Cod Pal germ 551: a 15th Century Brocade Pattern Book,Translation & Transcription

I am incredibly excited to tell you about a project I have been working on!  The Heidelberg University has scanned in a full German manuscript from 1471 that includes a treasure of brocade patterns.  Including patterns for beading with pearls!  The manuscript is in excellent condition, and the scans are very detailed.

Take a peak at the link below!  I had the book printed and spiral bound at Staples.  The original manuscript is about 7.5 x 10″ so only slightly smaller than the letter size paper used here.

Preview of the printed Cod. Pal. germ 551

When I first began researching this book I wanted to really “see” the patterns, so began by just transcribing them onto a graph style instead of the numbers format used in the book.  This allows us to see a picture of the design and is a method more commonly used today.  I went through the first 200 pages of the manuscript this way.  I printed graph paper, but then worked entirely by hand.  Here is a preview of those graphs:

200 pages of Cod. Pal. germ 551 patterns

I also wove a selection of the designs.  Initially I chose designs that were error free and repeated easily.  I sampled these using 60/2 silk dyed a dark blue with a 2/20 silk brocade thread in light gold.  I am using wooden cards, and a simple U shaped wooden loom.  The 15th century painting of a woman brocading in the Book that fist Jehan BOCAC de Certalde of the cleres and noble women, which he sent to Audice de Accioroles of Florence, Countess of Haulteville guided my selection of loom, cards, wooden weaving swords, and wooden bobbins.

 

brocade

This is one of the sections I have woven:

tablet

I had a theory that I had actually patterned the bands backwards – what I had charted as brocade was the ground threads and vice versa.  Through the assistance of Mistress Drea translating the German text in the manuscript, I was able to confirm my theory.

Meeting people who could help with the German text made this project even more exciting, and I decided to start again at the beginning.  Already I was recognizing patterns of words that repeated themselves and with an actual translator to help a whole new world of options quickly opened up.

My goal with the project is to end up with a hand written manuscript that is easily understood, and to the best of my ability, true to the intentions of the original writers.

 

As the book has pages that are lined and ready to be written on, I chose to also create a template page.  I created a lightly lined grid paper that was the same size as the original book, and offset to eventually allow for binding.  I began at page 1 with Mistress Drea’s assistance on the German language.  These are the initial results:

Each page contains the original pattern as written, including any miscounts or errors.  (I will admit these often evoke a chuckle of empathy as I have certainly had similar mistakes in my own pattern making.) To the right side I have made notes about the placement of pearls and any suggested pattern changes.  I will be continuing this project and adding pages to the blog as they are completed.

Meanwhile you are likely to find me in a position remarkably like this one (Thank you Mistress Brig for the photo!)45931285_718359625208720_6429065953299922944_n

Note:  Claudia Wollny, whose work I admire and deeply respect, has announced the publication of a book inspired by this manuscript.  Copies are available for preorder at this time, and I believe will be shipping to the US this week.  I began this project before her announcement, and we have been working separately on our interpretations of the original manuscript.  I’ll finish my work before ordering a copy of Claudia’s book.

Multiple Color Brocade Tablet Weaving

This chasuble was acquired by the Swedish Historiska Museum in 1893.   It was displayed in 1997.  The band that forms the back cross is 2.4cm wide, about .94 of an inch.  It was woven in silk and gold but is also brocaded with additional silk in several colors.

Of particular interest in this piece – the same pattern is used on multiple bands on the garment.  Twice on the cross on the back, and once at the neckline.  However, the bands were woven differently using different materials.   The vertical branch of the cross uses the colored motifs, but only in the lighter colors and is more similar to the collar band than the horizontal band of the cross.

