I’ve been fascinated by the little c12th purse from chelles for years, and it’s been on my to do list. But one of the probelms is that it appaers to be incredibly badly documented, and the museo alfred bono where it lives, is closed for renovation.

THe description says silk threads on linen, but…

Those wear marks look like a red silk cloth over a linen backing – which would be pretty standard for the period.

In a lot of the photos the stitching (I can’t find anywhere that says what stitch it is) looks like underside couching. and underside couching with a silk background showing is also a thing until about 1200.

I’ve seen loads of reprodcutions of this piece, but always too big. Like WAAAAY to big. The original is listed as 10×13 cm, which is about four inches by five, so teeny wee.

So I drafted the pattern about the right size – in a ten by thirteen box. It may not come out that size once I’ve assembled it, but ti will be close

I left my scissors in for scale.

I’ve transferred it onto red silk twill (which is a complete bastard to work with) backed with linen.


I’m going to do the same image twice, once in silk, once in underside couching(which would technically make it a very early form of opus anglicanum).

I’m going to start with the silk

top is devere filament silk, bottom is some naturally dyed, plied silk. both stem stitch.

I think I’m goign to go with the plied silk, the filament is too smooth, and there is a definite texture to the original.

Of course, once the embroidery is done I’m going to have the challenge of those funny little knobs to deal with…

~ by opusanglicanum on September 27, 2020.

13 Responses to “chelles”

  1. Museums do get things wrong sometimes. Maybe they were told (correctly) that the fabric was silk on linen? That definitely looks like metal thread to me. And underside couching. Some silk details perhaps. Those knobby knots look like stitched metal thread work too, UC or bricking, made something like covered buttons!
    You will have fun with this one.

    • the knobs will def be fun. i was about 90% certain it was underside gold before diane helpfully posted the above, but the descriptions I’d seen said silk threads – I’m pretty certain something got lost in translation, most translators don’t know about textiles

  2. I have some books from the museum that might help. They are in French but my ability with French embroidery terms is limited. If you don’t have them, I would be happy to transcribe the text. There is a description of the stitches used and the threads (point couché rentré avec des fils grèges et dorés) but no detailed photos of the construction. It does note that the silk embroidery is over a heavy linen (Monté sure une forte toile de lin grège).

    • I;m not sure what the greges part is (could be grey or silver) but that’s def underside couched gold thread plus something – your book doesn’t mention silk, which would be soie ( I can read some french, but I can’t speak it to save my life). but it awas a thing at the time to underisde couch silk as well to create pattern. I still think the background is silk fabric over linen – the wear pattern you can see is very distinctive.
      Thanks, I’m still going to do both versions though, but that was really helpful.
      one day i might make it to france to have a look!

      • “Grège” is the colour of raw/undyed silk, or can refer to raw silk itself.

        I can ask my sister, who lives close to Chelles, to go and take a good picture, but… that museum is being refurbished, and I’m not sure where the collections are at the moment.
        She’s out of town right now, but should be back around 10 Oct.

      • I was aware it’s under refurbishment. I would dearly loove a better picture, but please don’t put your sister to any trouble – maybe i will get there myself someday?
        (I’d actaully dearly like to know what’s on the back, but I suspect it’s too delicate to ask them to turn it over)

      • In English textile terminology, a fabric “in the greige” is an undyed, unfinished fabric. Google Translate gives “raw” as a translation for “grège”, which seems close enough to me.

        It’s an intriguing project, for sure.

      • that could be the white thread used for the face – it’s not unusual at this period to have underisde couched silk threads alongside gold ones, esp when the style is showing an exposed silk background

  3. Ah, takes me back to the early 90s in Australia, when everyone was working off a few big art books and some postcards they’d been sent from Europe, the Internet wasn’t a thing yet for more than text and European museums wouldn’t take you seriously if you didn’t have a University letterhead to ask your question on and sometimes not even then. Seems like a very 2020 project somehow.

    • I remember that. I was fed up at the time with everyone using tapestry wool and six inch long stitches on thier viking and saxon reenacment gear, and would run round with a copy of a particular book in my hand, pointing out how tiny the stitches were on the maasiek embroideries – my book had them on the cover, about a4 size. Then the actaul maasiek embroideries came to the laing art gallery in newcastle, and I realised that my picture was about four times the size of the original

      • Do you have other examples of ynderside couched silk? I’m in a bit of a discussion with aomeobe who awears only metal threads were inderside couched … and I’d like to show them more than one example!


      • the entire background ofthe syon cope is underside couched silk , as are parts of the small fragment depicting a knight from westminster, which is roughly the same date as this piece

  4. Thanks! Off to explore a new rabbit hole!

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