Shirt Project for their Highnesses AS LII

The shirts were finished before the turn of the SCA year and first worn at Egil’s XLIII!

They were sewn by Stacy Kelley (Onora) of linen that she chose and machine-finished (time constraints). Machine-stitching (including the black edges on the ruffles) was done in regular poly-cotton thread.

I chose the embroidery fabric (Osterberg 22 ct.) after consulting with Onora about the time constraints (more on that below). It was stitched in-hand (no frames, just rolled and pinned) using DMC 310 black (a cotton floss that doesn’t run….) and a size 28 tapestry needle with brass silk pins. The collar join stitching was done with the smallest quilter’s between and poly-cotton sewing thread.

Note – “Bassee”, as referred to below, refers to German Renaissance patterns for embroidery: A facsimile copy of Nicolas Bassee’s New Modelbuch by Nicolas Bassee, Kathleen Epstein (Translator) Curious Works Press; edition (1994-01-01) ASIN: B017YCKX7Q

Photos of the Princes and their shirts

Seamus was wearing the shirt when he was put on Vigil for Laurel at September Crown, ASLIII. Photos by the kind courtesy of Maestra Giata Magdalena Albierti

Seamus kneeling, His Majesty standing (Her Majesty behind him) Maestro Eduardo (who was Seamus’ Laurel) kneeling off to the side

Embroidery by me, Shirt by Onora, Sleeves and codpiece by Louisa and the full outfit by Ayla

So, chronologically….

This is where things started. The Q-snap frame in the pictures was used because it doesn’t bruise the fabric or stitching and the shirt fabric was un-stiffened and would take enough starch to make it stiff enough to work in-hand, (unlike the Hardanger). There aren’t a lot of pictures of the various trial runs, but this is 36 hours of work (in the gallery below.)

We were trying to embroider directly on the shirt fabric, but it’s too fine for me to see well so the work progressed too slowly, even with working out various stitching aids, like bright light and a frame and stand that held the work close to my face (and that took a lot of time, too). At over 100 hours on the shirt fabric I decided to discuss the problem with the designer of the shirt pattern (Onora/Stacey Kelley) and we settled on a particular type of Hardanger fabric that I am fond of, Osterberg 22 ct.

Hardanger fabric is the “basketweave”, that goes back to Bronze Age Europe at the latest. It is a standard over-and-under, but of pairs of threads, both warp and weft. >>> What makes it differ from the period fabrics is the fiber, which is cotton, (original linen/ramie/wool), the weight (it is coarser than most) and the stiffening/starch used in the modern fabric. The pictures in galleries below where the edges of the pieces are all frayed out are from after the fabric was machine washed and dried, both to de-starch it and to shrink the fabric before being sewn onto the rest of the shirts.

“Basket weave as one of the variants of tabby is known in the Mediterranean very early on, as Neolithic and Early Bronze Age finds from Turkey or Spain demonstrate. The earliest evidence of basket weave in Central Europe comes from Vösendorf, Austria, where a textile fragment was found in a Late Bronze Age cremation grave. Other basket weave textiles were recovered in the early Hallstatt period cemetery Uttendorf in Pinzgau and in Hallstatt.” – (Thanks to Brenda Gerritsma for the help with figuring out what the weave is called and citing it.)

The original pattern drawings

So… more test pieces (no pix)… ordered some fabric and waited and waited, because I wanted to cut it all at once and from one wide-enough piece. …and the company that I ordered the fabric from finally sent it in March, long past the deadline. We ended up going to JoAnn’s in Lincoln City, when it became desperately necessary to have the fabric, but had to do the collar in two pieces.

2/28-3/4 – Seamus’ cuffs – Some of these are awful quality (failing camera)

3/5-3/7 Turk’s – I was working on these at home and at my shop, so I could get done as quickly as possible. …and I worked the border on both sides, because I didn’t know which way the feathers should face. Onora liked it so well that she made his cuffs extra wide to use both!

3/7-3/9 – Seamus – …and then the flying pigs…. Those first two pix were what I was hoping *not* to do, to have to join two chunks of fabric, but it was done.

3/9 Finishing –

…and then they were mailed that day.  Whew! That was 59 hours of stitching!

About the designs…. I worked out several designs and Onora and I tossed them back and forth until we came up with something we both thought appropriate. The change from the diamond borders to the final ones happened in the stitching process as the whole thing needed to speed up. The diamonds take careful counting or the whole thing wanders off at an angle. They’re also not period…. The final choices were mine, but approved by Onora.


Turk’s shirt had only cuffs. The feathers were intended for peacock feathers to echo his device, and were created by me from my knowledge of the period shapes. The border between the feathers and the outer “lace” border is a little odd. It was meant to echo his device which used the squared off period lightning bolts. It was stitched with the breaks, because those are the lightning bolts (from my Czech heritage) that mean “protection from gossip and ill-wishing”. The “lace” border is from Nicholas Bassee

Turk Cuff front

My drawings with the facsimile original with them

Bassee Plate 56H (Lace)

Bassee Plate 56E

Seamus’ cuffs and collar

I knew that Seamus was going to wear the shirt fairly often, so I was looking for something that was truly in his period. That’s why the patterns that weren’t made up by me to make things fit, were mostly from Bassee.

The pigs came from a conversation that Seamus and I were involved in with others, many years ago. Someone said that an A&S type would be prince, “when pigs fly”. …just after Turk won Coronet with Seamus as his inspiration I ran across the winged pig on a Russian embroidery site ( ) and decided that it *had* to be used. The “mown grass” is a fill pattern that I took apart. I use as a border a lot, because it’s pretty quick and easy and it’s one of the first that I teach my students. It’s from one of the very-late-period extant embroidered shirts (…and being that I found it over three decades ago, I don’t remember which!) I used it as a base for the pigs to turn them into a border pattern and to make it stitch-able. The tree was a “gotta fill this and darned if I’m going to try to embroider the pig there!” So I used my knowledge of the curlicues that get used to fill corners in designs and just winged it.

3/9 done, washed and trimmed with “tree” over the join

The pattern on the cuffs is again from Bassee. I stitched it from a version on a sampler where I made a mistake in the spacing and didn’t want to bother fixing it….but didn’t realize it until I had already started stitching. I like this version because it’s “tightened up” compared to the original, and therefore looks more like the “horror of white space” patterns that you see so many of. Plate 73C

Seamus Cuff front

…and the original and drawing….and I replaced the little boxy leaf things below the main leaves in the original with curlicues, because when stitched they turn into an obvious black blob. Period or not, I couldn’t see that… and the curlicues are all over the late period and just-out-of-period sampler pieces.

….and of course, it’s doubled and reversed which is pretty common in designs of the period.

Spotted later…

Page created 5/29/18 and published 5/31/18 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updated 12/18/18