There is always something in the making! Some projects take forever, some a little less time. This hood might become my Rome – definitely not built in a day.I have a short-sleeved cote and a dagged hood made of thick burgundy wool. I’ve used them both quite a lot over these past few years, despite the fact that the hood is not embroidered as I had planned, à la mode francaise. (A sidenote: In the early days of the 100 Years War the English were winning and the French losing. Perhaps because of the losses, the heavy ransoms the English demanded or just the overall impoverishing effects of the war, the French concentrated on embellishing their hoods, where as the English embellished their while outfits. Or perhaps the French just had their own ideas on what is chic already back then?)
Extant examples of elaborately embroidered garments from the mid-14th century, other than ecclesiastic, don’t really exist, but descriptions do, e.g. from the royal wardrobe accounts. According to them, the imagination could run wild: wild-men jousting and riding beasts, birds in fruit trees, clams and leeches in water…From the start, my hood had feather-shaped bezants, and they gave me the winged idea for the embroidery. My favourite manuscript, Romance of Alexander from 1338-1344 by a Flemish artist Jehan de Grise, has beautiful illuminations, and among them winged musicians, half men, half mythological animals. I finally chose 12 of those creatures, zoomed them to a good size, copied the images to a paper sheet and basted the pieces of sheet to the edge of the hood. Since it is very easy to sew through the paper sheet, I duplicated the creatures by sewing them onto the wool, and tore away the remains of the sheet. Then I fine-tuned the edges of the creatures and voilà: they look like they are supposed to have just the outlines, and nothing more!
It took me a while to decide how to go about embellishing the hood while still being able to use it. Knowing how slow I am at embroidery I didn’t really want to wait until all 12 of the winged creatures are done, so I ended up using this creature by creature technique. I did play around the idea of embroidering separate pieces of fabric and later applying them to the hood, but the wool itself is already so thick that I didn’t like the idea. And I am going to line the hood in the end still.
I’m using thin wool thread for the embroideries. And since I happened to come across a selection of blues, greys and lilacs that look great on the burgundy wool, they are forming the colour scheme of the hood.
At the moment both the cote and the hood are taking a break. The metal buttons ate through all the linen and silk threads I used to attach them, so I’m getting new buttons with smoother shanks and trying to find out the perfect way and the perfect thread to attach them.