Another post that only a stitching history nerd will love.
The last post explored some differences between modelbooks that looked like they featured the same patterns, but in fact were not printed from the same plate. This one looks at one of the most widely reprinted and well known modelbook authors – Johann Siebmacher, and three of his works, all available in on-line editions. All of the excerpts below are from these three sources:
- Schön Neues Modelbuch von allerley lustigen Mödeln naczunehen, zuwürcken unn zusticken, gemacht im Jar Ch. 1597, Nurmberg, 1597, – the source work for Mistress Kathryn Goodwyn’s Needlework Patterns from Renaissance Germany
- One reprinted in 1886 as Kreuzstich- Muster: 36 Tafeln des Ausgabe, 1604, that calls out Siebmacher as its author.
- One indexed simply as Newes Modelbuch with him as author, possibly 1611, but unclear from the source
Many of the designs in these books seem to repeat edition to edition. Some are unique to only one. Before we begin, it’s worth remembering that these books are survivals. Long use and reuse over decades have resulted in page loss. None of the editions are complete, as in “all intact in one original binding,” and some may have been re-composed at a later date from other partial works. But we do what we can with what we have, and Siebmacher’s editions have title pages in them, and distinctive numbering and framing conventions that can lead to a reasonable conclusion that they were from the same printing workshop.
All of the books show graphed designs suited for reproduction using several techniques, including various styles of voided work on the count, lacis (darned knotted net), and buratto (darned woven mesh). Twp of them also include patterns that would be suitable for other forms of lace. Over time these patterns went on to be executed in weaving, cross stitch, filet crochet, and knitting, too. The descendants of these designs ended up in multiple folk traditions and samplers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In addition to the longevity of their contents, Sibmachers books are among the earliest that seem to indicate execution of the design using more than one color or texture, a feature not common in the black-and-white printed early modelbooks. Here are examples the first two books. But I don’t think that these pages were originally printed two-tone. I think they were hand-colored to add the darker squares, either at the time of manufacture or later.
|1597||The possibly 1611 edition|
Obviously, the two samples above were printed from the same block. But the pattern of the darker squares is different, and if you look closely, the some of the solid squares looked colored in, as opposed to having been originally printed that way. I can say the retoucher who did the 1597 was a bit neater. I don’t think these were colored by the book buyer, because every single edition of Siebmacher’s works that I’ve seen have included multi-tone pages like this.
Here are other single- and multi-tone blocks that repeat between these two editions:
|1597||The possibly 1611 edition|
The brown ink on the G near the talon matches the color of the hand-drawn designs at the back of the book – post-publication additions.
The 1604 edition has similar pages that sport two-tone presentation:
But these books are not the same.
That 1604 edition… It’s curious that there are no blocks that are in the other two Siebmacher works that are also in the 1604 edition, yet all three books are clearly signed by him. And the majority of the block labels that show stitch counts for the repeat, or pattern height in units – they are curiously different between the 1604 and the others, too. But still, there evidence of style affinity across the works. Zeroing in on some specific pattern features:
A very familiar stag, that shows up on some of the earliest samplers, with descendants on American Colonial samplers, all the way up to pieces done in the 1800s.
Similar, yet not the same.
Here is a set that’s confounding. First the hippogriff and undine from 1604:
Compare the item above to these two designs – a winged triton and an undine, each from the 1597 work:
Even the geometrics are close but not duplicates
All this aside, even the seemingly close 1597 and possibly-1611 versions have significant differences between them, although they do have exact page duplicates between them. Not so with 1604 – it’s unique when closely compared to the other two, even though all three have the same author attribution, and very similar styles. This is VERY odd considering the vast amount of physical labor that had to go into producing these blocks.
So. What’s going on with the 1604 edition? Why is it so different from the other two? Has anyone read an academic work that examines this issue in more detail, or corroborates these findings with other editions that are not published on line?
So many patterns, so many questions, so little time to do in depth research.
And its the cold, snowy part of the Boston seasonal experience. Which is not improving my outlook much. But there are bright spots. We do what we can.
Here’s a free offering (also available via my Embroidery Patterns tab, above). This motto just cries out to be a sampler, the irony of using an art that in and of itself requires intensive perseverance to accomplish is just too sweet. Click on the chart image to get the full JPG, formatted for 8.5 x 11 inch paper. (Finished stitching sample courtesy of long-time friend Gillian, who was the first to post a finished piece picture. Her’s is on 14-count Aida, finished post-wash size of stitched area is about 7″ x 9″.)
And here’s the finish from Edith Howe-Byrne on even weave, showing her variant treatment of the concept, using other counted stitches and beads (she’s leaving in the gridwork so she can use this piece as a reference for additional projects):
The alphabets used are (more or less) contemporary with the women’s suffrage movement – found on Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts site, among his collection of vintage Sajou and Alexandre booklets. The particular one I used for all three alphabets is here. The border is adapted from one appearing in a 1915 German book of cross stitch alphabets and motifs, in the collection of the Antique Pattern Library.
We all do what we can, and I encourage anyone with heartfelt opinions to use their time and skill set in service, as they see fit. Even if you don’t agree with me, filling the airwaves with positive messages rather than caustic imagery can’t hurt.
If anyone stitches this up and wants me to showcase their effort, please let me know. I’ll be happy to add pix of your work to the gallery here.
On my own end, I have been productive as well.
First finished (but not first started) – a quick shrug. Possibly even for me.
This is knit from the generous bounty resettled upon me by the Nancys, for which I continue to be grateful. The multicolor yarn is older Noro Nadeshiko, a blend with a hefty dose of angora, along with silk and wool. It is soft and supple, and although I am generally not a fan of desert colors – is superbly hued, with just enough rose, sage, cream, and grey to be perfect. The accent edge is done is another of their gift yarns – two balls of a merino wool variegated single, worsted weight. I held it double for extra oomph. One thing to note about the Nadeshiko though – it sheds. A lot. And the Office Dogs where I work like to sniff it (it probably smells like a bunny).
The pattern is Jennifer Miller’s Shawl Collar Vest – a Ravelry freebie. It is a no-seam, quick knit, written for bulky weight yarn. The thing fairly knit itself. Four days from cast-on to wear-ready. My only criticism is that the XL size is really more of a 12/14. I can wear it, but it’s very tight, and tends to emphasize attributes with which I am already more than proportionally blessed. My answer to this problem will be to unravel the green finish rounds, and add about 2 inches of stripey, then re-knit the green.
The nifty pin is an official heirloom of my house. Long ago and far away, SCA friend Sir Aelfwine (now of blessed memory) made it for me as a cloak pin. Obviously I still treasure it and wear it when I can.
On the needles is also yet another pair of Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, another free pattern available from Ravelry. I’ve done four pair of these, but never for me. I rectify that oversight now.
Obviously, the first one is done. Now for the second.
The yarn is yet another denizen of the Great Nancy Box – a worsted weight handspun alpaca – chocolate brown with flecks of white and pale grey, from Sallie’s Fen Alpacas. The photo doesn’t do the yarn justice. It’s butter on the needles, and gloriously warm. The only mod I make to the original pattern is using a provisional cast-on, then knitting the cast-on edge to the body on the last pre-welt row (to eliminate seaming).
My typing fingers will be toasty when #2 is done.
Another question from the inbox: “So, what’s up with those snails?”
No mystery – just a bit of silly that’s been codified into semi-tradition.
The original strip of snails was one of the first patterns I doodled up – inspired by the non-counted snails in Scholehouse for the Needle (1624). That was way long back ago, when I was still in college. They’ve wandered in and out of my notes over the years, first appearing as a spot motif, and eventually ending up in my first and second hand drawn pattern collections (published in ‘76 and in the early ‘80s) and eventually my own New Carolingian Modelbook. I dedicated that form of the pattern to Mistress Peridot of the Quaking Hand – a local resident of the SCA Barony of Carolingia (Eastern Massachusetts/greater Boston area), famed for her calligraphy and her unselfish sharing of the same. The artist behind so many excellent awards scrolls. Peridot’s own device features a sleepy snail.
Maybe it’s a subliminal comment on slow, steady perseverance inherent in needlework, but for whatever reason, I have used that snail on the majority of my samplers. Not all, but most. Here are charts for some of the ways my little creeping friends have shown up. The original row is at the top left. The all-over of snails circling little gardens with ominous intent is from the Trifles sampler. The ribbon strip at the lower left is the bit I’m currently stitching in blue and red.
After lots of happy chugging along, as you can see Trifles is nearing completion.
I’ve got only eight more gears to finish up, including the two in process now. Then come a couple of “Trifles,” modeled on the little soot demons from Spirited Away, another special request from the target recipient. The hapless little things will be prisoners in the mechanism.
