Sunday, July 8, 2018

In-Progress: Heraldic Coin Purse

A few weeks back, the photos by Marc Stopel from a recent 13th Century event, Brandenburgfest, came through my feed. One of my friends pointed out the fabulous Spanish recreation. Hanging from the man's belt was a small embroidered purse hanging from a long strap, and I was smitten. Within a few days, I was plotting my own version of this as the home for the stamped coins I use as personal tokens. I just needed a pattern for the embroidery.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my watercolor sketches of my brainstorm session for the new purse. I considered several embroidery techniques, including brick stitch, klosterstitch, split and stem stitches, and pretty much any medieval-appropriate technique. I knew that I wanted the design to be personally relevant to me, and I considered several different types of designs, from figurative to graphic. After vetting the ideas with a friend, I settled on one of the "simple is better" designs- a brick stitch, heraldic pattern.

There are two types of embroidery stitch techniques that we generally group under the "German Brick Stitch" category. (You can read more about this in my basic tutorial post.) The satin stitch version is admittedly harder to wrap your brain around to create new patterns and is quite specific in what types of designs you can create. The brick stitch version, however, is much more like modern needlepoint, and as long as you keep in mind that the style was used almost exclusively to create a graphic, repeating pattern, and not full-on images, it's easy to create custom designs.

Earlier this year, I registered a new personal badge. Coincidentally, shortly after coming up with this badge, I was given a Royal Augmentation of Arms which assigned the addition of a gold pair of scissors to my device as well. I'm in the process of changing my entire device, but the registered badge looks like this:

Along with this, the household I associate with has a very distinct tradition of heraldic livery. In particular, my Laurel (who is also a Knight), uses a blue and white lozengy design, and I have used this livery on my own items in that past to show our connection. Lozenges, in general, are a motif that I gravitate to as part of this association. Lozenges also lend themselves well to brick stitch patterning.

I have my own livery (though far few chances and reasons to use it than a Knight does), which pays homage to my Laurel's, but is distinctly my own, based on my own heraldic device- blue and white barry wavy. So far, the most prominent piece I've used it on is this silk favor I made:

These three elements, the red and gold scissors of my badge, my livery, and the lozenge motif, where the elements I wanted to bring together into my custom pattern. After I developed something I liked, I brought my Excel-created pattern into Photoshop to do a rough mockup of the repeat.

I thought it was cute, and achieved what I wanted, but I also wasn't sure if the scale was correct. So with the pattern in hand, I dug out some scrap evenweave and pearl cotton, then did a sample to get a better feel for the design.

After a few minutes of looking at the sample, I decided that the scale was off. I wanted less prominent waves and larger scissors. So I went back to the pattern and made the adjustments. It starts to feel like nitpicking at a certain point, and you get really keen on the effect of changing one single stitch somewhere to shift everything or make the design more clear. In the end, I had this new design:

The whole pattern flips in the center so that the scissors are the correct orientation on the front and back of the finished pouch.

I didn't do a second sampler, because I already knew what my original idea was producing, and I knew how I'd changed it. So I found some high-quality 32 count linen evenweave (a scrap that's just the right size) and dug out my silk embroidery thread. I had white and red on hand, which was enough to get started.

I knew I wanted the purse to be small. The whole visual concept here is a dainty purse on a long strap. So I marked out a 5x11 inch rectangle on the linen before I installed it on my small scroll frame. I knew that the lines were just going to be a guideline, mostly like a maximum size boundary, and that I'd let the design actually do its own sizing.

Several stitches later, I had something I was able to better visualize for size. You may be able to see in the photo above that I stitched the outline for another lozenge to the far right, but since that crossed my pencil line too much, I backtracked. This isn't to say that I couldn't add that back in and shift the center of the purse to the right entirely, however. I continually use my hand as a reference to the size as I go to give me the best sense of how large the finished purse might be.

After getting the remaining silk thread I needed (I'm using Rainbow Gallery's Splendor silk), I tested out the blue and added the gold to get a more clear picture of the finished design.

Sometime after that last picture, my youngest child came across this project and not really thinking about what it was, used my thread snips on it, cutting a hole into an area that is supposed to be embroidered. (It was a terrible discovery, and I totally cried). I let the project sit for a while, unsure of how to proceed. Eventually, I picked it back up, wound the damaged section into the bottom scroll bar, and kept going. I'll need to deal with the hole at some point, but I didn't want to convince myself that the piece is entirely ruined. There's a solution, but I don't have to be ready to find it yet.

This is the "I just want to work on something" project at the moment that I pick up between other more important projects. As I continue to plug away at it, I'm pondering the finishing steps. I believe that I will use a red wool weaving thread I have to weave the hanging strap, and there will undoubtedly be tassels involved. I already have a royal blue linen set aside for the lining.


  1. I've long enjoyed all your content, and the clear manner in which you present it.

    But that comment about your child using thread snips, and how you cried? That resonated SO HARD with me. I love that you felt like you could share that. Thank you.

    I also love the (new to me) idea that you don't have to be ready to figure out how to fix something to keep working on other parts of it, so thanks for that as well!

  2. I was thinking about the hole, I would recommend putting in a linen patch and embroider over the patch. Not sure how big it is, but you could lay it over the hole and embroider or under the hole and embroider. Yup, that is my recommendation. :D

    1. That's exactly what is recommended for similar problems in needlepoint on canvas.

    2. Thanks! This was the direction my thoughts were headed as well. I'll definitely look into this as a potential solution.

  3. Oh, goodness. I would have done a lot more than cry if I'd found a hole in that!

    (Loving your updates as always. <3)