|"Many an ensign of red, blue, and white, many a veil |
and many a sleeve were bestowed as tokens of love"
- Romances of Chretin de Troys,
Erec et Enid
|A knight receives a token from a lady|
For SCA purposes usually a belt favor or a scarf is given as a token to the fighter you support, whether just for that day, or in a long term relationship. Belt favors can also be used to show household and other allegiances. My children, for instance, each wear a belt favor with household arms, and their animal badge on them as ID tags: so if they get lost they can be returned to sender.
With the design down, I had to decide on materials. I had read an interesting throwaway reference in my wonderful book "Elizabethan Stitches" referencing Elizabethan's couching down all sorts of things to prettify embroidery design, human hair, feathers, anything pretty, and had been super excited. I've had a great interest in fiber arts using human hair for a long time, I enjoy the symbolism of it, and I think that as a love token it's particularly meaningful. I was super excited to find that it was a period thing, not just something thought up by the victorians, and decided to do the mouse, my personal symbol (based off a nickname the husbeast gave me long ago and far away) in my own hair. Since that is a couched technique, Idecided to make this piece a couching sampler. I had seen stems in another piece, part of a glove, worked in gilded leather couched with gold, so I decided to do that for the woody rose stems. Likewise I had seen floral elements on extent gloves filled with sort of squiggled couched threads, I chose to do that in silk for the floral elements of the design.
I used my fancy new white permanent transfer paper on this project and it worked GREAT. I really suggest it for working on dark materials. it doesn't smudge, and it's easy to work with. I bought it for the gloves of doom, and was trialing it here.
First I cut the stem portion from the gilded leather, and couched it down, then I couched a thread along each side of it to outline it. The extant piece I had seen was likely worked over in ladder stitch, which I did not do here, because I didn't think I could control the curve of the leather as well. I will try that another time. I tried outlining the leaves with couching, since my original intent was to use nothing but couching on the whole piece, but it was so clunky, I tore it out and went to stem stitched outlines for the leaves, which were much more pleasing. I continued to stem stitch the outlines for the rest of the piece.
Then it became instantly obvious that I wasn't going to be able to turn the hair at the ends of the rows like I could other threads (much less use it for the free form fill I had been doing!), it was simply too springy, and the loops wouldn't properly close. So I started working in linear couching, keeping the hair threaded onto a large needle, and would pop each row through the fabric at the end, then come back up for the next row, rather like working the thread saving variant of satin stitch. I was able to come up and down under the stem stitch outlines, so you can't see the starts and finishes, it just looks like the hair disappears under the outlines.
I ended up taking a hint from Opus Anglicanum with the mouse, and using the direction of the lines of couching to help show the shape of the creature as much as the changes in color.
The mouse was the last of the embroidery, all that remained was to take it off the frame, fold it in half, sew it into a tube, and turn it out as a scarf. I finished JUST in time for Husbeast to take it to Kings and Queens rapier championships with him. When he gets home I will properly top stitch all the edges to keep it flat, and finish the (currently unfinished selvedge) ends.
I asked the husbeast to take a picture of himself wearing the favor at tournament so I could post it, and he sent me this: such a comedian.
Evidently it was sliding down his arm, so he tied it on his belt instead. I don't know if he couldn't get it tied tightly enough over the elbow by himself, or if it's just slippery. The solution will be either a small fabric loop attached to the sleeve, or a safety pin. I'm leaning towards the fabric loop on the sleeve because it will be easier for him to do that himself.
Here's a good article about love tokens in history and the SCAhttp://www.florilegium.org/?http%3A//www.florilegium.org/files/ACCESS/p-favors-art.html