Finally, if there’s room and it looks good, I plan to add some brass watch gears for extra Steampunk flavor.
To answer questions, no – I am not planning this in advance. I choose the fill and color as each new gear presents itself. I chose to use four colors as a nod to the (rarely used) four color theorem, which states that any contiguous plane map can be colored in using only four colors, and have no two regions of the same color touching each other. In my case as a non-mathematician, this was done on a lark, and adds geeky joy.
I do admit that a little logical thinking has been used to select the optimal color for each gear, in a “If I make this one brown, then this one will have to be gold, and that one must be maroon,” sort of way. But again I haven’t sat down and plotted my plan of attack, other than to make the juncture point where I finish adding gears around the motto be the narrowest point of the sampler, to simplify any color meet-up issues.
On fills, I’ve tried to mix up densities and shapes, to achieve as much contrast as possible. So fills based on interlaces abut fills with isolated spot motifs, which bump up against all-over small geometrics, which in turn are next to line-based fills with few or no closed shapes. I’ve had a lot of fun paging through Ensamplario Atlantio looking for the best choice for each gear. And I’ve ended up doodling a few more, just for fun. Here are a couple:
The rather annoyed unicorn is an adaptation of a motif from the open source pattern group exercise I hosted here back in 2010/2011. I have to say that doodling these is addictive. Just playing around, I’ve put together twenty more design squares, including those I collected from the Victoria and Albert Museum smock, item T.113-188-1997. I could easily do dozens more. Now comes a question, with T2CM now finished and awaiting only resolution of logistical and publication issues prior to general availability, do I release the new group as a fifth section of Ensamplario Atlantio, or do I go on and start on Ensamplario Secundo?
O.k. I know a few of you want me to do a blow by blow travelogue of our London trip. But that’s not my forté. I’ll wander over and cover some of that material several posts, but mostly want to write about specific things we saw, this being one of the first times I’ve been able to get relatively up close and personal with historical artifacts. Besides, The Resident Male is a much better travel writer than I am.
First off, to satisfy my stitching readers, is this blackwork smock, currently on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum:
The full citation cites it as being of British make, and stitched some time during 1575 to 1585. They posit home manufacture rather than a professional house. If you read through the full description, you’ll find out that the top part (the stitched bodice) was done on fine linen, and the unseen and unstitched lower part was also linen, but of a much coarser fabric. The plain lower skirt and the needle lace around the neckline and cuffs are modern reproductions. The accession number is T.113 to 118-1997.
I tried to take pix of this artifact to show the details. It’s basically three large rectangles, with underarm gussets (each sporting a flower, and unseen here). One rectangle for each sleeve, plus a larger one with head hole for the front, back and shoulders. I wanted to see if that center strip was seamed from smaller parts, but I wasn’t able to do so based on my examination.
One thing that delighted me was the use of various techniques for the fills. Some were done on the count. It looks like the grid may be 4×4 threads. I can’t estimate the stitch per inch count, but it’s roughly comparable in look to between 20 and 25 stitches per inch. The thread does look finger spun from floss silk, with some areas more tightly twisted than others, and some variation in thickness.
Some filling placements were eyeballed, and done freehand (note the trailing vines and spot motifs that follow the flower forms rather than marching rigidly in diagonals). The solid bits look to have been done in satin stitch or a stitch in the Romanian couching family. The dark borders around the shapes look to be either outline or stem stitch in some places, and in other places possibly whipped or threaded back stitch. There may be knot stitches in there, too, (especially the knotted line stitches that sport little side stitch “legs”) but my eyes couldn’t pick them out for absolute identification.
Effort was made to use the same filling in matching areas of symmetrical designs, but some variations do occur. In fact, the occasional lapses in attention to detail on the fills, and that some are presented in a couple of variations (see below) are charming, and makes me think that my guess that the fillings were thought up on the fly, rather than being copied from canonical works may be true. (Filling inventors, take heart.)
I tried to get very close to the turned back cuffs to determine whether or not they were exactly double sided, with both front and back identical. Well, they’re close but not absolute. My pictures aren’t good enough to show it, but there are (barely) detectable knots on the inside of the cuff. The double running stitch fills and solid areas (satin stitch in this case) are certainly worked very neatly, especially compared to the relative chaos of the back sides of other contemporary work, but they are not spot on exactly the same front and back, although they are presentable and nicely done, for sure.
