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Thoughts on Embroidery

This weekend I went to an event in Aethelmearc called St. Claire of Assisi.  It was an embroidery event.   Something popped up on my Facebook news feed about a class on Celtic embroidery.  I had tried to look up something about that type of embroidery years ago, but couldn’t find anything.  It turned out that the class was part of an event, so I signed up.  I have been to a number of non-fighting events over the years, but it was mostly because the event was in my shire or in my former shire and I wanted to see the people.  Here I was, going to an A&S-only event where I knew one person who I haven’t really talked to in a number of years.  I had a good time, even if that class about the Celtic embroidery was cancelled due to illness.  I also learned pattern darning, which is reversible (see pictures)!


In the car on the way home, I thought a lot about where I was headed in the SCA now that I’m not fighting.  I decided to write it in a question-answer format because that’s kind of how it went in my head.

You had considered giving up the SCA altogether.  Is that still something you want to do?  I don’t know. I had fun this weekend and made some friends. I am now more excited about doing some SCA projects that have been on my to-do list for some time now.

Does this mean you’re thinking about pursuing embroidery in the SCA? I don’t know.  I enjoy embroidery.  I’m pretty good at it.  It just takes so long though!  I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time with work and a young son.

Are you considering going out to become a Laurel? Hells no!  I don’t think I could do enough research for it.  I hate doing research!  My idea of doing research is attending classes and using what I learned from other peoples’ research!  Maybe if I’m passionate enough about something, I could.  I still don’t know what that could be though. And there’s still a TON of things to learn!  I may be naturally good at embroidery, but there’s much I don’t know.  Like what thread count of linen is good for counted work.  I learned the difference between stranded and twisted silk this weekend.  There are numbers that represent the thickness of embroidery thread, as well as metal thread.  And that’s just things I realized that I didn’t know THIS WEEKEND.

Honestly, if becoming a Laurel was my goal, I would pursue music.  With my master’s degree, and connections I have from the procurement of the master’s degree, I could probably come up with something worthy of a peerage.  I can already play most period instruments reasonably well and could sing period material if I went to the trouble of learning it.  Many of you reading this would probably think “Wow, she’s awfully conceited.”  It’s an honest assessment of my abilities.  Anyone who has read my fighting blog would know that I really don’t brag.  Actually, that blog was the opposite of bragging.  I was a poor fighter.  I am good at music.  I also seem to have a natural aptitude for embroidery as well.   Again, it’s just an honest assessment of my abilities.

So what are you going to do?  You know you need to have a goal — something to strive towards. Yeah, that’s true.  That was the hardest part about fighting — the goal-setting.  It was tough to pinpoint specific goals with fighting.  I was thinking about what two of the ladies at the event had said.  They both were given A&S challenges to complete in a year.  They were vague about who assigned the challenges, but they shared what they were.  I wish I had someone to give me a challenge like that.  I don’t want to be an apprentice to anyone.  I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.

Is there a man-at-arms type of thing for A&S people? I have no idea.

Are you really going to give up fighting? I think so, for the time being.  I fought for so long based on only my desire to fight.  Sure, I took some time off for injuries.  Then I  was off and on for a while because of a number of other factors.  Finally, I lost the desire to fight.

Will you get the desire to fight back? I don’t know.  I can’t predict how I will feel in the future.

You knew you were good at embroidery before. Why didn’t you pursue it before? Honestly?  I was hoping I would progress in my fighting goals and it’s very rare for someone to achieve a knighthood after achieving another peerage first.  I knew I was better at A&S stuff than I was at fighting and was afraid that I would progress more quickly with embroidery.  Knowing what I know now, that was a pretty conceited idea at the time!

You recently decided to stop making pretty things for your friends.  What made you decide to stop? At an event a month ago, I ran into someone who I hadn’t seen for awhile.  I had embroidered him some pretty garb some time ago and noticed that he was wearing a tunic with the embroidery that I made on it.  I commented on it.  HE DIDN’T EVEN REMEMBER THAT I WAS THE ONE WHO DID THE EMBROIDERY ON IT.  I did nothing in my spare time but embroider FOR WEEKS so I could get this done.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved this particular project and had fun doing it.  The fact that he didn’t even remember that I spent WEEKS working on the pretty thing that was now attached to it HURT. I decided not to make any more pretty things for friends.

