I did some test samples of embroidery to determine what stitches I wanted to use. I chose a split stitch to create the centerline of the leaves, attaching them to the fabric, and stem stitch (also called outline stitch) for the stems. The long lines on each side of the embroidered leaves are couched thread. I tested a few methods of attaching the edges of the leaves. Anything that stitched through the edges of the leaves with embroidery thread tended to tear them apart, so I went with a couched thread around the circumference of each leaf as well. embroidery-test 

The leaves were cut from a silk fabric that had a slight tendency to fray. In order to ensure that the leaves didn’t fray, I wanted to treat them with melted beeswax. In Patterns of Fashion, Janet Arnold shows cut edges on a pane from a pair of slops that have been waxed to prevent fraying[1]I melted beeswax pellets over a double boiler on the stove, and used a small paintbrush to apply the wax to the edge of each leaf.

cloak-leaveCut   cloak-waxMelt  cloak-waxPaint 


When it was time to begin the embroidery, I started with the collar. I decided to work the collar with it attached to an embroidery frame with a stand. I loosely basted each end of the collar onto the fabric bands of the frame, and rolled the collar onto the two adjustable dowels as needed to access the portion of the collar that I was working on. I couched the heavier silk embroidery thread around the edges of the collar in two rows, using fine silk thread to secure it.

cloak-collarOnStretcher   cloak-collarCouching


I did a test layout of some leaves cut from paper, to decide what arrangement of leaves I wanted to use. Modern interpretations of laurel leaves are inconsistent – sometimes the leaves are staggered and sometimes the two sides are symmetrical. After doing a sample layout, I decided that I preferred the staggered arrangement of leaves. So, I began the collar embroidery using that style. I did a stem stitch down the center, used split stitch to secure the centerline of each leaf, and used couching again to outline each leaf.

cloak-collarLeafOption1   cloak-collarLeafOption2  cloak-leavesApply  collar-completed2


Once the collar was complete, it was time to move onto the main part of the cloak. For this, it seemed that working on the embroidery frame was not going to be effective. I tried it for the front edge – pinning the current section onto the frame – but soon found that securing it to my pants with a pin in order to hold it taut was just as effective.

 cloak-couching1  cloak-couching2


Once the couching and center stem stitching was done, it was time for the remainder of the leaves. Since the corners were going to be the trickiest to arrange, I determined that layout first and worked up the fronts and around the bottom edge from there.

 cloak-couching-complete  cloak-leaf-arrangement


The centers were stitched with split stitch as on the collar. Once all the leaves were applied, the final appearance was beginning to take shape. And once the couching was complete, the leaves looked great, and it was time to move onto the final assembly and lining.

 cloak-leaf-center-complete  cloak-leaf-center-complete3


With the sewing complete, it was time to make a closure. I decided to do medium-length ties, made from fingerloop braid. I used two spools of linen thread, each 10 meters. Each spool was cut into eight pieces, about 50 inches long. I folded eight of these these over a “leash” thread and tied the two ends of each piece together, making loops for braiding. I used an eight-loop pattern of braiding to create a spiral braid, and tied off the ends when it was complete. The pattern was as follows:

Take 8 bows, four of one color and four of another. Place all the bows of one color on one hand and the other color on the other hand. Exchange the bow on A right with D left, and B right with C left, and C right with B left, and D right with A left. And begin again. [2]

To finish off each braid, I created a tassel using a 5 meter skein of silk embroidery floss. For each tassel, I repeatedly ran the thread through the end of the braid, moving around in a circle with each pass. I trimmed the loop created by this technique to my desired length for my tassel, and kept going until the skein was almost gone. I wrapped the rest of the floss around the tassel slightly down from the top and finished it off by running the tail through the wrapped section. I sewed the looped ends of the completed ties onto the inside of the cloak.

 cloak-fingerloop  cloak-tassle1  cloak-tassle2  cloak-tassle3




[1] Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Men and Women’s Clothes 1560-1620, Janet Arnold, p. 17.

[2] Take V Bowes, Departed, Elizabeth Berns and Gina Barrett, p. 82.