Here are some more pix of the thing. These shots were taken by Elder Daughter, with her superior camera skills and equipment:
And finally, to satisfy the people who pointed out that I did not include exact citations for every fill in my free-to-download Ensamplario Atlantio collection, here is a set of 10 plates with fills sourced specifically to this artifact.
So much for facts. I have to say there were several items on display that caused me to hyperventilate like a Twilight fangirl. Blackwork geek that I am, this was one. It’s in excellent condition, with the stitching, dense, the threads shiny, and minimal wear or damage. The overall effect was one of understated opulence, but not splendor. For one, there is an aspect of “loving hands at home” to this piece, especially in the composition and heaviness of the fills.
But what struck me the most was that the standard of excellence in this piece is entirely achievable today. Yes, it’s exacting, and acquiring the materials would be difficult, but it’s not miles beyond the capability and reach of modern amateur needleworkers. It’s time we stop bowing to “the ancients” and banish our temporal craftsmanship insecurities The best of us are darned good (no pun intended), and many of the contemporary projects I see on the web are just as well executed as this prime piece from the 16th century.
Progress on several fronts here. Slow, for sure – but progress.
First, my MMarioKKnits Dragon Stole continues to grow:
Both Long Time Needlework Pal Kathryn and I were convinced we’d seen this beastie before.
Sure enough, blessed by the local resource fairy, and well versed in Siebmacher’s oeuvre, Kathryn managed to dig up the original, from the 1603 edition of Siebmacher’s Shon Neues Modelbuch. I got in touch with MMarioKKnits himself to ask if he used the Siebmacher when he drew up his pattern, or if he remembered some other secondary source that was his inspiration. Many of these designs were re-collected in the mid 1800s, when counted work went through a major renaissance, some of which was inspired by actual Renaissance pattern books. I suspected that one of these mid 1800s collections was the source in question.
MMario confirmed that he indeed started with a mid 1800s work, but he didn’t remember which one. He pointed me at the Antique Pattern Library (more on this below). I’m pretty familiar with their inventory, but wasn’t able to find his secondary source either.
There are some differences between the MMario version and the one from 1603 – as one would expect in a multi-century game of garbled pattern transmission telephone – but the main motif, a hippocampus (not a dragon) is spot on count for count the same. Why do I think it’s a hippocampus? Because these designs were highly thematic, and a mermaid would be more likely to keep company with a mythical sea-steed than a dragon.
I’ve got official permission from MMario to post some quotes from his graph in order to put the changes in context. The black squares are the same in his rendition and the 1603 Siebmacher version. The red squares are from 1603, and are different from his design. The majority of the beastie is the same in both.
This center panel – a dual tailed undine similar to the one used by Starbucks in its logo – can be used as a drop in, inserted right into the MMario piece to make a wider stole.
The other modification is in the tail. MMario’s beast has an elongated tail swirl with a nifty trifoliate tail. But in the original we see instead a smaller, tighter spiral sweep, a large quaternary flower, and the implication of a bridged mirroring putting two hippocampi tail to tail, centered around a second “bounce line.” Please note that I’ve not included the whole dragon repeat in order to keep from stepping on MMario’s pattern toes. You’ll have to visit his design to get the rest of it.
I’m going to attempt to introduce the center mermaid into my Dragon Stole. Wish me luck!
Aside on Antique Pattern Library – this is a non-profit, volunteer effort to scan and preserve out of print documents and ephemera related to needle and domestic arts. They have a huge collection of public domain embroidery, knitting, crochet, tatting, sewing and crafts books and leaflets dating from before 1920. A large proportion are from 1860 through 1910 or so. They even have a couple of early Modelbooks thrown in! As a reference, its invaluable. As an archive of women’s history, even more so. I strongly urge everyone to visit, to sample some of the freely available resources there, and most important – to donate to sustain the collection. It’s no secret that they live hand to mouth. I’d truly love to see them do so a bit longer.
Taa daah! I present our finished crowdsource pattern page! 39 different and distinct patterns, from Twerp’s Starbee to Pam’s Knot, designed by you – readers of String!
To round out our count we have:
- 32 – Gum Blossom #1. From Susan Davis, posting all the way from Australia
- 33 – Death’s Head. Susan continues our piratical sub-theme. The eye patch and nose are done off-count.
- 34 – Doodle. Also Susan’s. The tightly packed stitches at the arms’ ends will present like satin stitch.
- 35 – Gum Blossom #2. Susan again, sharing flowers from Oz with the rest of us.
