Wednesday 26 June 2013

Thomasteppich wool has arrived

Today we received a parcel from Renaissance dying from France containing the wool hanks for the Saint Thomas tapestry project. It is amazing that all the kilometres of wool fit it a relatively small parcel. How many sheep would have given the wool for our tapestry? Anyway, Anne has started already embroidering with the colours.

The parcel with the wool hanks for the tapestry.

All the 12 colours for the tapestry, plus some extra. First row: ivory, light gold, dark brown, mid corn, black. Second row: dark red, golden yellow, orange, mid brown, cinnamon, mid blue grey, dark peach. Third row: dark blue, medium blue, light beech green, dark green.

Anne is using the first colour (light beech green) on a tree on the second row of the tapestry.

Monday 24 June 2013

Another carpenters guild chest with tools

I had overlooked this great carpenters guild chest from 1600 with many tools depicted on it when I showed some other tool chests in a previous post. This guild chest is from the Lubecker Tischlergesellen and now in the St. Annenmuseum in Lubeck, Germany. The image is from the book 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide' by Thorsten Albrecht.

The following tools are depicted:
On the wall: a rack with chisels and a schoulderknife, a hacksaw, a frame saw, a mitre square and a mallet.
On the floor:  a mallet, a glue pot and an axe. Also a supporting stand for boards is next to the workbench.
On the workbench: a try square, two block planes and a jointer plane, a rule, a whetting stone and a vessel for beer. Finally, the craftsman is holding a compass.

Friday 21 June 2013

Thomas tapestry project: choosing the tapestry wool

Last months we have been busy testing several types of wool on the linen we will use for our recreation of the Saint Thomas tapestry. There were great differences between the wools from different producers. Some threads were far too loosely winded to be able to work easily; these threads quickly started to unravel and wear during stitching (exit Appleton), or they were too thick to stitch through our linen (exit DMC). Others were worse and broke already when applying very little strength (exit Holst Garn). We wondered how people could ever use (or wear) textiles made with this wool.. Two other wools were too thick to use, and could not be easily pulled through the linen. Two other wool types proved equally fine: Renaissance dying and Wollschmiede. Both manufacturers make naturally (hand) coloured wool. Since the first was recommended by our blog readers, and had a large variety of colours to choose from, we have chosen their wool to work with.

You can easily see the differences between the wools thickness and winding of the wool types. 
The left one we will use for our tapestry.

Having decided which wool we would, we ordered a colour card of the available colour to be able to choose the colours we would need. When making our choice for certain colours we had to keep in mind that the colours of the original Thomasteppich have faded over the centuries (especially the light green and black), changing, but also creating a variety within a colour. Below is the list of 13 colours we have chosen for the tapestry. The 13 colours are also indicated in the study by Tanja Kohwagner-Nikolai 'per manus sororum..' Niederschsische Bildstickereien im Klosterstich (1300-1583)'

  • Ivory 0900 (natur - e.g. peoples faces and buildings)
  • Light gold 1413 (gelb - e.g. gold, aura of the saints)
  • Dark red 1101 (rot - e.g. clothing)
  • Orange 1363 (rosa - e.g. chair of the king, clothing)
  • Dark green 1511 (helles blaugrun - e.g. grass)
  • Light beech green 1515 (gelbgrun - e.g. trees)
  • Dark blue 1007 (dunkelblau - e.g. sky)
  • Medium blue 1005 (stahlblau - e.g. roofs, helmet)
  • Dark brown 0908 (braun - e.g. dog, horses)
  • Mid brown 0907 (graubraun - e.g. horses)
  • Mid Corn 1412 (beige - e.g. clothes)
  • Dark peach 1201 (lila - e.g. eastern faces, soul)
  • Black 0503 (schwartz - e.g. details faces, saddle)

The 1 metre black wool test on the saddle of the horse with the knight.

Our next problem was to determine how much or each colour we would need. Therefore we tested the area 1 meter thread would cover in the cloister stitch. We could make 2.6 square cm with 1 meter thread. Now we only needed to know how many square cm each colour contained in the tapestry. To do this we 'photoshopped' our photo of the tapestry. First the colours were faded, then the identical colours were made of the same shade. After this, a colleague of mine used a program to count the pixels of each colour and calculate the percentage of that colour. Knowing the size of the tapestry this was converted to square cm, and then meters wool.

