A simple version of the Mammen vine scroll, and how to sew it freehand.

I wanted some embroidery on the hood I made the other day, and settled upon the vine scroll from the mammen finds because it’s a fairly generic vine scroll design which will comfortably cover most of the early medieval period. ( I refer you to flinders petrie’s book on decorative patterns.)

I’m working this only about half an inch wide because I much prefer a subtle dainty band on a hood.

I started by sewing a wiggle in stem stitch along the edge of the hood. The first row of stitches is the only really tricky part as it’s easy for the needle to wander into irregular curves, but once you’ve laid down that first row it’s a breeze to follow along with the next two rows. I chose this yellow as it contrasts nicely with both the red and green sides of the cloth. The colour is a third wash madder and is actually my favourite yellow from the last big dye-a-thon because it’s such a buttery shade.


Once the curve was worked I first embroidered the upper curve of each tendril. There are ways of working stem stitch so that it is more deeply layered, almost becoming a slanted satin stitch, and I did this at the end of the curve as it flicked out a little


Next I worked the inner curve, again thickening the end


Next I put in the central petal with a thickened stem stitch


Then I changed colour to a woad dyed thread to work the simple bars across the joins in the tendrils. It was at this point that I realised I much prefer the band without the bars, but hey ho


And finally I worked back along with little groups of three slanted stem stitches to form the buds, using an Undyed thread this time. The 5p is for scale.


In other news the course at the Weald and downland museum seems to have gone well this weekend, although I’m now a bit knackerded from all the driving. Paulette, who’d attended the ashmolean course, came along for seconds, which was flattering.

We had the worst pub meal ever on the way home though, at the hardwick inn near hardwick hall.

~ by opusanglicanum on April 8, 2014.

21 Responses to “A simple version of the Mammen vine scroll, and how to sew it freehand.”

  1. Reblogged this on Musings of a Medieval Mind and commented:
    Oh now this is cool to know!

  2. It does make a dainty little detail, simple and just right right. Which Flinders Petrie book?

    • I think it’s called decorative patterns if the ancient world. Petrie was the arch cataloguer, and he basically takes something like a spiral and then illustrates examples of it from every known civilisation, the book I have is a reprint of one he wrote, I’ve has it since was an undergraduate and I go back to it all the time

  3. That’s a most attractive border, and a nice clear explanation – thank you. I think I’d prefer the additional stitches all in the same colour as the main vine, but the tiny white leaf is a brilliant balance to the blue.

  4. Thanks for showing this – I often seem to doodle that line, but I’ve never stitched it – I might do something with that one day… Off now to see if I can find the book

    • there are so many variations upon the theme, from so many different time periods, and they’re really not that scary to sew, although maybe easier in a flowing stitch like stem than in your usual needlepoint?

  5. Lovely! And as ever, I am impressed by your tiny, delicate stitchwork. Thanks for putting the 5p in there – it’s always nice to know what the scale is.

    • I like scale, but its hard to get right, 5p confuses americans, but then so does a ruler cos they dont know what a centimetre is!

      • 😉 Some of us Americans do use metric. I actually find myself using metric fairly often when sewing. For some reason 1cm ‘works’ better for me than 3/8th inch when doing seam allowances. Also used when giving medicine to the pets. 0.5 mL is so much easier than 1/10th of a teaspoon.

  6. In America, we have been taught the metric system in school for 45 years, can’t buy a ruler without inches and centimeters on it, and can’t buy a can of peaches without ounces and grams on the label. Yes, we can deal with metric measures, and an 18mm 5p coin is near enough to the 19.05mm US penny that those of us who care to know are not that badly confused. We’ve been promised a change to metric since I was a kid, but we were promised flying cars as well. Thanks for showing and describing this lovely bit of needlework, I will credit you when I use it.

  7. Hi! My mother and I found your blog and we love your work! We are going to attempt this motif and the dragon from September. I have a question about materials. First, what type of thread are you using for these projects? I’m assuming a flax or silk would be most period, but DMC thread would be most readily available locally. What is your recommendation?

    • Wool would actually be the most period thread,but you want a fine crewel type wool rather than the heavier tappiserrie stuff. The examples are my own naturally dyed wools. I’m not sure dmc cotton would work terribly well as their smooth nature would make the finished piece more prone to snagging, and smoother threads are much harder to work in this technique.

      I do have kits on the folksy shop, but if you’re in the States post is very slow, so if you want to finish for Christmas you’re definitely better off trying to use your own stuff

  8. I love your blog and following along in this tutorial has been wonderful! I’m relatively new to embroidery but I’m totally hooked at this point and am starting to work on some more organic designs (up until now it’s been lots of pattern work, herringbone, double herringbone, woven chain stitch etc) to embellish my pieces. I had one question, for the ‘bars’ that you used to cross the vine, is that just a modified ‘running’ stitch? it was a little hard for me to tell from the pictures even when I blew them up…if that’s the case does it leave a long ‘stitch’ on the reverse side? or is the hood lined so you don’t see it or have to worry about snagging? I’m still trying to figure out how to keep the back side as clean as possible to avoid the stitching from getting caught (I know I can back it with a strip of fabric but I also am aware that the mark of a good hand is the quality of the reverse side!) Anyway! Thanks so much for putting so much amazing work up!

    • The bars are also sten stitches, a row of two or three if I remember rightly. The best way to avoid snagging the back is to keep your stitches very small – in thinks case about three millimetres- but if it’s something I’m wearing I routinely line it as well

  9. Hello opusanglicanum. Thank you so much for your tutorial on the Mammen vine scroll, and how to sew it freehand. It inspired me for the embroidery I did on a Norse coat for a friend. I apologize for pinning your tutorial before realizing just now that you request permission. May I have permission to keep that pin up, and to share a link to your tutorial on the blog I am writing about the coat I sewed? Thank you for your consideration 🙂

  10. […] The hand stitching went smoothly, but I felt daunted by the task of embellishing the coat. Glynis wanted an appliqued acanthus vine with embroidered edges, and gave me some deep yellow wool for the applique.  But my experiments proved the green wool flannel too light for a heavier wool applique, so I decided to embroider the whole vine instead. I spent a lot of time looking at Pinterest for ideas and techniques, and was inspired by this tutorial by opusanglicanum. […]

  11. This site is absolutely fabulous!

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