Posts Tagged pelican

Richelieu Cutwork Embroidery Apron and Tutorial

11 January 2016

CutworkTutorialThis weekend my mentor and friend Mistress Crespine de la Vallée was to become a member of the Order of the Pelican, the Society’s highest service award. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Crespine’s mentor Master Philip White (also my mentor and friend), asked if I would make her an apron. When I queried him as to what sort of apron he envisioned, as there are many fine aprons one could make, he said he once saw an apron with piece work, white embroidery, and a laurel wreath with the pelican inside of it. He told me to let my creative license go. So after some research and consideration to Crespine’s persona of a 16th c. French noblewoman, I decided to make a fine white apron with a cutwork motif.

There was just one hitch—I’d not done cutwork before. I was familiar with the concept and I’ve done drawn thread work, but this was a step beyond. Nevertheless, I love to learn new fabric manipulation and embroidery techniques, so this wasn’t deterring me. Looking online, I could find examples of 16th century cutwork, but no comprehensive tutorials on how to actually reproduce it. I pieced bits together from two web sites (needlework-tips-and-techniques.com and NeedlenThread.com), which introduced the concept but did not go into great detail. I later found a few pages in Encyclopedia of Needlework by Donna Kooler (Leisure Arts, Inc., 2000). The book that really helped me was a 100-year-old book, The Priscilla Hedebo and Cutwork Book by Lilian Barton Wilson (1916), which is reprinted in the Cutwork, Hedebo, & Broderie Anglaise book edited by Jules & Kaethe Kliot (Lacis, 1992). The Cutwork book didn’t have step-by-step instructions, but it had plenty of notes that lead me in the right direction. After that, I learned by doing, which means trying, failing, and trying again until it worked and looked right.

The style of cutwork I learned is typically called French Richelieu cutwork, named after Cardinal Richelieu, who imposed a duty on all Italian imports and then brought lacemakers to France to teach the locals how to do it themselves. Cardinal Richelieu post-dates the Society’s time period by a few decades, but we know the technique existed in the 16th century and was in employ in Italy, France, and the Netherlands, among others. Cutwork pieces were highly prized amongst the royals and nobles throughout Western Europe—Mary Queen of Scots received cutwork as a New Years gift in 1556 and then later made her own “cutit out work” while she was imprisoned. England has sumptuary laws that restricted cutwork clothing and accessories to the rank of baron and above only. (For more historical information, see Needlework Through History: An Encyclopedia by Catherine Amoroso Leslie, 2007). Richelieu cutwork is characterized by freeform designs with buttonhole stitch bars the stabilize the areas of removed fabric.

Here are photos of the cutwork apron I made, and below them is a tutorial on how to create your own Richelieu cutwork piece.

Cutwork-Apron-Worn

The cutwork apron as may be worn

Cutwork-Motif

The laurel-pelican cutwork motif

apron-belt

The belt and the drawnwork hems of the apron

Mistress Crespine wearing her apron

Mistress Crespine wearing her apron

 

Richelieu Cutwork Tutorial

Materials:

High quality linen, the tighter the weave the better (Note: I used 2 oz. white handkerchief linen [WLG 109] from Wm. Booth, Draper @ $32/yard. It is their finest linen, very tightly woven with tiny threads, and is not often in stock, so if you find it, get it. If you can’t get it, go for the 2.8 oz linen.)

White Linen thread 80/3 (available at http://www.wmboothdraper.com/Thread/thread_main.htm)

White silk thread (I used 1 strand of the 12 ply Splendor silk available at http://www.needleworkdiscount.com/product/S — I used cool white) -OR- white coton a border #25 (available at http://www.hedgehoghandworks.com/catalog/FBRDMC107CLRS.php)

A word about the threads—it is important to use the right kind. You need linen thread for the buttonhole bars—they must be strong and durable (cotton will fuzz and look messy). You could use the same linen thread for the buttonhole stitching around the motif, but it looks a bit rough. I preferred either the silk or the coton a border, with a slight preference for the coton a border.

Tools:

Embroidery frame (I used a circular frame because it’s easier to hold in my hands, but you could also use a slate frame)

Small, sharp embroidery scissors (for example: http://www.joann.com/gingher-epaulette-3-1-2in-embroidery-scissors/4655338.html)

Small curved blade scissors (for example: http://www.allstitch.net/product/gingher-312-curved-blade-embroidery-scissors-4718.cfm)

Water soluble pen

Good lighting and maybe magnifier glasses (if you are like me)

Steps:

1. Iron your fabric. You’ll want to start with it as smooth as possible.

2. Create a pattern and trace it onto your fabric with the water soluble pen (test that pen first to make sure it comes off easily). DO NOT use a pattern printed on an inkjet printer and water soluble pen to trace over it — the liquid in the pen will cause some of the ink to come off onto your fabric. Go on, ask me how I know this. (I had to scrap my first yard of fabric because of this mistake.)

