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)
Black
0.9
270
67
Ivory
31.1
9,661
2,415
Dark green
9.6
2,885
712
Dark blue
21.9
6,580
1,645
Licht blue
3.5
1,052
263
Saintly gold
1.0
300

Yellow
3.8
1,142
360
Dark brown
4.6
1,382
345
Light brown
1.4
421
105
Light green
6.6
1,983
500
Beige
3.5
1,052
263
Dark red
9.3
2,794
698
Orange
4.7
1,412
353
Lila
0.6
180
45
Total colours
102.5
31,114
7,778
Total
100.0
30,046
7,511

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