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Ian S LaSpina




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Feb, 2011 9:07 pm    Post subject: 14th c heraldic surcoat question         Reply with quote

My wife will be making the heraldic surcoat to go with my 14th c harness. We're having trouble figuring out what to make the actual heraldic charges out of. The surcoat itself will be heavy linen. Are the charges also supposed to be linen? Is woolen felt accurate? Felt seems a lot easier, since it doesnt unravel at the edges when you cut it in to crazy shapes, whereas linen requires more advanced sewing techniques to do the applique. Anyone know what would be historically correct?
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Till J. Lodemann





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PostPosted: Tue 01 Mar, 2011 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Ian!
Before chemical dyes were invented (in the later 19th century), it was difficult to dye linnen (or cotton). It was nearly impossible to achieve a waterproof and non fading colour on linnen. The only fibres that were easily dyed were wool and silk.
So, for all the colourfull coats of arms, I would use wool (or silk) as an outer material and avoid dying linnen anyway.
If you have felt, it's handy and if it's not to coarse, I think it will work well. Fine woollen cloth would be better as it looks smother. If you fold the edges back under the pieces you want to attach and then sew it on, the hem will no unravel.
Regards,

Till
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Mar, 2011 5:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Till,

Where as linen is harder to dye than wool we have so much remaining linen in finds from the medieval period that the logic behind not using linen because of this issue does not hold up very well. It simply requires a good mordant and you have no issues keeping the color in. That said the process does make it more expensive.

I have dyed loads of linen in the last few years using natural dyes and I am thinking much of this concept is a misconception. Some of the more faded colors you can get are actually very nice and the fabric clearly holds a color.

Further we have huge loads of dyed linen arriving and moving around in much of western Europe in medieval texts and several bits of heraldic remains, banners, flags, and such are made from colored linen.

Not sure how this concept developed or why but from my own view after a great deal of research on primary documents and remains I am not sure I understand it.

RPM
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Mar, 2011 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Linen actually was hard to dye, to the point that dyed silk was a more viable choice in period times than dyed linen. (At least one of my texts' discussions on ransoms mentions a surcoat embroidered with silk and pearls among the items taken from a high ranking noble prisoner.) Linen was typically just an off white to beige. Black wool could be natural (imperfect gray-black) or dyed. If you just want to dye linen today, alcohol based leather dye would probably work. If substituting economical modern alternatives, the felt idea mentioned above seems pretty reasonable given that wool is considerably better than linen at absorbing color, and that felt is at least a rough approximation of wool. (Cheap felt is usually a blend today. You may find 100% wool melton, but the variety of colors offered will decrease.)
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared,

Hate to say this but your source is flat out incorrect

Take a look at Southampton Port Books there is dyed linen (Southampton Record Series). We also have actual finds in York ranging from Anglo-Saxon to the modern period of linen I have actually seen with my own eyes in blues and reds (York Arch. Trust). Similar finds have been found throughout England, the UK and Europe. We also have the sleeve of St. Martin (1160-1270) and aketon/jack from Switzerland that is blue linen. The Yorkshire Museum had a linen shirt from Egypt from the 10th century that was dyed a lovely yellow.

Gents there are way to many remaining bits of dyed linen to keep following this argument. Check out some site finds. I will search the Southampton database and see if I can find any more when I finish my classes today.

FYI- The earliest dyed linen find I know of is from Switzerland and is dated to 3,000 BC. Elizabeth Barber mentions it in her book Women's Work with citation. (I also have a photo of it as part of the supplementary info for the class I am teaching currently- which is why I was thinking of it).

Wanted to post this link to Soton online object database- http://www.southampton.gov.uk/s-leisure/artsh...abase.aspx

Just went back to the link and the site seems to be down so check back later!

RPM


Last edited by Randall Moffett on Wed 02 Mar, 2011 9:05 am; edited 4 times in total
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Ian S LaSpina




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I posed this question on the AA as well and it went in quite a different direction, focusing a lot on whether historical examples of surcoats on effigies show side lacing to get the fitted wasp-waist look common in the middle to late 14th century. I thought some of you might find it intersting. These were the examples provided. Randal, I know you've already seen them, and I thank you for your input in both threads.

