The Brazen Burgundian
Applique is a very period technique for decorating garments. There are plenty of extant garments from the 14th and 15th centuries that have elements of applique on them, of which we will touch on two below.
For the purpose of the de Revel garment, I spent a good bit of time looking for garments in the 14th and 15th centuries that had heraldic applique motifs. I was able to find several through my own research and with the assistance of friends.
The main inspirations for the technique and approach I am using are Burgundian extant garments with applique motifs: one is a cope of Charles the Bold captured in the third quarter of the 15th century at the Battle of Morrat (1476). The other is an extant Burgundian herald's tabbard
Cope of Charles the Bold
This particular garment is of interest for multiple reasons: mainly because it has silk on velvet, velvet on silk, and velvet on velvet applique. In the close up of the lion rampant, you see a red velvet lion appliqued on gold silk, which is appliqued on black velvet. Secondarily because it is the arms of Charles the Bold, and we can see how heraldry was treated on wearable garments. There is also a detail of a sun ray which is silk or a silk/cloth of gold mix appliqued on velvet. All of the applique elements have their edges secured with a coached cord, which inspired me to take a similar approach.
Cope of Charles the bold late middle 15th century
Applique details from the cope of Charles the Bold with couchwork.
Burgundian Heraldic Banner - 15th century
This Banner is another example of silk on velvet heraldic applique with couch-worked edges.
This early 17th century Heralds tabbard is ~250 years later than the de Revel garment; however, it is in much better shape and it provides a much clearer detail of heraldic applique with couchwork.
De Revel Applique
I decided to stay as close to period as possible with construction techniques with some minor modern concessions due to time constraints and the fact that I am not entering this garment in an A&S competition.
The first step was to determine how I wanted to construct the applique. Modern sensibilities teach us to avoid raw edges and finish any cuts to avoid fraying. One method of doing this when you are hand appliqueing is the "needle-turn" method; however with the complex shape of the cross fleury, all of my needle turn experiments looked like junk; it just wasn't working. I opted for another period treatment which is a stabilized applique piece with raw edges. The edges will be protected by the couched cord and a fray preventative.
In period we have extant examples where applique was stabilized with canvas or wool on the back, but because I was already wrestling with a complicated shape on a less than amenable fabric, I made my one mundane concession: I backed the silk crosses with a fusible interfacing.
Once I cut out the crosses with the interfacing, I used Gum Arabic to treat the edges. Using Gum Arabic is a period method for deterring fraying on slashes and raw edges. I tried several mixture ratios, and ultimately settled on one that was more viscus. It took longer to dry but it didn't wick up in to the silk and discolor it like the less viscus mixtures did. There was still some discoloration along the edge, but it will be concealed by the couched cord. Gum Arabic takes several hours to cure, so I had to apply it to the crosses one evening and then come back to them the next evening and place them on the fabric.
ruined cross due to gum arabic being too thin...it wicked right in to the fabric.
better viscosity with the Gum Arabic - still some slight discoloration, but that will be concealed with the couchwork
I positioned the crosses on the sleeve and I pinned them all down.
I used a fairly wide stitch to tack these crosses down, because I will be coming back around with the cord and couching it down. To the right is a 14th century example of applique using a very wide chunky stitch to tack down the applique
Once I was able to tack the stitches down, the next step was to couch down cord around the edges as in the examples provided earlier. I opted to use a 2mm gold metal cord that that I had imported from India to give a close approximation of actual gold work in period. I used a gold silk thread to do the couching. I completed these on both sleeves as you can see here. There was definitely some challenges in turning the sharp corners, but overall it didn't turn out too badly