PelicanInLaurelPattern

My pelican-in-a-laurel-wreath pattern

3. Put your marked fabric in a frame — pay attention to the tension of the fabric. Tight, but not too tight.

4. Outline your pattern using parallel running stitches set 1/8″ apart — I liked to sew along the inside edge of my markings and then along outside edge, and that usually put my two lines of stitching at about 1/8″ apart. Be careful not to pull these stitches tight, as that would pucker the fabric.

cutwork-outline-stitch

5. As you are outlining your pattern, whenever you reach a point where your pattern calls for a buttonhole bar, you should stitch the bar. To do this, bring your needle up between your parallel lines of running stitches and take it across to the parallel stitching on other side, over where the cutout area will be. Do this three times (so you have three threads going across) and then begin the detached buttonhole stitching over these three threads until you get back to your original side. It’s crucial to keep the buttonhole bar from twisting as you work it — I found the best way to do this was to work the buttonhole stitching toward me in a consistent manner, pulling the stitching tight as I went along. This video shows the stitch orientation/direction that I refer to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r637AfscS8

cutwork-outline-bars

6. Once your pattern is outlined and all your buttonhole bars in in place, you need to stitch around each element that will NOT be cut out. Stitch over the two parallel lines, usually you can align the bottom of your stitch with the bottom running stitch and the top of your stitch with the top running stitch. You’ll use the buttonhole stitch again for this, but in this case it is not detached and it’s important that the flat, corded edge of the buttonhole stitch is against the edge that will be cut out. Do not yet cut out any material — that will be done after you complete the buttonhole stitching. Again, do not pull too tightly — just pull enough to get clean, neat stitching. Do not be tempted to cut out material first thinking that will make for a cleaner edge — while the edge will be cleaner, but your stitched edges will ruffle and pucker, rather than lay flat, and it won’t look as good.

buttonhole-stitch

7. After your buttonhole stitching is complete, it’s time to cut out the areas of fabric that are stabilized by the buttonhole bars you placed in step 5. Using the sharp, straight blade scissors, carefully cut a line down the center of an area you want to cut out. Then turn the fabric over and use the curved blade scissors to VERY CAREFULLY cut the fabric away right up to the edge of the stitching. I recommend you keep your fabric in your frame as you cut to provide tension and a better view of what you’re doing. If you cut too close, you’ll snip the buttonhole threads and you’ll need to go back and mend them, so cut carefully. I did have to mend in a couple spots — it’s not easy to cut close, but not too close, with such dense threads and fabric. In the photo below, you can see areas where I haven’t managed to cut away all the threads of the fabric yet.

cutting-out-cutwork

8. When done, dampen your fabric to remove any trace of the water soluble pen, then wash your piece by hand. Allow it to air dry. Inspect your piece for any stray bits of threads at the cut edges and snip them off carefully. Iron flat.

 

Tips

When creating your pattern, you want to place buttonhole bars every 1/2″ or so, as well as at the tips of pointy bits (or they’ll just flap about). Avoid bars across too large of a cutout area; instead, keep a small bit of fabric there or even an eyelet to stabilize things and give your bars a midpoint to anchor in.

Your buttonhole stitching (step 6) does not need to be really close together, and in fact, if you get it too close it tends to look sloppy. Try leaving just a thread’s width of space in between each stitch and from 10″ away it looks neater and just as smooth.

Pay attention to the thread as you pull it off the spool or skein, and thread your needle with it the same each time. Remember, thread has a twist and you want consistent results.

In the same vein, be sure to do all your buttonhole stitching in the same direction for a consistent look. It really does make a difference.

 

Apron Construction Notes

I chose to create a flat rectangle style apron (rather than one gathered into the waistband) so that the cutwork would be displayed to its best advantage. I attached the top 2/3 of it to a simple band that served as the belt.

I hemmed the top and bottom edges with the drawn thread work hemstitch (see my tutorial here).

The right and left edges had threads drawn from them as well, but I did not do the same drawnwork hemstitch — I just kept it as drawn threads because I liked the look.

 

Creation Notes

I did not embroider the blood droplet on the pelican, but I bled on the apron while stitching — so I think that still counts. -grin-

The heart at the top of the motif is from my device (a winged heart).

My soundtrack while working on this was the radio station on Fallout 4 (Gregor got it for Christmas and I sat on the couch while he played each evening) and the entire audiobook of The Martian.

I estimate this project took 110 hours. (I  Mistress Crespine.)

 

I would love to see anything you make — please share! I’m always happy to answer questions. Feel free to e-mail me at genoveva.von.lubeck (at) gmail [dot] com

14th c. Embriodered Bycocket Cap of Maintenance (with a Split Loop Seam Tutorial)

6 September 2015

Yesterday I presented a 14th c. embroidered bycocket cap of maintenance for Master Gregoire de Lyon on the occasion of his elevation to the Order of the Pelican. I am pleased with how the cap turned out and thus thought it would be a good idea to document it in my blog for future reference (both mine and possibly yours!). In particular, I learned a new seam technique and I want to record it here so I do not forget it. Here’s the completed cap of maintenance (or cap of high maintenance, as Master Gregoire calls it):

bycocket

bycocket-Decretals-of-Gregory-IX-40vResearch: The bycocket, or chapel à bec as it was known in France, was all the rage in the 14th and 15th centuries in northwestern Europe, but it did continue on sporadically into the 16th century. The bycocket shows up frequently in imagery of the time period, but my favorite image is found in margin of The Decretals of Gregory IX c. 1300-1340 written in Southern France (page 40v). In the image, a man wears a red bycocket with a white lining. Another favored image with the same hat style and coloring appears in the 1344 painting “The Effects of Good Government in the Countryside” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (rider on the left, note that her brim may be decorated).

Construction: The shape of the bycocket looks more complicated than it is. It’s really just a bowl-shaped hat with the brim turned up at an angle. I used a wool felt bycocket that Gregoire already owned to fine-tune the size and shape, as that was his preference. The resulting pattern looks something like this:

bycocket-hat-patternMaterials: Dark red velvet (outside layer), white linen (inside layer), white linen canvas (interlining, for stiffness), wool batting (interlining, for shape), and white silk taffeta (outside brim layer). I used the canvas and wool batting to give the hat some solidity and structure. The order of layers from the outside to the inside is as follows: velvet, wool, canvas, linen. The silk taffeta was whip stitched onto the brim and only the brim in order to leave the white linen as the layer next to the hair (at Gregoire’s request), the thought being that it would be a touch cooler and easier to clean. Additional materials included silk embroidery floss (12 ply Splendor thread), silk sewing thread (Gutermann), and freshwater pearls.

Embroidery: Inspiration for the embroidered pelican came from the Pienza Cope, a richly-embroidered cape worn by Pope Pius II and currently housed in the Diocesan Museum in Pienza. The cope dates to 1310-1340 and features a beautifully embroidered orphrey (medieval pelican). Like the original inspiration, I used split stitch and couched silk in my embroidery, which are some of the stitches used in opus anglicanum style embroidery. And as I wanted the embroidery to feel fine and regal, I used just one ply of the 12-ply silk to work the stitches. This was time consuming (altogether the hat’s embroidery took about 40 hours), but the result was very rich looking. The overall design, with the three ermines and the lines that connect them came from Mistress Melisant, who quickly sketched it on a piece of scratch paper and it was — of course — perfect!!

pienza-cope-orphrey pelican-embroidery

Split Loop Stitch: Once the embroidery was completed on the silk taffeta, I had to attach it to the brim of the hat and I began considering a decorative stitch or trim along the top edge of the brim. Initially I planned to do a fingerloop braid, but I didn’t find a huge amount of evidence for it in the 14th century. But this lead to a seam technique used on 14th century bags that turned out to be perfect for this project. I found the stitching on an embroidered bag currently housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum (8313-1863). Master Richard studied this bag in person and notes this about the seam on his website: “The seams at the sides and around the mouth of the bag are covered/decorated with a double split stitch of dark red or purple silk and what appears to have been gilt floss … This decorative stitching is composed of two sections, each running up one side seam and around one edge of the opening. This can be seen illustrated in the second pattern sheet. How this decorative stitch was done is unknown.”

I recreated this decorative stitch using two long loops of silk thread and a single length of silk sewing thread, and the end result looks very much like the purse’s stitch. The resulting seam is practical and pretty. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Create two loops of silk thread in contrasting colors. The loops should be at least as long as the seam you wish to stitch, plus a little extra. For example, the brim length was 33″, so I cut silk thread lengths of 80″ to fold in half and knot, producing 40″ loops.

Step 2: Put the knots of the two loops between the two fabric sides where you wish to begin the seam. I sandwiched the knots in between the fabric, hiding them. Make sure your loops are not tangled in each other — you need the loops to move freely. Stitch the knots into place with a single length of silk sewing thread.

loop-stitch-step-two

Step 3: Pull loop 2 through loop 1 and stitch loop 2 down, across the top of the loop 2.

loop-stitch-step-three

Step 4: Repeat step 3, but this time pull loop 1 through loop 2 and then stitch down loop 1. Repeat steps 3-4 until you are done!

loop-stitch-step-fourHere’s a 14th century bag with this seam:

bag-seam From Victoria & Albert Museum (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115592/bag-unknown/)

Here’s my recreated split loop seam:

loop-stitch-bycocket

Finally, freshwater pearls were added on the top of the hat, inspired by this image of a beautiful recreation of 14th century bycocket.

And here is a photo by the talented Lady Daeg (called “Daye”) of Master Gregoire in his new cap of maintenance:

11950402_820888014675984_1367729291220142630_o

The gold silk cote was made by Mistress Giovanna, by the way — isn’t it beautiful?

If you have questions, please post them here or e-mail me at genoveva.von.lubeck@gmail.com.