What can I do to challenge myself? I had some ideas I had before that I can pursue.  I wanted to get a ‘working knowledge’ ranking in all 12 categories of embroidery in Athena’s Thimble (a kingdom embroidery guild).  I currently have it in 8.  That’s 4 more to learn and try.  After that, I’m not sure if I want to try and get a ‘competency’ ranking in all 12 (I currently have it in 4) or if I want to try getting an ‘expert’ ranking in the ‘free embroidery’ category.  The last I had known (as of 5 years ago, anyway), nobody had managed to complete it because there is such a large and varied body of work in the ‘free embroidery’ category, that nobody has ever amassed enough work to be awarded an ‘expert’ rank in that category.  Now how’s that for a challenge!? Either way, I have plenty to keep me busy.  I just wish I had a little more guidance.  I don’t know where I can find a lot of the information that I’m looking for.

Who can I ask about the information that I’m looking for?  I don’t know.




Embroidery for Ivan and Matilde

My friend Ivan won Crown Tourney for his wife Matilde so I wanted to make them something nice.  Their reign personas are Rus Viking.  I looked up a bunch of Rus stuff and Viking stuff.  Matilde said she liked the work I did for Dalla, so I decided to make her something for the top of her apron dress from the same dig.

mammen 1

After that, I made sleeve cuffs for Ivan.  Because the sleeve cuffs are shorter than a whole circumference of an apron dress, I wanted to do something bigger and fancier for those.  I decided on this one.

mammen 2

I started working on it in the middle of July when I was heavily pregnant and waiting for my son to arrive. I got through most of Matilde’s embroidery before I had him. The only thing that was not complete was the gold color in the vines.

When our “little man” arrived, everything changed. Even though I had a ton of help, I had no free time and very little sleep. I had to feed him every two hours at first, so I had absolutely no time for working on embroidery. Finally, at the end of October, I managed to complete the gold filling in Matilde’s embroidery. Here’s a close-up of it (the quarter is for scale):


Next, I needed to get Ivan’s cuff embroidery done. By the end of December, it looked like this:


Finally, at the beginning of February, his work was complete as well! Here are some close-ups of the completed work:





Again, the quarter is for scale. I intend to do another post about embroidering on silk. It seems like no matter what I do, what materials I use, or how tight (or loose)  the stitches or hoop are, the silk puckers. Or maybe that’s how it was in period too. I hope to make a blog post sometime in the future about my issues working with silk. This was a lengthy project and I am glad it’s done! Now I have one more embroidery project to complete before I will take a break from embroidery. My son will need some garb for Pennsic, so I will be busy making it!

Materials: silk fabric, wool embroidery floss

Stitches used: stem stitch, chain stitch


New Belt Favor

I needed to make a new belt favor for my husband.  The last one I made won’t fit over his obi (gotta love Japanese personas).  I used linen fabric with silk thread doing split stitch.  Here are the pictures!


And because people like to see what the back looks like:


And the final product!


Dalla’s Elevation Embroidery

When I told my friend Dalla I’d like to make her some embroidery to thank her for all of the garb help she gave me over the years, she told me not to.  It’s not like I could tell her she would be elevated to a Pelican and that’s why I wanted to do something nice for her.  So, I did the best I could on my own.  I chose the smaller face design from the Mammen cloak.  As usual, if this is your image, please let me know so I can give you credit!

mammen smaller faces

I used wool thread for the embroidery and rust silk for the background fabric.  As with before, I ended up getting puckering around the edges of the embroidery.  Dalla said I was probably making my stitches too tight and recommended that I loosen the embroidery hoop.  After some experimenting, I discovered that the embroidery hoop tension wasn’t the problem, I just had to make sure not to pull the stitches too tightly.


Compared to the last time I worked on silk, the puckering was SO MUCH BETTER!  The faces were outlined in stem stitch and filled in with chain stitch.


Here’s a close-up.  The fabric is a bit wrinkles, but you can get the idea.


And here is the finished product.  The faces actually are on straight, but I took this picture with the fabric laid across my knees so they look uneven here.

Viking Maternity Garb

Up until this point, all of my (Viking) garb was fitted.  By the time I had entered into the third month of my pregnancy, I could no longer fit into my garb. I had remembered that I had seen a friend who had been pregnant a few years earlier wearing a Viking wrap dress.  That was easy enough.  I had some wool, measured out a rectangle, and finished the seams with a herringbone stitch.  In the end, it looked like the double wrap dress in the picture below.  If this is your picture, please let me know so I can credit your work!

apron dress.jpg

I had read somewhere in a Viking garb Facebook group that this design is no longer considered accurate for this time period, though I forget why.  The nice part of this design was no matter how big I got, the opening in the front would accommodate for my growing belly!