The centre piece of the St. Thomasteppich with the 13 colours made identical. There is in fact a 14th colour here, as we did give the aura of Jesus and Saint Thomas a brighter shade of yellow. However, we will not use a different colour for the embroidery.

We did not measure the colours at the sides of the tapestry, because we wish to add some other images there that have something to do with our woodworking guild and the city of Nimweghen. As we do not yet know how it would look like and what colours we would use, it is impossible to count colours or order wool for the sides.

Interestingly, all this counting gives an indication of how much wool is used for the (centre of the) original tapestry (78,120 square cm): more than 30 kilometres! (not counting the small amount of wool on the back of the tapestry and the faded colours on the faces). As our tapestry will be half-sized, this would mean 7,511 meter for us. Of course we will order more wool to be sure to have enough wool of the same colour bath. Below is a table showing how much of each colours is used in the tapestry. The two types of yellow have been added together for our tapestry.

Colour %  Original (metres) Guild (metres)
Dark green
Dark blue
Licht blue
Saintly gold

Dark brown
Light brown
Light green
Dark red
Total colours

Sunday 16 June 2013

Armoires in the Luneburger convents

The Luneburger convents house a large collection of medieval furniture. Some of the chests and armoires and cabons of Kloster Isenhagen and Wienhausen have already been shown in previous posts. With our latest visit to Kloster Lune, Kloster Medingen and Kloster Ebstorf we can show you more of the medieval furniture present in these convents. Most of the images shown here are from books, as photography is not allowed in these three convents. 

The convents have hundreds of chests, but the amount of armoires is amazingly large as well. I started counting the armoires at the convents, which are the 'minimal' number, as we did not see all rooms and likely did not see all armoires.
  • Kloster Lune: minimal 12 plus 1 mural armoire
  • Kloster Medingen: minimal 14
  • Kloster Ebstorf: minimal 10
  • Kloster Isenhagen (counting the photos on the blogposts): minimal 10 plus 7 mural armoires (cabons)
  • Kloster Wienhausen (also from the blogpost): minimal 11 plus 2 cabons
This brings the (minimum) total on 57 armoires and 10 cabons.

Most armoires are found at Kloster Medingen, which is a bit curious. The armoires at this convent are large and heavy, and not easily moved. How they could have survived the fire that destroyed the convent in 1781 is a mystery to me. But anyway, I am glad they did survive. In the entrance hall of the convent are two armoires; still in use to store guidebooks and tickets (other armoires in the convent are also still in use, for instance to store marmelade). We had to wait for a while here before the guided tour started, so I took my chance to do some measurements of the most interesting one. This armoire has two surviving doors on top of each other, with a gap in-between. This gap also seems to have had a door or a drawer. Traces on the armoire of a lock and hinges make it more likely that it was a small door. The armoire stands on so-called 'kufen'.

The oak armoire at the entrance hall at Kloster Medingen. Boards are 3 to 4.5 cm thick, locks are incomplete. Also the rail below the bottom door is missing. The style of the hinges make it likely that the armoire dates from the 15th century.

Most armoires in Medingen are men-high, have two doors next to each other, or on top of each other. They either stand on 'kufen' or on the sideboards. There are of course some exceptions, such as the armoire at the entrance and two with three equally sized doors on top of each other.

A large armoire on kufen in one of the hallways of Kloster Medingen with three rows of double doors on top of each other. Image scanned from the Guidebook Kloster Medingen.
A rough sketch of another, 3-row single doored armoire found in kloster Medingen.

There is also an armoire with a peculiar round hole at the top of both sideboards. This is not for a rail to hang clothes on, as the armoire has several shelves (I did peek in to check). The option for a rail to carry the armoire is also not very likely. The diameter of the rail would be too small to carry the weight, and the placement is to high to be convenient. So these holes remain a mystery.    

