A couple of years ago, I saw the so-called Wolfgang's chasuble at the Diocesan Museum Regensburg (you can read my blog about my 2015 visit). It had this lovely embroidered cross with birds and a four-legged animal amidst scrolling foliage. Although the goldwork embroidery is quite damaged, it is clear that it was once a very high-quality piece of medieval goldwork and silk embroidery. Its design would make for a lovely (online) embroidery class. I've asked my husband to clean up one of the bird designs and this is what he came up with.
The original embroidery was made shortly after AD 1050, probably in Regensburg. A royal residency at the time, Regensburg likely housed the royal workshops when the court was in residence. The way this embroidery, and indeed the whole garment, was made differs markedly from most contemporary pieces. Those pieces are usually all over embroidered and the embroidery is directly worked onto a precious silken fabric or a linen fabric. Good examples of these are the Imperial Vestments, the Uta chasuble and the vestments from Saint Blaise now held in St. Paul im Lavanttal. Many heyday Opus anglicanum vestments also fall into this category. Not so Wolfgang's chasuble. This one has a strip of separately worked embroidery adorning the precious silken vestment. This would become the way forward for the rest of the medieval period and beyond. It is essentially the birth of the orphrey. These smaller pieces of embroidery were far more manageable and could be prepared in advance. Goldwork embroidery could move out of the specially equipped royal workshops and into, probably smaller and simpler, commercial workshops in the emerging towns.
But we can clearly tell that the process of 'how to make an orphrey' was not yet set in stone. In this case, the embroidery seems awfully complex when it comes to its backing fabrics. What had the embroiderer done? It started with a piece of natural coloured silk twill/samite on top of a fine linen. All goldwork embroidery (and probably the stem stitch outlines) was worked that way. Then the piece was backed again with an extra layer of linen before the fine silken split stitches were worked. Curious don't you think? I was told that you back your embroidery when the stitching is particularly heavy. That would be the goldwork and not the silk. Just imagine the sore fingers from pushing a fine needle with silk through three layers of fabric... But I have an idea why the extra layer of linen was added: stiffness. Later, orphreys were routinely backed by gluing recycled paper on the back or simply stiffening the back with a layer of glue.
As I am trying to get hold of the right-ish kind of fabrics for this project, I cannot tell you yet when this design will become available. What I can tell you is that it will be a pre-recorded class that you can work at your own pace. You can start whenever you like, and you will have access to the class videos for at least a whole year from the date of purchase. The class fee will include a full kit. You will have various kit options to choose from. This mainly involves different qualities of gold threads. I will also likely teach this design as a weekend-long class at Glentleiten Open Air Museum next year. How does that sound? Do let me know in the comments, please!
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