The dress under it would be more difficult, as it still had to be reasonably fitted. How much bigger should I make it?  I asked my Facebook friends how big they got in their pregnancies.  I know everyone carries differently, but I had no idea how big I would even get.  Sadly, nobody had a concrete number except for one friend who put on 32″ with twins as of her 36th week.  As of this writing, I am in my 38th week with a singleton and am carrying rather large with a 15″ larger waist.

I took my usual dress pattern (no, I have no research documenting this), added a few inches to the width of the body panel to accommodate for breast growth, and pondered what I would do about my larger belly.  Again, if this is your image, please allow me to give you credit for it!

dress pattern

Thankfully, my friend Dalla (now Mistress Dalla) had a solution.  She recommended doing gathered gores.  Instead of having gores triangle shaped, they were more shaped like this:


She told me that the long edge where the gore meets the dress needed to remain straight, otherwise the dress would sit oddly, but that the flat portion on top could be gathered.  I think we allowed for 13″ or 14″ at the top.  I did a straight stitch and pulled it tight to allow for the gathers to fit in the dress normally.  It has worked wonderfully!  I wore this garb when I was 37 weeks and it still fit amazingly well!

Here is a close-up of the gathered gore where it fits with the gusset on my dress.  For some reason without the flash on my camera, it looks grey, but it’s the same dress!


Also, along the neckline I tried something new.  A friend of mine told me that she took a class at Pennsic where they did a kind of needleweaving along the neckline using a buttonhole stitch as a guideline for the threads.  I tried it here.  It looks neat, but it’s not my favorite type of embroidery.  Also, I have had breastfeeding friends tell me that cutting the neckline down to your bellybutton makes it really easy to breastfeed!  Here’s a closeup of the needleweaving:


And here’s how the whole ensemble looked.  The only thing it was missing was some kind of tablet-weaving as a belt.  I used macrame cord instead!  The other thing I didn’t like was that the apron dress seemed to pull the brooches in opposite directions for an odd look.  Well, anyway, here it is!



Olaf’s Elevation Embroidery

I had decided to take a year off of the SCA while I reevaluated my goals and what I wanted to get out of the SCA. I had turned in my squire’s belt, left my household, and was still dealing with divorce particulars (including some lost friendships). But it seems that life had other plans.

My good friend Olaf was being elevated to a Pelican. Because he is a good friend and this was a big deal, I decided to do some embroidery for him. Under the pretense of just wanting to do something nice for him, I got his wife to give me a tunic of his to “make pretty”.

I chose to use silk thread on a silk fabric. I was disappointed at all of the puckers I had created with my embroidery. Otherwise, I was happy with how it turned out.


I got the design from a Viking Designs book.  The original was probably carved in wood or something.  The outline is straight stitch.


The filling was chain stitch.

IMG_20160124_202441841I really was bothered by the puckers and was unsure how to avoid them in the future.


I have never been good at applique, but I attached the embroidery using a simple straight stitch.


I also added herringbone stitch to the already finished seams.


Here is the final (albeit wrinkled) product!

More Hand-Sewn and Hand-finished Dresses

Since I was part of a Royal household at Pennsic, I decided to make clothing in purple and gold so I could match everyone for the procession in Opening Ceremonies.  And because I had hand-sewn and hand-embroidered everything else I own, I decided to keep up with that for this garb too.  There was one major difference here, though.  I did a buttonhole stitch around the neckline in preparation for an interesting form of needle-weaving that Mistress Frigga had described to me once, verbally.  I had been trying to find more information about it since then and had come up sadly short.  If anyone knows about it, PLEASE tell me who I could contact for more information!

Gold apron dress with purple herringbone.

Gold apron dress with purple herringbone

A close-up of the herringbone

A close-up of the herringbone

Purple dress with pale yellow herringbone

Purple dress with pale yellow herringbone

A close-up of the herringbone

A close-up of the herringbone

I had finished the seams of the pink dress previously with chain stitch.  It became very clear that chain stitch does not work well for finishing seams.  Some of them had ripped and once one part of chain stitch is pulled, the rest all unravels.  So I replaced it with herringbone.

Pink dress with green herringbone

Pink dress with green herringbone

A close-up of the herringbone

A close-up of the herringbone

All of this was done with silk thread on linen.  I used herringbone, straight stitch, back stitch, and buttonhole stitch around the necklines.