Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Brocaded Silk band with Fleur-de-lys

Brocaded silk ribbon - Fleurs
This was part of my Sable Swap from 2014. The brocading pattern is found here.

Tablet-woven band:
The band is made from recycled yellow silk, brocaded with recycled red silk. Tablet weaving is a type of twined-warp weaving in which tablets (also called cards) form the sheds with holes (usually 2 or 4) through which the warp ends are threaded. If the tablets are rotated, either in groups or singly, sheds are created for the passage of the weft. (Crowfoot et al. 213) Tablet weaving was used throughout Europe, where several archaeological finds and museum pieces show the diversity of designs and variations possible with the manipulation of the cards.

Brocading involves the use of a supplemental weft, which floats on the top of the weave, created the design. The red silk has five strands, so that it gave more coverage, making a fuller image.

The design:
Creating in brocade is not easy – curved designs are difficult in a ‘binary’ system, and creating a recognizable pattern without making the band extra wide presented problems. The design isn’t perfect, but the people who looked at earlier examples said this was the best representation of a Florentine Fleur (compared to the ones that looked like frogs, bees, and other ‘creepy crawlies’!)

The pattern was drafted on the computer using Excel. A grid was used, and the dark areas represent the red silk, while the open areas are the yellow. For each row, the yellow (structural) weft was done first, and then the pattern areas were separated out for the red silk. The red silk drops to the back between rows, so there are no bumps on the edges, making the band cleaner.

This design is similar to one in Ecclesiastical Pomp and Aristocratic Circumstance. (Spies 128)  The band is from the 13/14th century, and found in St. Truiden. Silk was used for the base weaving, while spun-silver was used for the brocading. The pattern alternated fleur-de-lys and shields.

The Silk
The silk is from recycled sweaters. Historically, the silk used in tablet weaving was usually plied and then doubled or tripled. (Crowfoot, et al. 130) Silk filament is naturally off-white, and easily takes dyes, and very bright, vibrant colors are possible. Red dyestuffs include kermes and madder, while yellow was produced with weld. (Crowfoot et. al 19-20)

Recycling silk from one piece of fabric to another is known from ancient times, when silk and metal threads were so valuable that old items were recycled into new items, either as whole pieces, or unwoven so it could be re-made as something new. (Lardner 16, Spies 13-15)  I used 3-ply silk from recycling sweaters labeled “100% silk” from thrift stores. All of the silk is the original color from the individual sweaters, to ensure a constant dye-lot. (Sebolt)

The yellow silk was doubled in the sweater, so it was separated into single strands for this project. The red was thinner, and there were 5 strands knit together. This was too difficult to separate, so the silk was kept together, and used for the brocading weft.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland, Textiles and Clothing c.1150 -- c.1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4). London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1992. New addition - Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001, 2002. Print.

Lardner, Dionysius. A Treatise on the Origin, Progressive Improvement, and Present State of the Silk Manufacture. Philadelphia: Carey & Lea, 1832. Print.

Sebolt, Cynthia. “Recycling Silk for Weaving Projects.” Tournaments Illuminated. Issue 189, first quarter 2014: 17-18. Print.

Spies, Nancy. Ecclesiastical pomp & aristocratic circumstance : a thousand years of brocaded tabletwoven bands. Jarretsville, Md: Arelate Studio, 2000. Print. 

This is the pattern - the one on the left was first, and then the one on the right, after suggestions from weavers on making it look less 'bug-like'.

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