St. Brigitta’s Cap Project

Project: Recreation of an extant piece from what is currently believed to be from the 15th century, attributed to belonging to St. Birgitta. The focus is largely on the stitching in the center of the cap.

Project Beginning- Research and Practice

Sources consulted include the book Medieval Clothing and Textiles by Robin Netherton and Gale Owen-Crocker. Also, I had several e-mail conversations with the author of another primary source about the cap.

After practicing the stitch the first full attempt at the cap used a piece of metal to hold the cap in place while the cap was stitched together.

More Practice- Additional practice focused on finding other ways to hold the cap while sewing that are more likely historically correct. . Experimenting with a stable, stiff, yet pliable base to do embroidery when the item is curved (like two edges of a cap). I tried linen soaked with beeswax. Bonus it smells good.

I also attempted this with no frame. I would NOT recommend using no frame as a first, second, or even third time project. I’ve been practicing for a while.

Final Practice: I’ve also completed a linen on linen cap. This is practice for the class I’m teaching at St. Claire’s, as well as some experimentation to play with what it was made how its made and to answer a few questions that the extant piece left to time. Its fabric-store linen and four ply linen from Miriams. The sewing thread is modern. These are not period accurate linen fabric or the right ply of floss but it is getting me the feel of the fibers.

Preparting for the Final Cap: I am also getting ready to complete a final version of the cap using a historically accurate needle, and more accurate linen fabric. First thoughts on the period needle: Slightly malleable, but strong. It is easier to grip than modern needles. It slides through fabric well and this is a fairly tight weave. I do like that isn’t as brittle as modern needles. Made by Louis Garcia. I’m using Tired to History handkerchief linen for the final project. The linen weave is super fine, with a high thread count and a low amount of slub. The drawback is that it seems to be a lighter weight, than the extant piece. I’m working on thread and floss now.

Class: Aethelmearc’s The Academy of St. Claire’s V.

Class Title:     Interlaced What?

Date: April 22nd, 2022     

Brief Description:     Learn how to do an interlaced double herringbone stitch (simplified stitch of what is in the St. Birgitta’s cap extant piece). Beginner/Intermediate, limited to 10 students  

Longer Description: After a brief history on the extant St. Birgetta’s cap, the class will focus on how to do an interlaced double herringbone stitch (a simplified stitch from what is in the extant piece) using a different color for each of the four steps. Students will leave with a bookmark or item that can be inserted into a garment.  Kit will include:  ruler, 2 needles, binding tape (to act as pre-ironed cloth), 5 colors of embroidery floss, embroidery snips, heat erase pen, sewing guide/form, beeswax, and a bag.  The handout will include a detailed stitch guide and history of the extant piece and other examples of needlelace.

What will students learn/leave with?   A bookmark or item they can insert into a piece of garb.  

What should students bring?     Nothing, other than themselves.  The kit will have everything they need.

What will you provide?     Handouts, examples, kit (at cost, below)

Handouts: Detailed stitch guide and history of the extant piece and other examples of needlelace

Kit: Ruler, 2 needles, binding tape (to act as pre-ironed cloth), 5 colors of embroidery floss, embroidery snips, heat erase pen, sewing guide/form, beeswax, and a bag

Additional details?

Students will learn using a different color for each of the four steps.  A brief history on the extant piece will be given, but the majority of the class will be learning a simplified stich from the extant piece.

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Class Kit

Large Colorful Sample for Class

The extant piece I will be replicating was 1.7 cm versus the almost 1.75 in here in this sample class piece.

Sparky Palla

Sparky Stamped

I was asked to craft a palla that featured a Sparky stamp.

Due to the intricacies of a heraldic tyger I had a 3D printed stamp created for me. I am attempting to create a carved wood block stamp, but it is very slow going.

The palla was crafted from medium weight, white linen fabric that was about 54” wide before washing and drying. I cut about 3 yards of fabric folded it in half lengthwise and cut it along this fold. Now giving us two lengths of fabric 3 yards long and about 26” wide. I hand sewed the two pieces together end to end making a length of 6 yards and flat felled seam, using white 3 ply linen floss. To give a bit more color I rolled the hems and did a decorative, yet functional running with half back stitch in a dark golden yellow 4 ply linen floss.

