Thursday, August 25, 2011

Starting work on the volosnik

I got a pretty good haul of embroidered appliques from the salvage operation and decided to start playing with them.  There are a lot of the same lotus fan and flower, but there were also a few pieces that didn't have many duplicates.  I decided to play with the orphans and do something small to start with. 

The first idea that came to mind was a volosnik.  It's a little cap with an embroidered forehead piece (called an ochel'e) and a net that covers the hair.  Russian married women were obliged by tradition, superstition, religion, and often law to cover their hair.  A Russian girl changing her braids from the long single braid of a maiden to the two wrapped around the head of a married woman and covering them was a big part of the marriage ceremony.  I really like the headcoverings of medieval and "Renaissance" era Russia with their elaborate layers, each with a particular function.  Its very like the underlayers of a dress with each giving the whole its correct shape.

The picture in the background is the cap of Czarina Maria Dolgorukaya.  She died 4 months after marrying Czar Mikhail Feodorovich and was buried with this hat in 1624.  The embroideries are gold trees of life and unicorns on a silk taffeta that was originally scarlet.  They symbolize marriage and virginity.  (Information and picture is from Treasures of the Czars a catalog of the exhibition presented at the Florida International Museum with the assistance of the State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin.  London, 1995)

  While it would be preferable to actually do the symbolic embroidery, I don't have the time and there are examples of Russian embroidery that is strictly decorative and quite a bit of floral embroidery.  I did want to keep the general look by utilizing the axial symmetry and horizontal layout.  Thus I used a large oval piece in the center and am playing with the appliques back an forth from a central point.  Once they are all in place I will go back over them with a cord along the edge as is the hallmark of period applique.  I had a scrap of green silk about the right length and not really large enough for other projects that went beautifully with the deep peach and golds so I pulled that from my cabbage bin.  While red was the most popular color in Russian clothing; green, blue, and other bright colors were also very popular.  Black was even starting to be used for people other than widows and clergy in the 16th century as long as it was heavily decorated.  I will put a layer of wool felt inside the band to stiffen it once the embroidery is complete.  Then I'll start the netting for the hair cover. 


  1. Do you ever sleep? The scope and ambition of the projects you choose really raise thebar for the rest of us schmucks.