14 January 2010

A&S 50: Material Culture nine: Fatimid inspired modern embroidery

July 2009

This is a small project, but it required a lot of umph on my part. Since it's a break-through accomplishment I'm including it in this project list.

I took Arabic modern text and rewrote it in a period Fatimid script. Converting to the period script has been my hang up. "I don't know the lettering or the special characters; I don't have a handle on the spacing or extra artistic fluff."  I gave it a try anyway and added it to the under dress of the Walnut-husk Brown Ensemble. The dress is so light weight that I've added it as court garb for camping.

I know from reading Kuhnel and Bellenger's Dated Tiraz that pieces in period were inconsistent, had bad spelling, and occasionally ended up illegible even to the experts. There is evidence that many pieces were inked by a calligrapher and probably stitched by someone else. There is evidence that the stitcher took liberties (sometime wild liberties) with the design, suggesting that they might have been illiterate, or simply and artist who knew his audience didn't care much as long as it looked like the expensive pieces being copied.

Textile evidence shows that tiraz were stitched directly to the fabrics, while pictorial evidence suggest they were stitched to a piece of fabric that was applied to the garments. It could be somewhere in between-- the written records indicate that the bourgeoisie class spent energy copying the expensive gifts bestowed by the caliph to the royal and noble classes (Goitein in A Mediterranean Society firmly calls out five economic classes). The extant fabrics we have could largely be representations of these copies.

My new tiraz was applied with couching. It is a period technique that gives me the control I wanted for the tight swirls of this design. The orange yarn is a linen 2-ply, couched with cotton sewing thread.  The hand or script is copied from two 10th C extant pieces that are representative of early Fatimid calligrahpy.The text is repeated once to better fill the space, another period practice. It appears only on the right arm of the garment at the bicep.

Unfortunately, the tiny photos here get some artifacts from the shot linen pictured.

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