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Working at my 12th century “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner

Racaire - 2014 - Michael and the dragon - 12th century embroidery - hand embroidery - SCASome embroidery projects take more time than others until they finally get finished and my 12th century inspired “Saint Michael and the Dragon” embroidery was such an embroidery project.

I already finished the 12th century inspired “Saint Michael and the Dragon” embroidery in the summer of 2014. Though I really liked the finished embroidery, it laid dormant in one of my project boxes ever since…

Well, this long waiting time was not really the result of my personal laziness, as I am constantly working at least one project. I simply wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. And then, at the beginning of this year, I had an epiphany. This “small” 12th century embroidery would make a perfect small banner for my living room! 😀

But you know me, to create just a simple banner would be a far too easy project for my taste. Therefore I started thinking about how I could make my small banner more versatile as I also wanted to be able to use it as a room decoration or in front of my tent at future SCA events. The solution for this problem was a quite easy one – I also needed to make a nice looking backside! 🙂

…and now let’s take a look at how I turned my 12th century inspired “Saint Michael and the Dragon” embroidery into a versatile banner. …or shall I call it a small wallhanging? However, please enjoy the progress pictures! 😀

 Choosing a form for my “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner…

Before I even started to look at suitable fabric, I had to decide upon an appropriate form for my new banner. Well, what shall I say, information about 12th century banners, flags or wallhangings is quite rare. I could find some examples of 12th century flags depicted in period artwork but their form didn’t seem fitting for the project I had in mind. Therefore I decided to extend my search and to also include later forms of banners and flags as they seemed to have some quite interesting shapes…

Well, I found the inspiration for my project in a quite interesting place. Fortunately some time ago I happened to stumble upon the digital collection of the Zeitschrift für christliche Kunst (journal for Christian Art) which was released between 1888 – 1921. And one of the issues contained a very interesting article about “Alte und neue Kirchen- und Vereinsfahnen” (old and new church and society flags/banners):

Zeitschrift für christliche Kunst – 1912 / issue 3:
Alte und neue Kirchen- und Vereinsfahnen” by Fritz Witte

It turned out that this old magazine is a great source of inspiration as I really liked the banner and flag forms displayed on page 117. Though my favorite forms at the bottom of the page actually used for church banners, I decided to use a combination of two of this forms as an inspiration for my “Saint Michael and the Dragon” project. The decision was fairly easy as their look was close to what I had in mind for new “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner. Well, you know, if something feels right, you shouldn’t argue with your gut feeling… 😉

…choosing the right fabric…

Now, with a certain form for my banner in mind, the next step was rather simple. I needed to find a nice fabric with which I was able to “frame” the embroidery.

This is a very important step as choosing the right fabric and color can be quite crucial for the final look of the finished piece. The right color can do the same for an embroidery as a frame and passepartout (matting) for a picture/painting/photo. It can either further elevate your embroidery, make it more interesting and the focus of attention or overpower it. I am quite sure that you’ve already encountered the latter – where an embroidery, regardless how fine and elaborate it might be, vanishes the fabric which surrounds it…

And now back to my small “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner. After just a short search I found some lovely red silk fabric in my fabric stash which looked perfect in combination with the embroidery. I even found some light colored fabric with a rather plain pattern which seemed like a great option for the backside. This light colored fabric is even a little water-repellent and quite opaque to prevent the silk fabric at the front from possible water or light damage…

However, at this point I didn’t worry too much about the backside of the banner. The priority now was to build a good foundation for the appliqué of my embroidery. Therefore – to give the silk more “body” and to prevent the embroidery in the future from sagging – I decided to back up my silk with some white linen fabric.

…and finally – assembling the “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner…

Racaire Meridian Grand TournamentMy red silk fabric made the decision concerning the width of the side borders of the banner very easy. I only had a long strip of silk left which left me just enough fabric at the sides to create a nice looking side border.

Btw. this is the same red silk a friend brought me from her trip to India. I already used up most of it for my red 12th century silk dress – the dress which I am wearing on the picture on the right side – but I still have some small pieces of this red silk fabric left which I use for projects like this… 🙂

After cutting a piece of white linen fabric, using the same width as my silk fabric, I placed the silk on the linen and pinned both layers together on a flat surface. A flat wooden surface can be very helpful in this case as it doesn’t add tension to any of the layers.

2016-05_Racaire_12th-century-wallhanging_michael-and-the-dragon_01After pinning both layers of fabric together, I “centered” my embroidery, made sure that I had enough surplus fabric at the top to create a tube for the hanging and then I finally pinned the embroidery into place.  Then I started to attach the embroidery to the silk and its linen backing with some simple stitches along the border – hiding the surplus fabric of the embroidery as good as possible:


And here a picture of the silk fabric and the white linen fabric which I used for the backing:


To create the final shape at the bottom of my banner, I had to pre-draw the outlines first with the help of some tailor chalk and a “Geodreieck” (a Geomery set square?)


After pre-drawing the outlines, I placed some pins to keep both layers in place and started cutting (always with some seam allowance along the border) and pinning the fabric:


And here a picture of the bottom of my banner after I was done with all the cutting and pinning:


…and here a picture of the whole banner to give you a better idea of it: [emember_protected not_for=3-4 do_not_show_restricted_msg=1]

…I am sorry, but this content is restricted to users with Advanced and Premium membership.


It is always great to reach a point where you can already imagine how the project might look like when it is finished. What shall I say, I was quite pleased with the look of my “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner at this point.

…and more about the next steps for my “Saint Michael and the Dragon” banner project in my next posting… 😀

Best regards Racaire