Neck Band                                                                Back Band

Coarser thread                                                                  Finer silk thread

Higher tension (elongated shapes)                               Looser tension (shapes much squarer)

Gold membrane used for brocade                                Gold thread spun with a silk core

 

Tools & Materials:

In Period                                                            

  • Loom
  • Tablet Weaving cards
  • Shuttle / Needle / Weaving Sword
  • Silk Thread: yellow, blue, green, black
  • Gold thread: Spun on a silk core, used double

My Work

  • Inkle style loom*
  • Tablet Weaving Cards
  • Shuttle / Needles / Weaving Sword
  • Silk thread: Cream, blue, green, pink**
  • Gold thread: Spun on a silk core, used double

4* Illuminations from this time frame depict women tablet weaving on a standing frame loom, such as this 1410 painting from the Mazarine Bible.  However, there is not a way to tell what type of loom was used on a specific piece.  I actually have a standing frame loom on order (to be delivered Mid-May) but am currently working on this piece on an inkle style loom.  One of the biggest differences this makes is how frequently you advance the project (I have 12” of working room versus 36” on a standing frame loom) as well as dealing with twist.  Using a circular warp on an inkle loom requires that twist from turning the cards be reversed within the weaving.  Using a frame loom would allow one to untie and untwist the threads without reversing the weaving.

 

*** I used 60/2 silk for this project to create a piece as close to the actual size of the original as possible.  However, I did have limited colors in this size due to expense.  Therefore, I changed some of the colors but tried to keep the overall look of the band similar to the original.

 

Technique:

*The original band has 3 colored motifs alternating with 3 gold motifs (color 1, gold 1, color 2, gold 2, color 3, gold 3, repeat) however one of the gold motifs is known modernly as a swastika.  Due to it’s modern association I chose not to use this motif and to instead alternate the other two gold motifs.

 

There are several descriptions of the warp threads that directly conflict each other.  The earliest public analysis is by Agnes Geijer in Some Medieval Bands, published in 1928, and lists it as having two threads of silk and two of linen, but in the same color.  Nancy Spies in Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance, 2000, states that the band has the center threaded all silk, but with two threads of light yellow and two of green.  When carefully examining available images, I don’t see the striping that should have resulted from either of these descriptions.  I’ve contacted the textiles curator, Amica Sundström, at Statens historiska museer (the museum branch holding this piece) and am currently awaiting more information and closer photos of the band in particular.  Part of the discrepancy may be due to the presence of two separate bands on the same garment.

 

For this project, I chose an all silk warp.  The two outermost cards on each side were threaded with cream silk in all 4 holes, the next two inward with green silk in all 4 holes, and the 27 center pattern cards were threaded with all 4 holes of ivory silk.

20180425_100134Initially I used the same 60/2 cream colored silk as the warp for the weft.  Both gold and colored brocade threads were used double.  The gold brocade was threaded within the band but did not go all the way to the outside card.  I used a bone folder to pick up the pattern threads and threaded the gold through on a large needle, turning under the band just before the last card.

 
20180425_100524Colored brocade threads were also used double but did not go through the middle of the band like the gold thread.  Previous experimentation showed that using multiple colors of thread inside the warp created a very bulky weft that would not pack tightly to show a neat pattern.  Instead, these colored brocades wove completely below over all four threads of the band, similar to embro

idery.

 

 

20180425_002814This did mean at any one time I was managing 5 different weft threads:  3 colors, one gold, and the primary silk weft.

It quickly became apparent that doing each row in the exact same order was key to keeping the pattern consistent.

 

 

 

The first colored motif worked out the basic technique but was far more elongated than the original band.  I loosened tension and worked through a gold motif, but still found the pattern to be too long.

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At the second colored motif, I changed my weft thread to a fine silk sewing thread instead of the 60/2 silk I was using.  The pattern was much better, but still not where I wanted it to be.

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After the second motif I loosened up tension even more, and success!  The third motif was far more like the original band.  This was incredibly loose tension, letting the cards hang loosely by 45 degrees or more.  I’ll continue the band with this loose of tension.

20180506_173920

I also ordered an even finer silk thread, 100 weight sewing thread, and after the third motif used this for the primary weft along with greatly reduced tension on both the warp and weft.  This section is the closest to the original in dimensions, although it is still narrower.  At this point, my band measures .75” instead of 94”.

