This summer I needed a short project for a road trip and a cup cover for M’Lord Taichleach seemed the perfect project. He requested something similar to this butterfly:
I chose to use the Long and Short stitch to create the best transition from dark to light on the butterfly wings.
To begin, I traced the butterfly shape onto my fabric using water soluble markers. I included some of the veins along the wings to give myself an idea of how I would make the shading. Then I made an outline using split stitch.
My first forray into long and short stitch was to do the black edges of the butterfly. I struggled with keeping the lengths of the thread sufficiently varied. I also worried that my threads were too long, and thus used two rows of black on the lower parts of the wings.
Next I stitched in the veins of the wings in a dark blue. Followed by the shading in a medium blue.
And finally, I stitched in the lightest blue.
With the embroidery finished, I trimmed the fabric into the shape of a square 8 inches across. Then, I turned under the edges by a quarter inch twice, and stitched them down using a tiny felling stitch. And finally, I sewed beads onto the edges to give the piece some weight.
We often see cup covers at SCA events. They are convenient for keeping bugs and leaves out of your drink when outside and can be helpful to keep germs out when indoors. But were they actually used historically? The answer is yes, but in different ways.
Lynn Fairchild did an excellent video on Chalice covers which covers this subject in depth, but to keep things short, she found several pictorial examples of stiff squares which were placed over top of cups called Palls. But few instances of the beaded veil style cup covers we often see in the SCA. Many of these cup covers were found in ecclesiastical context rather than secular use. Some churches continue to use such chalice covers in their services.
This Pall from the Victoria and Albert includes round button like embroidered beads at the corners which would have given it weight on the edges similar to my cup cover. Beads did appear on fine veils in vast quantities by the fifteenth century, so it is certainly possible beads were being used in this context.
As for long and short stitch, a painterly embroidery stitch, became popular in sweeping floral motifs of the eighteenth century. It is certainly possible it was used prior, as its roots are in a combination of split stitch and satin stitch, but my quick look has not come up with a medieval example.
Tutorials on the Long and short stitch by Needle N Thread
Lynn Fairchild – video on Chalice covers
Document on veil beading by Berakha bat Mira v’Shlomo