Here are the 3 examples that were provided. Note, as a gentlemen over there pointed out, 2/3 of the effigies use a double spiral lacing as opposed to single. Regardless, lacing would no doubt appear to be an appropriate way to solve the issue of the 'fitted' surcoat.

William Hastings (1340)
John Leverick (1350)
John Swinford (1371)

As for my surcoat, I still plan on making the garment from dyed heavy linen, the charges will most likely be wool though, as my wife nor I have the skill to deal with the unraveling-prone edges of more linen when cut into irregular shapes.

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Till J. Lodemann





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 9:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great Ian, if you post the link to the other discussion, we can concentrate on materials here.

Now about Randalls posts: Thank you very much for the info on linnen - and I would really love to see your pictures of extant dyed linnen pieces. You're right of course, linnen could be dyed, I overstated the difficulties in dying it a bit. But there are actually two different way of dying linnen in medieval times.

One is by what we call in Germany Küpenfarbstoffe (I do not know the english term, maybe you can tell me?) like isatis tinctoria (woad) and murex brandaris/trunculus (tyrian purple). These colours work on linnen as good as on wool or silk and produce a bright and full colour.

The other way I know is by using an allum mordant and normal mordant-based dyes like madder or reseda luteola or onion shells. But these colours are always paler on linnen then on wool. Madder, for example, will be more rosy then red.
The fibres of linnen do not allow the colour monecules of the dye to attach to them as good as wool or silk.

This incabability to reach as rich a variaty of clours as silk and woll was what made linnen insuitable for thinks like heraldic surcoats mostly.
But you mentioned some heraldic fabric pieces made of dyed linnen? Can you tell me more about it? Actually I plan to make a surcoat or jupon myself sometime.

Another point worth thinking about in the more narrow field of this thread: Those extant medieval garments nearest to what Ian was looking for (the arming coat of Edward of Woodstock and the jupon of Charles VI. of France) did have their dyed and colourfull outer layers made of wool cloth (Charles VI.) and silk velvet ( Edward of Woodstock).
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Till,

Just an interesting side note. In London people who dyed wool were not allowed to dye anything other than wool. So persons who dyed caps, linen, silk or really anything else could not work in any other material.

Letter Book G, 36th year of Edward III's reign 1362

Right. I agree with that assessment. The only other thing is the addition of multiple dye washes and kermes and such over madder. Both of these techniques will darken the color. I have gotten gold from multiple washes in saffron and slightly less but still yellow in weld.

So to dye linen it does seem to have been more expensive than that of wool but that should not preclude it from use. It seems to have been less expensive than using a more expensive material and dying it with less dye.

I figure that dyed linen was actually relatively common as most major western european cities have regulations keeping dyers related to it. There are loads of evidences of linen being dyed but the key problems for us is that there are not loads of linen remains compared to wool. This likely is tied to the materials themselves. Linen is just not able to stand up to time as well. Wool is acidic in nature while linen is a base. This does not help in its preservation.

If I remember rightly Charles VI gypon/gambseon is actually covered by red silk with bird designs on it not wool.

Ian,

I will be finishing my surcoat in the next few weeks so I will post it up here so you can see it. I have some left over bits of silk for my arms but I am not sure I have enough so we will see.

RPM
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 5:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There was a process for making blue linen, and also bleaching linen that was not supposed to be that expensive. I was not aware of red linen, but won't refute your source. But silk will take a wider range of colors more easily. It was popular in heraldry and courtly fashion. I would advocate it, even if there were some economical color choices of linen available.

http://www.housedragonor.org/A&S/Mordanting.html

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Ian S LaSpina




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 7:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:

Ian,

I will be finishing my surcoat in the next few weeks so I will post it up here so you can see it. I have some left over bits of silk for my arms but I am not sure I have enough so we will see.

