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…a new 12th century project in the making…

Racaire - 12th century project - crusader - SCA heavy fighting tabardI haven’t made anything for myself for over one year, as my dear sweetheart pointed out to me recently. And the good husband that he is, he made me swear that I would start working on a project for myself and my own amusement next. …or as I did put it: as soon as possible. 😉

However much fun it is to make things for other people, one has always to be careful not to work oneself to the brink of creative exhaustion. Therefore I find it really important to do a fun project from time to time in order to recharge the internal batteries. It feels to me like a creative recharge every now and then gets me beyond the point of “just making a thing”. It enables me to go one step further – to open my mind for inspiration, to allow myself to get creative and to execute techniques and patterns I haven’t tried yet. Yes, in my opinion inspiration is a very important part of every creative process and project but it is also a very fragile flower which needs some occasional pampering. And to work oneself into a burn out doesn’t really help anyone as the recovery process can take quite some time. I am glad that my sweetheart takes such a good care of me and reminds me to take a break once in a while.

So well, here I was with my promise, thinking about a fun project for myself. Lucky me, our last trips to nearby SCA events provided me very fast with a solution for my sweet misery. I am definitely in a great need for more clothing concerning my 12th century wardrobe. And, as it happens, I have just the right fabric for it… *giggle* Oh, yes, I have some lovely white raw silk for a snuggly and soft underdress as well as some beautiful light blue raw silk which I brought home from Gulf Wars. The great deals one can find at the leftover fabric table of 96 District Fabrics at Gulf Wars are truly amazing. I might have just enough light blue raw silk for a new short 12th century dress for me.

But you know me, I am not talking about a simple, short 12th century dress. Recently I had so much fun with making my own stamps and block printing that I am quite determined to make some new stamps and to block print the whole fabric. And then I might print it even a little more or maybe even add some embroidery… Yes, you find me quite enthusiastic. For the very first time since I started with this hobby in about 1999/2000, I find myself in a position where I am able to embellish so much fabric in so little time. But don’t take me wrong – embroidery always has been and for ever will be my first and true love. However, I have to admit that it is nice to be able to embellish fabric without working weeks or months on a small piece. Well, I am far from giving up on embroidery but it feels great to be able to add small side projects now and then which are finished in just a few days or a week… *lol*

Racaire - 12th century project - crusader - SCA heavy fighting tabard

And who is to blame for the new block printing hobby? My husband! …of course! …who else!?! 😉

I nearly couldn’t believe it when I finished my husband’s Lazarus fighting tabard for crown tourney this spring. Including cutting the block and printing the fabric – I completed the whole project in just about a week. Ok, my husband helped me with the blockprinting and I sewed the tabard with the sewing machine but damn, that was fast… On the other hand – there was not much time left when I started this project and he really, REALLY, wanted to have a crusader fighting tabard for crown tournament. In retrospective I am very glad that I gave in to this madness as he looks really adorable in it. And I think he really likes his order of St. Lazarus / crusader fighting tabard as it became a basic part of his fighting kit. You can see him wearing his new fighting tabard on the picture on the right.

And all that started rather innocently with a single playful project. I simply wanted to find out if I still did know how to execute the linoleum cutting technique – something I learnt about 25 or more years ago at school and which I haven’t used since. I got me some linoleum, a rather cheap cutting set and made a small “legion of the bear” and “sable sword” stamp. I was quite thrilled how great the print looked when I started printing with them. And as this fun projects go – my interest blossomed based on the quick success I had. Slowly, with every little print I made, block printing started to turn into a new past time, which I enjoy tremendously now. Developing the patterns on the surface and cutting the linoleum is – like embroidery – quite meditative. I can leave all my troubles of the day behind and just focus on one cut after another. And after the very first, quite hesitant cuts I lost my initial fear and even started cutting bigger blocks and enjoyed it…

So, well, the stage is set. I have a lovely fabric and I chose my “faborite weapon” for now: block printing! But the main actor is still missing and I have to make the decision which pattern I want to carve and what color I want to give it. In a certain way it’s a bittersweet task. There are just so many lovely period pattern I could use for my time period – therefore the important question is: which one?

…and I might have already found the perfect period candidates for my Romanesque / early medieval inspired printing project:    

Black print on white linen.
Black print on yellow silk.
Black print (formerly silver) on red linen.

All pictures above are from the book:

in ihrer Entwicklung bis zur Gegenwart
by Renate Jaques
Copyright 1942 by Rembrandt-Verlag

The book doesn’t give much further information about the printed textiles besides the fact that they were part of the collection of the “Germanische Nationalmuseum” in 1942 (dating based on the given copyright). Furthermore, based on the text in which this pictures were used as examples, one can say that this prints were dated to the 12th and 13th century (in 1942). Unfortunately, this lack of information is not uncommon – regardless if you look at period prints or medieval embroidery. However, as I am not planning to document this project any further, I deem this information sufficient for now and what I have in mind.

2017-11_Racaire_block-printing-pattern_01Apropos sufficient information- a short funny note at the side: Do you see what looks like Arabic letters within the drop shape border? Well, I showed them to a friend who already helped me to work out the medieval Arabic writing for the “Order of the velvet Owl” pouch for my mother in law, Gloria. And he told me that they so called Arabic writing doesn’t make sense to him – no sense at all… *lol*

Well, this gives me at least two possibilities: I can simply ignore this fact and copy the period original which still might be a local dialect or a word which is now written in a much different way. Or I could use the medieval Arabic writing for glory and prosperity which I already worked out and used for the “Order of the Velvet Owl” (OvO) pouch for Gloria, my dear mother in law… Or maybe even better – just get completely playful and do it all… *lol* 

2017-11_Racaire_block-printing-pattern_02I also really like the second print which looks like dogs with wings. I makes me long to take some of the beasts used in the upper and bottom border of the Bayeux tapestry and to put them into a drop border.

Or – please don’t tell anyone – to get even more silly and to make a cat licking her but and to mirror that inside the drop border. Yeah, my mind goes very crazy ways sometimes and I really love silly cats… It would be funny though, wouldn’t it… 😉


And then there is the last printed pattern. It has a certain folk art feel to it which I didn’t like at first.

However, the longer I looked at the pattern and the more little details I found, the more I actually liked it. And as soon as I discovered this small place filler between the drop shapes which looks like a small dragon… Well, you know me – I am definitely in love with the dragon! …and this little dragon is a detail I could definitely use for some other prints too… 🙂 

And if you ask if I still have some place for embroidery when I use any of this patterns – well, I am still planning in making a border along the neckline or the sleeve edge. And that gives me more than enough room for more printing and/or even some dominant embellishment with pearls, beads, silk or gold threads,… Yes, a bold print like this normally asks for some bold embellishments – you have to go big or go home in this case! *lol* It’s so awesome as the possibilities are only limited by my own imagination and stash. I love it! 😀   

I know, so many lovely possibilities and good excuses for so many new 12th century projects… How can I pick just one when the possible choices are all so cute and fun… *lol* Well, we will see what I will do soon… 😉

Best regards Racaire