Ragged embroidery

The Oseberg ship burial is the best source found so far for showing what we know about Viking textiles, and in the future I plan to make two entire mixed media books based purely on the finds from Oseberg. For this collection, though, loosely titled ‘excavations’, this little fragment is perfect. As usual, I collected prints of the source material in my sketchbook:

It’s very beautiful in itself, and I really wanted to preserve that fragile delicacy of stitch.

I first painted and layered some papers to form a background. That very light, lacy paper is ideal. I worked the little bits of embroidery on some lightweight linen covered with hand-dyed cotton scrim, and then stretched it on an embroidery frame. I drew the embroidery motifs onto very fine tissue paper and pinned it over the layered fabric. Of course, I should have taken pictures of this bit, but got so engrossed that I forgot. Next time I use this technique I’ll try to remember 🙂

The stitches are satin stitch and chain stitch, worked over the tissue paper drawing, then the tissue paper was torn away (with very fine tweezers) after the stitching was complete. I used a hand-dyed silk noil thread for the stitching. Once all the motifs were worked over separate areas of the layered fabric, I cut away the linen from the underside, leaving more scrim around the edges than linen. You can probably see the edge of the linen through the scrim if you zoom or enlarge. I could then stitch the scrim to the paper backing.

And the finished page, 8″ square:

                                                                                         Possibly my favourite so far.

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5 Responses to Ragged embroidery

  1. Beautiful work, love the composition and stitching, where did you get silk noil thread. I use silk noil fabric all the time as it dyes and stitches beautifully.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, I believe I got it from yarns2yearn4 on eBay. I think it was described as 2-ply silk yarn. It wasn’t described as silk noil, but it has that similar slightly rough texture, unlike spun silk. It looks really fine on the cone but it fluffs up and becomes thicker after washing and/or dyeing. I like silk noil fabric too 🙂

  2. It’s charming – a lovely fragment, suggesting also the extent of Viking travel and therefore design inspiration.

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