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Poruchi / Embroidered Cuffs

(All images are copyright John Beebe except where otherwise stated. Reproduction or reference allowed for eductional purposes with proper credit.)

Final Results

posted Oct 24, 2010, 3:47 PM by John "Rezansky" Beebe   [ updated Oct 24, 2010, 3:57 PM ]

Some pictures of the final results, along with the rest of my Laureling outfit. The cuffs turned out great, with the exception that they're a bit large and could use some extra padding to keep them in the correct place. But, that was pretty much unnoticeable by anyone but me. In all, I'm really happy with how they turned out.

Crunch Time (back posting - 12/31/2009)

posted Jul 4, 2010, 3:14 PM by John "Rezansky" Beebe

Twelfth Night is just over a week away, and I've been working like crazy to get my cuffs completed on time. I've got one pretty much done and ready to be lined. The other has all the cotton on now and I started pearling it last night. It's coming along a bit better so far than the first one, now that I've figured out more or less what I'm doing and how to do it right. But, it's still kinda slow work. So, I'll likely be working on it tonight at the New Year's things we stop by.

Tonight, I managed to complete the goldwork and sew on the buttons for the first cuff. As of our last check, the first cuff was already weighing about half-a-pound!

Poruchi update

posted Dec 21, 2009, 8:55 PM by John "Rezansky" Beebe

Yay, I'm just about done embroidering/beading the first cuff. The second should hopefully take much less time as I know now what I'm doing, have the right equipment, and have a looming deadline to keep me frantically productive. The cuff is really heavy! The weight of the pearls has combined with the almost 8 yards of gold braid I've put on it so far to produce quite the little arm weights. The pewter buttons I got for them on line are heavy too, so once I sew those on, these cuffs will be deadly bludgeons. 

Poruchi update

posted Dec 9, 2009, 8:40 PM by John "Rezansky" Beebe

Over the past few weeks, I've made quite a bit of progress on this project. Beading the cuffs took some trial and error before I figured out a technique that has been working well and keeping the beads from becoming too dense to where they refused to lie flat. This is somewhat difficult since the cuffs are worn wrapped around the wrist, but if you lay out the beads so they work well on a curved ground, they may end up a bit too dense when you try to lay the cuffs flat. Once I figured that out, that relieved a number of concerns I had about how the project was going.

Here, a picture showing the beading in progress. I have been doing this by couching down a pearl by itself, then backstitching to run the needle back through that pearl and adding one more to the chain. The next stitch runs through pearl number 2, and then adds on pearl number 3, and so forth.

Once I had some of the pearls on, the process started to go pretty quickly. The current problem I have is that I ran out of the pearls I was using! I've got more on the way via mail order but in the meantime, I have started putting down gold twist braid on either side of the rows of pearls. This is couched down with yellow silk. The picture here doesn't show the gold as shiny as it really is. It's really quite attractive and I very much like using it. I ordered the twist here (I'm using the Gold 2% WM No. 6 Twist):

One unexpected thing I've found as I have worked on this cuff -- the pearls and gold are really adding up and making the cuff quite heavy! I'll need to lift weights so as to be able to lift my arms while I'm wearing them. :-)

Update on cuff #1

posted Nov 30, 2009, 4:57 PM by John "Rezansky" Beebe

Here's an updated picture of cuff #1. The cotton padding is done, and ready to start couching pearls.


posted Nov 28, 2009, 7:16 AM by John "Rezansky" Beebe   [ updated Nov 28, 2009, 7:46 AM ]

Starting in November 2009, I've been working on an Orthodox deacon's outfit from mid to late period, similar to this photo:
This has 4 main parts: a white linen undertunic; an overtunic which is buttoned together with 32 buttons along the side seams and one at the neck (33 being the traditional age when Christ was crucified); the stole over the left shoulder; and the embroidered cuffs which cover where the undertunic extends beyond the overtunic. 

Some friends are helping me with the sewing (this is for my Laureling ceremony in January, so time is a bit tight), and I'm concentrating on the embroidery. The cuffs are typically heavily pearled or embroidered. They have a number of possible symbolic meanings, which has led to them becoming heavily decorated by tradition. I decided to start with these poruchi, the Russian word for these cuffs. (In Greek, they're called epimanikia.)

I found a nice pair to use as my exemplar in the collection of early Russian embroidery at the museum in Zagorsk, outside Moscow. The monastery there has an exceptional collection of Russian ecclesiastic embroidery, documented in the fabulous Shit'e Drevnei Rusi v sobranii Zagorskogo muzeia / Early Russian Embroidery in the Zagorsk Museum Collection by T.N. Manushina. The example I picked is from the 1600s, but is very similar to ones seen from the 10th century though today. Here's the original:

I had some lovely purplish velvet that I had gotten from my friend Iohanna, which I decided to use as the ground for my piece. The first step was to transfer the design to my fabric. I drew out the pattern on tracing paper, and then basted through the tracing paper and into the fabric. Once all of the lines had been basted, I tore away the paper, leaving just the basting stitches on the fabric.

Following the traditional medieval Russian method for pearlwork, I next started to lay down white cotton cord over the lines. This would serve as the foundation for the pearls. The cotton serves to raise up the pearls, and in theory made it easier to transfer finished pearl-work from one piece of fabric to another when the fabric wore out. The pearls were couched to the cotton, and then gold cord would be laid on either side of the cord to help hide the white cotton and to give the work some extra oomph. 

Here's what my first cuff looked like with this step in progress. You can see the basting stitches, and where some of them have been couched over. There are a number of green stones on the original. Here, I've used malachite coin beads to fill their place.
I've since almost finished couching all of the details, and am starting to couch the outer lines. I should be able to start couching down pearls this weekend.

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