- 36 – Gum Blossom #3. More Susan. Very sweet!
- 37 – Gum Blossom #4. Susan’s final flower.
- 38 – Snails. Mine. I can’t resist working these snails into every project I can. Your initials can be swapped into the center oval instead of the flowers.
- 39 – Celtic Knot. Last but far from least, from Pam, who ties our totally insane collection up with a nice, final knot.
So there you have it – one full page of crowdsourced contributions. This was fun! If folks want, I’ll start another of these. Let me know. Also if you stitch up something using one or more of these fillings, please send me a picture to post here, so we can all share the joy.
Although it is in the periodic nature of comets to come and go, I owe apologies to The Person Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous for inadvertently omitting her tribute to the Bayeux Tapestry from the crowdsource project updates. The inbox management blunder that made that mistake has been taken out and shot.
This week brought five additions to the project, including the belated comet:
- 27. Comet – a tribute to Halley’s Comet as it appeared in the Bayeux Tapestry – Anonymous (with apologies!)
- 28. Mesmer-Flower – A mind bending cross-style flower from from Alexandra Rule
- 29. Anchor – A continuation of our maritime sub-theme also from Alexandra Rule
- 30. Bumblebee – We need more insects if we want to pay homage to the spirit of historical era stitching. This one is from Laura Kathleen Brashear.
- 31. Strawberry – Another for the traditional motif sub-theme, again from Laura Kathleen Brashear.
I’m having way too much fun with these. You can see that we’ve still got room for eight more full-diamond designs, and for about five more that are symmetrical and that can be represented in the half-diamond boxes at top and bottom.
With some overlap among categories, our sub-themes so far seem to be piratical/nautical (1, 16, 20, 21, 3, 29), science fiction (26, 23, 24, 11), sweetness-and-light (31, 22, 6, 10, 18, 13, 4), traditional (31, 30, 26, 5, 6, 3, 25, 13, 7, 16, 9, 12, 14, 10, 12), astronomic (27, 20, 31, 11), beasties-and-bugs (30, 19, 16, 6, 17, 3, 2, 16), and floral-fruits (26, 5, 25, 13, 7, 9, 12, 14, 10, 8). This leaves poor ennui (15) sitting in the corner and sulking, unless you think that by virtue of “Meh” being a popular Think-Geek t-shirt, he belongs in with SF.
If anyone has started stitching something using these, I’d love to hear about it.
First, thanks this week to our crowdsource design contributors – the patient Jane Wyant, and (as always) Long Time Needlework Pal Kathryn Goodwyn:
- #25 – Grapes – Kathryn’s own needlework sigil, offered up to our collection. (Kathryn’s deep love of grape motifs is legendary).
- #26 – TARDIS – From Jane Wyant, a Whovian tiny inter-dimensional call box should we wish to stitch in two places at the same time.
We’ve still got a few open diamonds. With some repositioning I think I can fit in seven more motifs. Feel free to send yours along.
On my own blackwork sampler, progress is being made. My Lipperheide panel is proceeding apace.
I am not going to have room for the entire repeat. There’s a head of one of the four winds (possibly Boreas), and a horn tooting satyr that will have to wait their turn on a future piece. Unless Kathryn gets there first. 🙂
After I finish out this strip to the left hand edge of the stitched area I will fill in a narrower band below the sprigged chimney pots. Then I’ll edge across the entire bottom with something nice and dark – probably worked voided style. I haven’t picked out the designs for either of those strips yet, but as folk following here know, I enjoy bungee jump style stitching. Once the dark area is done that will leave only the top. Believe it or not, the part you see stitched here is only about 65% of my total piece. I’m not sure what I’ll do up there, but that’s still down the road.
A few more submissions this week. It’s not too late if you want to play along!
All of these are from anonymous donors.
#20 – A very aggressive sun.
#21 – A mustachioed moon.
#22 – A spiral mint candy.
#23 – Tiny robot!
#24 – Frankenstein’s Monster/
The sun, moon, robot and monster are from someone who doodled these up on the floor of a recent science fiction/comics convention that shall also remain nameless. The candy comes from someone who was charmed by the ladybugs, unicorn and the bunny, and was inspired to continue the counter theme of sweetness and light. (As opposed to poison, pirates, and ennui).
I welcome more input – traditional flowers, non-specific geometrics, animal, vegetable, domestic, wild, fantasy or reality.