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.

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.

1

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.

2

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:

5

 

 

 

Fitting Rectangular Patterns to the Modern Body

Relevant facts:

  1. I still am a very novice seamstress.
  2. I had never attempted to sew a garment before the SCA.
  3. I have the abundant hips of a modern woman who enjoys a well fed lifestyle.
  4. So much trial and error!

Several months into my SCA journey I was given a handout on rectangular tunic construction by Hanim Gulenay, OL and HE Suvia filia Heriberti.  This handout was a game changer for me.  It was clearly written and explained tunic construction and alternatives in ways that made sense to a complete novice.

With permission from Mistress Hanim, here is the handout:

RectangularConstructionforTunics

It has fantastic suggestions for fabric, the history of the pattern, as well as two patterns for rectangular tunics, a fuller one and a more fitted version.  I use the more fitted version, and most of these notes will apply to that.

 

Referring back to that novice seamstress part, a half dozen dresses later I’ve finally learned a good bit about how to measure, cut, and assemble squares to fit a very not-square body.  Here are a few notes that I hope will help:

 

Measurements

The handout gives the following graphic for measurements:

pattern

A:  I prefer a higher shoulder seam, so use a measurement that is just a little past my bra straps.  I use favorite tank tops that aren’t tight but fit well for most of my measurements.

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Measurement across the chest

B:  Because A is higher up on my shoulder, it’s important to start B from the same spot and measure all the way down to my wrist.

C:  This is the measurement that took me the longest to work out.  I was told to use my full shoulder circle, and then later to use half of that.  What I’ve learned is that “it depends”.  Generally, individuals with larger biceps and upper arms will want a larger armhole for more movement.  For me, about ¾ of the total circle works well.  I use a shirt with comfortable armholes as a starting point, and measure this way:

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Over the shoulder measurement

D:  This measurement works with C, and it’s important that they stay together.  The top of D must start where the bottom of C ends.

NOTES: This is probably the measurement I’ve played with the most to get the pattern to fit.  I’m very pear shaped, and in order to have a fitted torso but enough ease to comfortably flare over my hips, I’ve shortened this measurement to about 5.5 – 6″.  This means the flare starts higher on the sides, and affords me plenty of wiggle room, while still giving a nice silhouette.

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Measuring for the top gore

 

Page 7:  This page is where you’ll calculate the measurements for the side gores.  Do add the 4″ of ease, and don’t forget seam allowances on both sides of pieces.  Make a note of the top measurement of your top gores, you’ll need that in the next step!

Shaping the Pieces

Sleeves:  The sleeve shape is not a flat top triangle, but actually has some shaping at the widest part as well.  Like this:

sleeve shape

Begin with the arm measurement plus seam allowance and draw that line.  Add straight lines at a 90 degree angle that are the same length as the top of your upper gores.  Then angle the sleeve inward until you reach the length and width of your sleeve and wrist measurements.

Uses

I’ve used this pattern a LOT now.  For Viking underdresses, Rus over and underdresses, and even just cut the front all the way down for a perfectly fitted Ottoman coat.

Please feel free to ask questions if I can be of any help!

The $12 Custom Dress Form

Relevant facts:

  1.  I bring whole new meaning to the word novice seamstress
  2. Toddler factor (it’s like trying to layout and cut fabric with a dozen cats in the room)
  3. I am very pear shaped, not something all dress dummies work well with
  4. Budget, budget, budget

I’ve heard about the “duct tape dress form” a few times in the SCA but didn’t have much more than a vague idea of some silver tape, my body, and a pair of scissors.  Today a group of ladies got together and actually made them – successfully!  So here is a walk through of the process, guidance courtesy of Mistress Marion Leoncina da Susa.

Things you’ll need:

  1. A sacrificial t-shirt, form fitting
  2. Duct tape – about 3 rolls, doesn’t have to be name brand but that did seem to be more stiff and hold shape a bit better.
  3. Sharp scissors
  4. Filler – packing paper, newspaper, etc
  5. Something to hang your dress form on that is your height
    1. 2×4 stand that is shoulder height
    2. make a stand from PVC pipe and joints
    3. Floor lamp and cross beam
  6. A Friend!  This is definitely a 2 or more project

 

Step 1:

Get dressed!  Mistress Marion pointed out that you’ll need to wear the same undergarments you plan on wearing in your finished garb.  Bust silhouettes changed over the SCA period and using the right undergarments will let you shape your finished garb to the shape you’re working towards.

She also suggested two t-shirts.  This let the scissors slide between the duct taped sacrificial t-shirt and the undershirt, rather than on bare skin.

Make sure hair is pulled up and out of the way.  Stand in a comfortable position with your arms loosely at your side.  Don’t suck in – you’ll want to be able to breath both during this and in your garb!

 

Step 2:

The first layer of duct tape carefully follows the contours of the body.  The key here is to keep the duct tape flat.  You’re not looking for straight lines, but for smooth tape.

 

Step 2 notes:  Keep standing still (ish – I’m bad at this!) and keep breathing :).    Having someone to tear strips of tape while the other person applied them made this a lot easier.

Step 3:  Apply a 2nd layer of duct tape.  You want these strips crossing over the first layer in an X shape.  Make sure to cover from neck to hip, and over the top of the shoulder.

Watch out for hair!  Our tape tearer also served as a hair holder upper 🙂

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Step 4:  Apply a 3rd layer of duct tape, again crossing directions with the 2nd layer.  The back and forth layers function like a basket grid – holding the shape firmly.

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Step 5:  Cut!  Using sharp scissors, slide a hand between the two shirts at the lower back and then cut up the center back of the shape.

 

 

Step 6:  Wiggle out!  The form is shaped!

Step 7:  Build / find / jury rig a frame.  You’ll need some kind of vertical post and a crossbar that is slightly narrower than your shoulders.

Ideas:

  1. Use 2″ x 4″ wood to build an armor stand or pell shape
  2. Use PVC pipe and joints to build a stand that can break apart for travel
  3. Use a standing lamp and cross bar!  I used strapping tape to afix a shoulder bar to the lamp just a little below my shoulder height.

Step 8:  Stuff it!  I started at the top and used packing paper to adjust the dress form to be right at my height.

 

I ended up doing this in a few steps.  I stuffed the very top and shoulders while it was standing up.  Then angled it onto a chair to stuff the chest and upper back.  Then a very supportive hubby held the entire thing upside down so I could stuff the bottom and hips of the form.  A few more strips of tape across the bottom of the arms, over the neckline, and under the body of the form and voila!

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Delia and Margarett kindly added some additional suggestions!

  • Use a dowel drying rod to hold additional strips of tape.  This goes fastest with at least one tape tearer and two tape appliers.
  • While the form is still on -use a sharpie to mark the belly button, center of the chest, center of the back, and shoulder seams.
  • If you want a high neck, use a separate scrap of cloth to wrap around your neck.
  • Putting a tight T-shirt on the form after it’s stuck will cover any sticky edges and give your pins something to stick into.