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Tell me again, why do I need one of these things?

historical embroidery nerdery at

historical embroidery nerdery at

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cross stitch: birdy
This is entrancing:

A How To for Doing Faces in Opus Anglicanum

OA is a medieval embroidery technique which flourished in the British Isles (before the advent of the Black Death"). Its main use was for highly expensive religious items^ and clothing for popes and other important people who wanted to look radiant. And, since it was a gold-work technique*, they were radiant.

I am always entranced by anything with the words "gold-work".

OA was done with silk threads and gold or silver thread for high-lighting and high-end extras like pearls and gems. It was incredibly naturalistic. Yes, I said naturalistic -- the shading on faces and hands was mind blowing and they had that wonderful early-medieval# cartoon look to them. Saints who look like they are worrying about the piles (rather than god), strange animals, bizarre in-jokes... it looks like some of the guys from medieval illuminated manuscripts ran off velum and took up home in textiles.

So, the shading on the skin, the expressions and the liveliness all rock and make OA seriously awesome and very entertaining.

The lady with this blog is a grade-a expert and this is a tutorial on how to do the skin sections and we admire and fangirl her work.

She is also home at the med_embroidery and just join her comm, okay?


"if your skilled workers are mostly dead, then it is hard to keep running the business. It didn't help that those blighters from across the Channel called or nue (grave accent), which was cheaper, easier to make so less specialist workers were needed, and seriously (untastefully) bling. Actually, I quite like it, done well it is mind-blowing.
^ altar cloths, chastibules (I don't know what they are but you've got to have them), decorative bible covers, things to hang off pulpits -- if you can stick fabric on it, you'd be dying to have some.
# This proves that I work in "the heritage/archaeological sector" - I can actually spell it. I T (mature, buzzy, really mature)
*I really don't want to explain gold-work right now: embroidery using fine metal thread (gold or silver, possibly gilt) for a really nice effect and as flashy or understated as you want. There are several methods of doing this and the one we are talking about here used a (sophisticated and difficult) technique where thread laid on top of the fabric was pulled through the back with a tiny little stitch that remained invisible on the surface. If you have ever had the stitching tension on your machine gone wonky - with the top thread lying flat on top... shit, I can't think in sewing machine. This is it. Just extremely expensive.
  • This is fascinating. It really is sort of like the manuscripts. I wonder how people used to do this a long time ago before magnifying glasses.
    • I saw a documentary about it on BBC4 and it was amazing. The size of the stitches involved is just scary scary. And people think my cross-stitch is small (it is) but there is no way I could sit in a nunnery and just do this for hours on end (especially under poor light)
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