What went wrong:

Thread management!  There are several gaps early on where I didn’t do the threads in the exact order as the pervious row, this created lines in the pattern.  Also, this tension is by far the loosest I have ever worked with on a tablet weaving project and created some challenged with card order and learning how to pack the band tightly.

Supplies – sourcing actual spun gold was challenging and I underestimated the amount needed.  More is on the way from Germany.

 

Next time I’ll:

I look forward to tablet weaving on the standing frame or Osberg style loom.  Though challenging, I believe this will give more insight into why we see fewer reversals on extant bands.  Also, it becomes obvious that exact tension is far less of an issue when dealing with this kind of band where the beating process is completely done by hand – not using the tension of the loom to hold the threads in place.

 

Bibliography

Geijer, Agnes. Some Medieval Bands. Journal of Swedish Antiquarian Research. 1928.

Book available online at:  http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/878/1928_001.pdf?sequence=1

Spies, Nancy. Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance.  Arelate Studio. 2000.

Sundström, Amica. Textiles curator at Statens historiska museer. Personal interview. 25 April 2018.

Textile Collection, Historiska Museum. Acquired in 1893.  http://historiska.se/upptack-historien/object/95622-masshake-av-textil/  Accessed 2 May 2018.

 

Special Thank you to Maria of https://historicaltextiles.org/18-2018-the-weekend-pictures/ for updated photos of the chasuble!

 

Continue reading “Multiple Color Brocade Tablet Weaving”

çaprast (pronounced chahprahst) (Persian & Turkish coat button strips)

On April 7th, 2018 the Kingdom of Atlantia in the SCA crowned a new set of Monarchs.  The reigning couple declared a theme honoring Middle Eastern cultures for their reign, and it opened up all kinds of wonderful options for Arts & Sciences.

As a weaver, I have been fascinated by the strips of trim depicted in paintings on the front of coats in both Persian and Ottoman Turkish art.  They ran anywhere from just a few on the chest to closely spaced down the entire length of the garment.

Below Left:  1582. Detail from the Sūrnāme-i Hümāyūn, the Imperial Festival Book, documenting the circumcision festival of Prince Mehmet that lasted longer than 50 days.

Below Right:  Hayreddin Barbarossa – Pasha of Algiers, Admiral of the Fleet. 1580 by an Italian master. 

illumination     illumination 2

I started my research with extant examples – Coats held by the Topkapı Palace Museum that had belonged to the Sultans of the past.  The Ipek: The Crescent & The Rose: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets was also incredibly useful.

I found examples of tablet woven bands as well as bands done in a different braiding technique, such as flat kumihimo bands.   Close examination of the bands showed something very interesting – both the buttons themselves and the loops to hold them appeared to be integral parts of the band!  This called for experimentation, and I warped up a silk band to create my own çaprast.

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I did not have a clear picture of how thick the bands should be, it seemed to vary from coat to coat and art to art, but generally fairly narrow.  For a band using 2/20 silk I used 10 cards, for other attempts in #10 cotton I’d use 8 cards.

I chose a simple pattern in striking colors – geometric diamonds in red and golds as seems so common in period artwork.  I liked the appearance of the flat braided bands, so instead of using separate border cards I wove my pattern right to the edge of my band.

Because I knew these would be sectional, I broke the warp up by weaving in the ends of each small section, then leaving a gap before beginning the next section. On half of the sections I left a larger gap in order to create the buttonholes with the warp thread.

Then – the fun part!  After cutting each section off the loom, I began by rolling one end into a small button and using the same silk thread to sew it into place.  I did notice these came out smaller than the buttons on the extant caftans, and I think they may have either rolled more trim, or wrapped it around another object.  This bears further research.

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For the other half of the band, I looped the remaining warp pieces into a loose knot, then used the same thread to knot around them -creating button loops that fit snugly over the buttons.

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These will be attached to a coat like the following example:

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