Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Krin and the Seeblatt

I've been trying to decide what to embroider on my breeches and stockings. There are so many options. Maybe too many. I started by looking at blackwork patterns because the extant pair that I like the most has blackworked (or blue in this case) acorns, Byzantine eagles, and little plaques with mottos. I took a look at patterns from a 16th century Italian sampler. The original is held in the V&A. Several people have been sweet enough to chart the patterns. The most easily accessible is at Dragonlore but if you go to Bronwyn's Pattern Library via the Wayback machine and check it around 2004, there is a beautiful selection of patterns graphed from this same sampler. Like I said, maybe too many options. I am not the biggest fan of counted blackwork and honestly don't know if I have the time to do a pair of breeches that intricate.

So, there's the other pair that I like, the pink silk breeches seen under a fine cutwork smock in Patterns of Fashion 4. It has polychrome floral embroidery in diagonal lines. Really pretty, but also crazy to try to get done in the time allotted. I'm also not really a girl girl with a love of florals. I've been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to do.

Then, I had a tub epiphany last night (I do my best thinking in the bath.) I've already got pink linen for breeches. The diagonal bands are really nice. Doing simplified embroidery in that shape in one or two colors shouldn't be too hard. Not great history, but it should be pretty and I already have decided that this isn't going to be an A&S competition sort of project. If I split the difference and sort of mix the floral and the heraldic it should be reasonably good looking. Enter the seeblatt. Its a heraldic symbol that is supposed to represent a waterlily leaf. It sort of looks like an inverted heart with a club (the card suit type) inside it. Another vaguely floral heraldic symbol I like is the Krin (that's it there is the second line in the corner.) Krin is Russian for lily. The symbol is a descendent of the Greek wild lily (the Fleur de lis is also descended from this.) It means natural beauty, growth and life. If you want to wade through a really great article on a Kievan Rus jewelry hoard, there's some information on the Krin on page 73. The krin has a red central bud and then is surrounded in leaves. The symbol is really old. There's a beautiful representation of it in felt dating from the 3rd century BC. I used it as a border on a felted wall bag I made last year.

It is, however, in constant use. That's one of the great things about old motifs, especially when they find their way into silk patterns. They linger. The lily in the heart is perfectly correct for 300 B.C., 11th Century Russia, and the France of Marie Antoinette, but would look just as fresh today. As I said, not perfect research, but it does have all the hallmarks of what I love most about history. It falls into my "fun and not jarring" category.

So, I think I'll be drawing up some bands that combine lilies, spades, hearts, and clubs. It'll probably look like I'm ready to play poker. Just need some diamonds.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like the article at the Met Museum isn't available right now. You can find the PDF on or by searching Pekarskaja, Ljudmila V.. "Treasures from Ancient Kiev in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Dumbarton Oaks." Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 32 (1997).