This oak armoire (Med Ba 6) is dated from 1299. It has two large doors with a simple lock. At both sides is a peculiar hole at the top. The shelves of the armoire also go through the side board as tenons. Sizes of the armoire are 179.5 cm high, 106.5 cm wide and 62 cm deep. Inside are 4 boards. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

More armoires in Kloster Medingen have boards that go though the sideboards. This is a rough sketch where the shelve boards are very thick and the board tenons are secured with a wedge.

An oak armoire (Med Ba 5) dating from the start of the 14th century, as can be seen from the simple lock and ironwork. Sizes are 205 cm high, 171.5 cm wide and 57 cm deep. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

Lock from a armoire on kufen dating from the first half of the 14th century. Image from T. Albrecht 
'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

In Kloster Medingen stands also an armoire with painted letters (KR and ZR) next to the armoire doors. They could possibly be the initials of the names of the nuns that stored their property inside the armoire. In Kloster Lune we were told that the small armoires were used by two nuns.

The armoires from Kloster Lune and Kloster Ebstorf are quite different from those of Kloster Medingen. Most of them are much smaller armoires. This also allows to place items on top of the armoires, or even to have a top door. Some of the locks and hinges have a red background made of semi-soft elastic material. We think it this painted leather, and used for the same reason as the velvet cloth seen in the chest from the medieval furniture from Koln, to prevent discolouration of the oak by the (oxidizing) iron.

Before I noticed that photography was not allowed I already had taken two images of this armoire in the entrance hall of Kloster Lune.

Two armoires in the cloister hallway. They are painted in colours that are reminiscent of the 18th century. Interestingly there is a 'bench' trep attached to the two armoires allowing easy reach of the upper shelves of the armoire. Image scanned from a postcard.

This armoire from the winter refter has two doors on top of each other at the front, and a third on top of the armoire (see sketch below), beneath which is a small storing place. Image from J.U. Brinkmann. Die blauen Bucher - Kloster Lune.

 Left: Top of the armoire in the winter refter with hinges and a pull ring. 
Right: High edges at the top of the armoire also provide a space for storing goods.
An oak armoire standing on the side boards (Lun Ba 42). The armoire dates from the late 15th century and has a height of 120 cm high, width of 52.5 cm and is 42 cm deep. They are of much smaller size than the Medingen armoires.

A row of small armoires in the sleeping quarters (the owls hallway) of the convent. The armoire in front has very richly decorated hinges and locks and likely dates from the late 15th or 16th century. You can see that some of the armoires are standing on the side boards, while others stand on kufen. Image scanned  from a postcard.

In Kloster Ebstorf a small armoire is found which has some carved decoration on the top rail, as well as the top door. Left: Sketch of the decoration on the top rail. The dark parts are deepened. Right: A sketch of the armoire with two doors and standing on kufen. In the middle of the top door is a carved pentagram. This pentagram is also found on the coat of arms of the abbess Mette von Jungersleben. Likely this armoire was her personal possesion, which also precisely dates the armoire to 1518. Her coat of arms can also be seen on the glass window opposite the armoire. 

Left and right photo: Several small armoires and chests are standing in the hallways of Kloster Ebstorf.

An armoire standing on the side boards dating from 1500 (Ebs Ba 25). It has two doors on top of each other and a simple carved top rail.The armoire measures 139 cm high, 70.5 cm wide and 44.5 cm deep. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.
A double doored armoire on kufen of the end of the 15th century (Ebs Ba 10). It is made from oak and measures 191 cm height, 156.5 width and 75.5 cm deep. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

Drawing of an oak armoire on kufen dating around 1500 (Ebs Ba 8). Height 138 cm, width 73 cm and 43 cm deep. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

 A special oak armoire on kufen with seven shelves and an open front. It dates from 1460 and measures 182.5 cm height and 195 cm height with top rail, width 205 cm and 70 cm deep. We did not see this armoire during our visit. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

 Oak armoire dating from the first half of the 15th century (Ebs Ba 38). Height 155 cm, width 88.5 cm and 45.5 cm deep. Also this armoire was not seen during our visit to Ebstorf. Image from T. Albrecht 'Schrank, Butze, Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel der Luneburger Heide'.

A rough sketch of a small cabon in the souvenir shop in kloster Ebstorf. The height is something between 1 and 1.2  metre. Note that the top door has a pull ring, while the bottom door has not.