Stamping Sparky

Once the palla was sewn and ironed, I laid it on a very long flat surface to stamp. Tulip fabric paint in blue was applied with a sponge paint brush to the stamp then applied to the fabric pushing evenly around the stamp. The fabric is then held and the stamp is pulled off the fabric without sliding it on the fabric and creating a smudge. I kept moving around the fabric and placing the stamp in the same way. When all of the fabric on the table was stamped I waited for the paint to dry to the touch in order to move the fabric and complete the rest of the stamps.

Completed almost dry palla

After all of the paint was applied I let palla dry for 24 hours, before folding it neatly to give to the recipient.

Final thoughts: I am now looking into different paints to see what works the best. Overall I am very pleased with this project and the recipient was too.

Roman Coronation Tunica on the Fly

The Consules of the Tyger Kingdom

When working on a Royal staff sometimes timelines are subjective. Coronation garb is no different, especially during the pandemic and when the date of coronation is unknown. The wonderful thing about many of the SCAdians that I know, is that we band together and get the job done.

The piece shown here is his majesty Alberic’s coronation tunica. I was given the precut pieces and asked to see them together, finish the seams, and appliqué the trim. The tunica is made of a fine, medium weight,white linen, and sewn with white linen 2-ply thread. The purple silk was first basted with purple silk thread to the tunica, then appliquéd with with silver tone Japan metal thread.

Faux French seams

The tunica went together fairly quickly using what I call a half back running stitch. I fill the needle I’m working with with enough fabric to produce a running stitch, but not bunch the fabric on the needle. After I pull the thread through the fabric I do a half back stitch, then repeat. This allows the sewing to go swiftly, but locks it into place so that there is a half back stitch about every inch or so. When all of the seams are sewn I clip the edge of one side to even out the seams, and turn the raw edge in to create the faux French seam. It was new to me to do all of the sewing on the outside of the garment, but in this way it does look like a French sewn on the outside.

In progress couching of metal work

With the tunica seams completed, I just need to do a simple whip stitch hem on the sleeves, neck, and bottom. Everything is now hemmed, and I move onto basting the silk to the tunica. I used simple whip stitches about 2mm apart on both sides of each piece of trim to hold it in place.

What I have not mentioned yet it that we had an extremely short amount of time to complete this garment. At this point it is about 10pm the night before I have to deliver the tunica for coronation and I am just starting to couch the Japan thread to the trim. While typically I know that it should be about 2mm apart I only has time for couching at about a cm apart. At 2 in the morning I complete it to wearing standard and go to iron the piece. Once ironed I fall over and fall asleep knowing that it will look fabulous.

White versus purple threads

Final thoughts: It was a bit of a thrill to have to work so quickly on a piece. I was very glad that I taught myself a new manner of completing a seam, but that I will not use that manner again when there is such a swift deadline. Couching really does need to be closer together, but you can fix it later when time allows.

The never ending set of garb (Part 3).

For those of you following along… Now I had a completely finished dress, flat felled seams and all that I wore proudly to Pennsic War 46 in opening ceremonies to herald in the Barony of Concordia of the Snows as part of the East Kingdom. Flash to a few weeks after getting home and I am getting ready to go to a demo and I need something crafty to do with my hands. A little bit of research and I have a period pattern to put on the dress with embroidery. Welcome learning and teaching myself to chain stitch. I did not have the appropriate materials to do couching so the chain stitching began. Linen dress… What thread to embroider it with silk or linen. With opinions and consults from friends we went with linen. It started with double bands around the neck arm holes and cuffs and built from there.

The never ending set of garb (Part 2).

The story of the cyber yellow garb continues. I had this brilliantly, bright, yellow, linen fabric and it needed to be turned into something. Pennsic was coming up and I needed something blue, gold/yellow, or silver/white. Enter the new linen and a crazy idea to completely hand sew using period techniques. Where to start looking for the if I’m going to do this I’m going to do this right. Being in the SCA for many years you either know people or know the people who can point you in the right direction. I knew many of the common stitches, but was not very good at finishing seams. I mean they are on the inside, right, who would know. Unraveling, catching on things, and sturdiness are only part of the reason to finish the seams and complete the piece. Flat felling the seams was the answer and I threw myself into how to do this. I talked to people on Facebook groups, looked through YouTube videos, how to sites on the internet, and many period source books. In the end I had completely finished, completely hand sewn a dress to wear with a bit of hemming help (it is hard to pin a hem when its on you).

Sewing the seams

I used a combination or running stitch and back stitch to sew together the seams of this dress.

Running stitch in progress.
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Back stitch on load bearing seam.