RPM


Randall, that would be stellar if you post your final results up. I still plan on pressing with the linen for the coat. Since the heraldry would be appliqued last I still have time before that decision must be finalized.
-Ian

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Till J. Lodemann





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar, 2011 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Randall,
right, kermes i usually more intense. Maybe one could keep the costs down if one used the same dying bath several times.
At least with wool, that is does intesify the colour.
Randall Moffett wrote:

If I remember rightly Charles VI gypon/gambseon is actually covered by red silk with bird designs on it not wool.


You mean the pourpoint of Charles de Blois, Duc de Bretagne(yeah, they get mixed up a lot Wink ), I did not mention it because it is more likely a civil garment. It has in deed a rich brocade covering. But actually, you're right nontheless. I was mistaken yesterday. The jupon of King Charles VI of France was also covered in silk, in a red damask.

Regards,

Till


PS: Pictures of your new surcoat would in deed be apreciated! Big Grin
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Mar, 2011 1:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fragments of a reddish, madder-dyed linen smock were found in the grave of a girl or young woman in Uvdal Church, Norway (13th - 14th century).
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Jessica Finley
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Mar, 2011 6:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know it's completely anecdotal and doesn't answer whether or not linen was dyed for this purpose, but...

A few years ago I made a 16th c. Irish Leine. These were reported to be dyed with Saffron, so I gave it a shot for fun.

I wrote a thread about it populated with many pictures, which unfortunately, are long gone into the ether, but that thread is here: http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=21801

The short version of the story, six yards of 7.1 oz bleached linen boiled in 17 quarts of water with 1 ounce of saffron for an hour and 15 minutes. The color turned out a vibrant orange-yellow.

I didn't bother to mordant, or to really do *any* of the things that a professional dyer would. I simply boiled pre-washed fabric with saffron tea. Not only did the fabric take the dye, but the linen garment continued in use for another four years. We tossed it in the wash, with our other clothes, and used "Tide with Bleach" to wash it. It was still yellow after those years of use. In fact, the fabric was rotting away and falling apart from use, and yet, still yellow.

The color did lighten, as one would imagine, but really any four-year-old garment receiving hard use would do so. What went missing was the orange vibrancy.

It's possible that someone who had dying experience and who was interested could have easily kept the bright color around for longer. Even more important, probably, would be not washing it like it was a t-shirt. *GRIN*

Hope this experience is helpful to the conversation.
Jess

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Christian G. Cameron




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Mar, 2011 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At a purely pragmatic level...

If you want to make heraldic charges from linen and not have them fray, cut them oversize by 1/4 inch (6mm) and then very patiently roll the edge with an iron on the back, turning and ironing flat, turning and ironing flat. It takes a little time, but even a very complex pattern can be worked. On very tight corners, I put a thread in about 3mm from t he edge and gently pull it to make the edge curl and then iron it flat. A little beeswax can also be used... when all else fails, a small cut with a pair of scissors can help.

Then flip the piece over--now the edges should be crisp and hard and can be sewn to anything with an overcast stitch, resulting in a long wearing edge that should not fray.

I don't know if this is the correct technique--I leave that to others. But I do know that it works...

As a final note--some heraldic devices look, to me, as if they were painted on in heraldic art. Painting over cloth was certainly something that WAS done in the medieval period... The following looks to me as if it is meant to be a heraldic device painted on the older knights surcoat... a surcoat I'm copying for my own harness...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...nci007.jpg

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Ian S LaSpina




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Mar, 2011 9:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian G. Cameron wrote:

As a final note--some heraldic devices look, to me, as if they were painted on in heraldic art. Painting over cloth was certainly something that WAS done in the medieval period... The following looks to me as if it is meant to be a heraldic device painted on the older knights surcoat... a surcoat I'm copying for my own harness...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...nci007.jpg


Don't know how that escaped my mind, but that might be the simplest solution to the problem. It will certainly be nice and smooth and I wouldn't have to worry about the charges wrinkling up off the base cloth and it sounds like it might be less labor intensive.

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