"Turks Head" embellishment,  12th century projects,  12th century white silk underdress,  Decorated Silk Buttons,  Embroidery,  Hand-Sewing,  Medieval Embroidery,  Needle Made Lace,  Projects

My 12th century white silk underdress .3 – revisited – more about my decorated silk buttons

2015-11 - Racaire - 12th century underdress - white silk - hand sewn - decorated buttonsAnd after the last two postings about my 12th century white silk underdress, there is actually just one last major work step of this project left which I haven’t shown you yet.

Yes, you are right, it is time to take a closer look at how I created the decorated silk buttons for the Trapunto style keyhole neckline of my 12th century white silk underdress. 🙂

Now might be the moment when some of you start to think – well, does a 12th century keyhole neckline and decorated silk buttons actually go together and is this “period”? Well, you can answer this question yourself when I show you a very interesting extant piece I discovered some years ago…

But let’s take a look at how I created my decorated silk buttons first – enjoy! 😀 [emember_protected not_for=3-4 do_not_show_restricted_msg=1]

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More about the button making process per se…

Before I started working at the decoration of the buttons, I first had to create the actual buttons for this part of the project. For this purpose I cut out a small square from the same silk fabric which I already used for the dress and then, after many small stitches, I had two perfect small silk buttons. It takes a lot of small stitches and folding and even more stitches to get them as firm and round as the one you can see on the picture underneath.

At this point I have a bad and a good message for you – I didn’t take any pictures of this button making process but that’s where the good message comes into play – my friend Katrin Kania posted a great video of her button making process on youtube which is very similar to my process and works very well: “Making a cloth button”

You can find several different instructions in books and on the internet about how to make a cloth button but I, personally, think that the process shown in the mentioned video above is the best way to create a very round and firm button which can be rather easily embroidered with threads, pearls or glass beads.

And now let’s take a look at how I decorated my new silk buttons with silk threat and created a rather simple but good looking decorative surface:

How I embellished the silk buttons with white silk thread:


Before starting with the embellishment, I attached the “naked” buttons with some stitches to the edge of my keyhole neckline. Then I literally laid the basis for the embellishment with laying several threads over the surface of the button as you can see on the picture above.

Btw. after laying this basis threads you can actually make a small stitch through the top part of the button and secure this joint point of the threads – it will prevent the threads from slipping while you are working at covering the surface.

As my next step I started to cover the surface with small stitches – actually not through the fabric of the button, it was more like simple back stitches wrapping around the before laid basis threads. Always going underneath two threads and then going back again over the last thread, underneath of it and underneath the next thread… going back again over the last thread,…


And with some patience this finally covered the whole button:


And here a picture of the button from the side:


Btw. – a short hint – as you don’t want to mess around with starting a new thread while you are covering the surface of the button, I highly recommend to start the embellishment with a new thread which is of sufficient length… 🙂

And now let’s take a look at the counterpart for the buttons at my keyhole neckline:

The button counterpart


Above you can see a sneak peek at my 13th century inspiration for the buttons and their counterparts. Inspired by the button loop on the picture above i decided that the best way to create a similar button counterpart would be to use some of the needle made lace techniques I learned some time ago:


For this purpose I created a loop around my finger consisting of about 3 or 4 silk threads which was just big enough to let the button through. And then, starting at one side of the loop, I began to cover this “loop” with small “buttonhole stitches”.


After finishing the very first line of stitches I decided that this loop was too fragile on its own and therefore started another line of stitches. For this purpose I created a second “outer loop” with thread which was just a little bit bigger than the first loop and than, working along the edge of the first loop, I created a second “buttonhole stitch” row.

And here a picture of the finished button loop / counterpart:


As you can see on the picture above, I also worked some buttonhole stitches over the threads with which I created the very first thread loops. This has two purposes – first for visible enhancement – to hide the thread – and then also to cover the thread so that it can’t catch on on anything and damage the loop itself when accidentally pulled. I made this buttonhole stitches likewise at the front and at the back.

My finished Trapunto neckline

And now let’s take a look at my finished Trapunto neckline with the buttons and their counterparts:


…and let’s take a close look at the buttons “in action”:

2015-11_Racaire_12th-century-underdress_1_white-silk_4_neckline-9-4And – last but not least – let’s take a look at the inspiration:

The “period” inspiration for the buttons,…

My inspiration for the buttons and the “button loops”, as I call them out of lack of a better name for them, comes actually from an extant garment which is supposed to had been created in the first third of the 13th century. And as soon as I discovered the detail pictures – which you can see underneath – I knew that I had to try something similar:

Button detail – by courtesy of Katrin Kania – copyright “Kleidung im Mittelalter” by Katrin Kania – picture 360 / page 421

As you can see at the picture above, the actual decoration of the period button looks like a “turks head”. As I already had done several of this “turks head” knots in the past, I really wanted to go for something a little bit different and therefore decided to do the above described embellishment instead.

If you want to try the “turks head” embellishment yourself, you can find a good instruction on how to do the “turks head” here: “Turks Head Steps
Such a “turks head” looks really great if you work it on top of the round part of a tassel or a button. If you furthermore work this “turks head” directly on top of the final surface instead of working it over your fingers – like a button or the round part of a tassel – you can easily adjust the right tension to your threads  while you are working at it and spare yourself any future trouble like trying to adjust the threads later on… 🙂

And now please take a close look at the “button loop” at the pictures above and underneath. I think this “button loop” looks very much like the button loops I made for my neckline before I added the second row of stitches, doesn’t it?!

“Button loop” – by courtesy of Katrin Kania – copyright “Kleidung im Mittelalter” by Katrin Kania – picture 359 / page 421

And now a little bit more information about the detail pictures above – both detail pictures can be found in following book:

Book: Kleidung im Mittelalter;
Materialien – Konstruktion – Nähtechnik; Ein Handbuch
Author: Katrin Kania
ISBN: 978-3-412-20482-2
Publisher: Böhlau Verlag

Available at
Amazon.com: Kleidung im Mittelalter
Amazon.de: Kleidung im Mittelalter: Materialien – Konstruktion – Nähtechnik. Ein Handbuch

This book is a great handbook about materials as well as construction & sewing techniques used for medieval clothing. Unfortunately this book is only available in German at the moment.

The detail pictures above belong both to an extant garment from the (supposedly) first third of the 13th century. The name of this extant garment is “Sogenanntes Unterkleid der hl. Elisabeth” (so-called underdress of saint Elisabeth).

“Sog. Untergewand der Hl. Elisabeth” – copyright “Eine europäische Heilige – Elisabeth von Thüringen” – exhibit 176 / page 273

According to Katrin Kania this “underdress” is a quite unique extant example of a quilted garment which was not used in direct context with armor of any kind. Unfortunately the dress is stored in a closed shrine and not available for any kind of further research.

Though Katrin Kanias book “Kleidung im Mittelalter” only contains a quite small picture of this underdress in black and white, I could find a better picture of it in the following exhibit catalogue: “Eine europäische Heilige – Elisabeth von Thüringen” (an european saint – Elisabeth von Thüringen) on page 273. You can see this picture on the left.  

I hope you enjoyed todays posting about my decorated silk buttons, how I created their counterparts and the inspiration for this part of my 12th century white silk underdress project. And I am already working at my next projects… 😀

Best regards Racaire

Other postings about my 12th century white silk underdress project till now: