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My husbands 13th century under tunic – more about the “shell” embroidery .1

2015-11 - Racaire - 13th century tunic - under-tunic - 12th century wedding clothing project - medieval embroidery - sca - meridies pilgrims award - compostellaAnd today we are taking a look at the very last pictures of the embroidery for my husbands 13th century under tunic project. I will show you how I created the shell embroidery for my husbands “Order of Compostella”/”Pilgrims Order Award.

After I promised my husband to incorporate all of his SCA awards in the embellishment along the cuffs of his tunic, I waited with the shells until after I finished all the other awards first. Well, at first I wasn’t quite sure how I should realize the pattern with the quite thick “gold thread” which I used for the rest of the embellishment but then I had a striking idea…

Btw., the shells, which represent the “Order of Compostella” or also called “Pilgrims Order Award” here in the beautiful Kingdom of Meridies, were received by my husband at an SCA event some years ago.

And now let’s take a look at the pictures and how I worked the “gold thread” to create the shell pattern with only cutting the thread once at the beginning and once at the end… – enjoy! 😀

As you might remember from some of my previous postings, I like to work with an “endless” gold thread – that means, I cut the thread as little as possible and preferably after all work is done and I already used the perfect amount needed. This way I can get the most out of my “gold threads” which might not be real gold, but well, you know, embroidery threads are not that cheap, especially when you are doing a lot of embroidery or you have just a rather small amount of a certain thread and can’t get more of it…

Ok, the picture underneath might at the very first look seem a little bit odd to you, but this is actually the “perfect solution” for my dilemma with which I came up to create the shell border with the least amount of cutting. The shell has actually 3 different sections – the “main body” and then this two small sections which look like two small ears at the top left and top right side.

Ok, now imagine this three sections and you will see clearly where the borders of the small two “ear like” sections at the top meet with the border of the “main body”. Going from left to right I will call the first connection point (left of the left ear:) 1, the second point (right of the left ear:) 2, the third point (left of the right ear:) 3 and finally the fourth point (right of the right ear:) 4.


Starting with the first connection point at the left side – at nr. 1 – I pulled the needle with the “gold thread” from the backside through the first connection point to the surface. Then I immediately went with the needle through the connection point nr. 2 which took the needle and the thread right back to the backside. Then I pulled the needle with the “gold thread” back to the surface at connection point nr. 3 and my very next stitch took the needle through connection point nr. 4 and again back to the backside. Then I made just one more stitch through connection point nr. 3 again – just a little bit to the side to avoid piercing through the already present “gold thread” there…

After “placing” the “gold thread”, I carefully enlarged the loops for the “shell ears” – please keep in mind that at this point I haven’t secured any of the “gold thread” yet. While enlarging the loops I instantly knew if pierced through the “gold thread” at connection point nr. 3 or not – I am glad to say that I didn’t. 🙂

Then I threaded a new silk thread and secured it with some stitches to the backside of the fabric, close to the beginning of the “gold thread”. After securing the yellow silk thread, I shortened the beginning of the gold thread until I had only about 1.5cm/one third inch showing at the backside. Like already shown in the last posting and visible at the picture above, I also secured the beginning of the gold thread at the front side with some firm (overcast?) stitches before I started with the surface couching stitch variations (which you can see in detail in yesterdays posting).

It just took some stitches until I reached the peak of the “shell ear” – at this point I carefully pulled the gold thread through connection point nr. 2 until I had just enough thread to nicely cover the right side of the “shell ear” with a slight curve. Then I continued my stitches until I reached connection point nr. 2 where I again made some (overcasting?) stitches to secure the thread firmly in place.

Btw. a short hint concerning the peak of the “shell ear” or similar corners – it always pays off to double the amount of stitches along corners to make sure that the “couched” thread stays in place. Corners are in general more exposed and also more vulnerable than straight lines.

After finishing the “left shell ear” I secured the “gold thread” between connection point nr. 2 and nr. 3 (pulled tight at this point) at the backside – always making my stitches along the outlines of the shell like they appear on the front in the direction toward connection point 3. Btw. at the picture underneath you can see the small yellow silk stitches with which I secured the “gold thread” along the outlines:


Then I repeated the same procedure for the right “shell ear” and secured the “gold thread” at the backside between connection point nr. 4 and nr. 3 as you can see on the picture underneath:


After creating this two “shell ears”, the rest of the embroidery was quite simple – I just followed the outlines along the border and then I secured the beginning and the end of the “gold-thread” at the backside.

Last but not least I used some thinner “gold thread” (“Ophir” from the company Coats; 65% viscose & 35% metallized polyester, machine washable) and some thin yellow silk thread (The Handweaver Studio, London, UK) to create the inner lines of the shell. The inner lines were created by using the surface couching technique.

Btw. you can find the download link for my surface couching technique handout at my “Medieval Embroidery Technique Handouts” page. 

And here a picture of the finished shells representing the “Order of Compostella”/”Pilgrims Order Award”:


Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the backside of the finished shell embroidery but if you would like to see it, please let me know via privat message on facebook or leave me a comment here. 🙂 

I hope you enjoyed todays posting about how I created the shell embroidery for my husbands 13th century under tunic project. And as soon as I manage to get some good pictures of my new “Meridian Cross Cyclas” and the appliqué embroidery on it, I will post more about it! 😀

Best regards Racaire