C15th pretty

Ok, so I promised you a proper historical embroidery post this week, here goes.

I’m actaully finished the Petrus Christus dress, but I’ve been holding off getting a pic of it until I have all the accessories in place, and I wanted an embroidered stomacher for it. c15th secular embroidery is one of those hard to pin down subjects as there isn’t great deal of evidence – there are pictures where you think “definitely embroidered”, but very few surviving bits. I grubbed about a bit (only a bit, mind you, cos I’m lazy) and found two manuscript illustrations, containg three ladies, all of whom seemed to have the same embroidered stomacher. One was Bibliotheque National, ms, fr. 1051, f. 23v, which I can’t find an online version of, aaaaand…nope, can’t remember where the other one was, but I swear I didn’t imagine it – I haven’t had a drink for days.

The two ladies in the Paris manuscript are lust and her maidservant, so they’re obviously meant to be dressed rather sumptously and atypically, which is my style of costume all the way, so chocs away!

Which reminds me, Liz at Kirkleatham museum said the other day that she may want me to tell ww1 stories later this year, as the real biggles was stationed not three miles away. I mentioned this to Gareth and said I thought I’d make a ww1 nurses outfit for the job, and the git had a fit of smutty giggles!

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. The pattern on all three ladies’ stomachers was one of small rosettes edged by gold bars, so I decided to use a small repeated rosette of pearls from this book.

I’m using black taffeta backed with a bit of linen – well, an old linen blouse of mine, actaully (it’s not that I’m particularly green-minded you understand, more that I’m a bit of a tight-fisted cow with fabric). I always prefer to back silk with linen for embrodiery, especially if it’s to be done under tension, as I simply find it easier to work.


I surface couched two rows of thick gold twist (its the same stuff I recently used for my headress  and the book cover), and then couched a row of pearls down in between. I’ve managed to loose my fine beading needles, the only thing in the known universe that will go through pearl holes, so I left them on the thread they came on and just couched that down instead.

The trouble was I really wanted to see what the little rosette would look like, so until the new needles arrive in the post I decided I would do one of them by unthreading the needle, passing the thread through the pearl, then threading it again. For each one of the 36 pearls.

I’m not a masochist, ok, I’m just very very impatient.



I started with the central rosette in order to get things centred properly, working a roughly 4mm circle of split stitch in cochineal dyed silk, then circled it with more gold twist.

In order to avoid plunging the gold through the silk more than necessary, I left the gold hanging whilst I sewed on he pearls. That thick gold is a swine to get through fabric, and taffeta never seems as forgiving as other cloth.

The rosette is very simple – six triangular petals made from little inverted pyramids of pearls – so it was simply a question of placing them as neatly as possible, although you can do some subtle jiggling and nudging with the gold when you couch it round the outside.

Once the first rosette was done I could place the lower bar.


I’m going to leave it now until the beading needles turn up. It shouldn’t take long to finish, since this is a scant two evenings work so far. I’m not going to put a third bar below the lower row of rosettes – it might look odd on it’s own, but I think once it’s being worn a third row would get too snarled up in the belt. I think it ought to look quite fetching once it’s done.

And here is a picture of my idiot cat helping me with my paperwork


~ by opusanglicanum on August 8, 2013.

9 Responses to “C15th pretty”

  1. Beautiful post………just loving your needle work. Thanks for sharing!

  2. And my goodness, didn’t they love their bling in those days!

  3. Aaaand, she’s off again!

    Lovely work, as always. ^_^

  4. I’m always impressed with the extent of your attention to historic detail. It looks beautiful so far.

  5. […] For those who missed it the how to post is here. […]

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