Monday, April 7, 2014

New Project: Embroidered Pouch

I know, I know. Another embroidery?  

Embroidery, and particularly brick stitch, is one of those things I really enjoy doing. In this case, I'm using this project to offer a bit of distraction from my linen alms purse project. Working on something with different colors and a different stitch technique is one way for me to prevent project burn out.

For this new embroidery, which will be used for a small drawstring pouch, I was inspired by an embroidered linen fragment at the V&A. It's a piece from Germany, dated to the 13th or 14th centuries.

I can't get the image large and clear enough to determine the stitch used, but I was more interested in the white work pattern, and the combination of colors. So I decided to redact the pattern as a German brick stitch piece, using the satin stitch style. Here's the pattern I came up with:

German motifs can tend to be similar, and this is no exception. I thought the general pattern seemed familiar, so I did some searching. My redacted pattern ended up quite similar, even in scale, to a fragment housed at St. Servatius in Maastricht. That piece is embroidered with silk, in red, blue and gold-plated silver. Isis at Medieval Silkwork created a pattern for it, and has created two, very different pieces using it.

Image from the book Mittelalterlichen Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht by A. Stauffer, found here.

I wanted to start working on it right away to see how it would turn out, so I grabbed the nearest materials (all cotton) and got going.

After a bit, I wondered if my original I pattern of white and blue squares was going to really work out, so I did some samples in the handful of colors I thought might work. The penny is for scale.

After sleeping on it, and then thinking about it the whole next day, I decided that I really liked the dark blue and dark gray combination with the cream-colored backdrop. While it deviates from the original, I just knew from this test I liked it much more than the white and blue.

Since I'd started the piece without a real plan, I worked for a bit to establish the final dimensions. The bottom of the pouch will have to be a fold of the finished piece. If I'd taken more time to think before starting, I would have worked two separate, larger panels.

I also ditched the frame, since it was doing a crap job with tension anyway. So this marks my first attempt to embroider a non-garb item without a frame or hoop. I'm not finding that difficult at all.

When I stopped to take that last picture, I started brainstorming using gold metallic thread in the centers of the squares, rather than my original counter-changed mini-squares. I don't have any metallic on hand, but I think it's at least worth trying out, so I'll go pick some up.

This project also gives me that opportunity I needed to test out some of the finishing I plan to do on the alms purse. So, see? Sometimes it's good to be distracted.


  1. I love the colors you settled on, the dark and medium grey with the white and gold give it a nice depth and are subtle and elegant. A sparkle of metallic will be a nice touch, too. I've been thinking of trying a pouch too. I saved a picture of a tile roof in France, and I think I'll try terra cotta and dark brown with a touch of copper for a metallic. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. That sounds like a great, warm color palette! I'm really liking the idea of creating new patterns from motifs we can find on other pieces, so pulling a pattern off a roof sounds awesome! I think the process of creating our own patterns in that way just feels more authentic than strictly using patterns others have created. Good luck with your project!