but seeing them in color really does give a different impression.

I would love to have my two favorite references redone with updated photos. If I were more of a scholar and felt myself up to the challenge and had the time and money to do the traveling that would be required, I'd do it myself. Since that is not possible I will just keep looking for new resources.

Here is something I found yesterday. The b/w photo is from the Kroos book. The color photo is of the same piece but a different section. It is reproduced smaller as the actual book size is smaller but it was very wonderful to see the color. The book is Kostbarkeiten aus dem Domschatz Halberstadt and is a museum publication available on the Domschatz Halberstadt website It is a thin book containing information and photos for various items in the museum, including a few textiles.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Take a look at an interesting new(er) blog

Chris Laning of Paternosters ( sent me the link to this blog (Taschen at and I really liked it. He is just getting started but his work is really nice and judging by the lack of comments not many have seen it yet. Hooray! Another brick stitch purse maker!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Starting something new - a scissors case

Right now I am intermittently working on my tablet weaving skills so I can finish the basketweave embroidery pouch, but meanwhile I have to have another embroidery project going. This new project is going to be a scissors case. I wanted to use a pattern from my recent library research and I kept coming back to the design I scanned in the picture above. In order to incorporate such a detailed design into the small size of the case I decided to use 40 count linen. The design looks really good and not too large and crude with this finer linen (I normally use 24 or 28 count), however it is difficult to see. I am using a magnifier to see the stitching when I work. I don't think this is good for me over a long time so I only embroider for short periods of time then give my eyes a rest. Therefore I think this will take a while unless I am diligent and work on it every day. Who knows if that will happen?

The scan is from the Renate Kroos book and the embroidery is from Halberstadt circa 1270/80. I am using two strands Soie d' Alger silk floss.