braids, ca. 1630-40
braids have now been identified on one of the Danish King Frederik
III's garments in the Royal Danish Collections at Rosenborg Castle,
III (1609-1670) was king of Denmark from 1648 to1670. His father,
Christian IV, had built a little castle, Rosenborg, in Copenhagen -
originally outside the city walls, in a lovely garden far from the
noise and smells of the medieval city. Since it became a museum in 1833
the crown jewels, costumes, paintings, furniture and art objects
belonging to the royal family have been open to the public. The
collection of royal costume is unique in having such well-documented
men's clothing from the 1600s.
dressing gown was described as a "night gown" in an inventory of the
garments in 1651 - a comfortable garment to wear at home, like a
housecoat today. Made of red silk velvet, with lining, collar, and
cuffs of bright yellowish-green silk velvet, it is richly decorated
with gold and silver lace, braids, and stitched buttons with tassels.
There are sets of the braided loops along the slits at the sides and
center back hem and encircling the deep cuffs. The gown's edges are
also trimmed with silver and gold bobbin lace. Few dressing gowns as
early as this one - or even portraits showing them - exist anywhere in
braids, loop and button closures, were a flexible and convenient
solution to closing a garment: one can avoid cutting buttonholes in
valuable, heavy fabrics or fur; loops are easier to button, and the
garment can easily be remade, let out or the fabric reversed. We might
thus hope to find more loop-manipulated braids on other historical,
fashionable European garments as well as on objects in ethnographic
collections. Much of what has until now been rather lightly dismissed
as (generic) "braids" or
"passementerie" may reveal itself as loop-manipulation. The designation
as "primitive technique" can probably be abandoned now that these gold
and silver braids have turned up on royal costume!
braid itself is made of groups of gold and silver threads, creating a
diamond-shaped pattern. Some irregularities have been caused by not
keeping the threads together as a group.
is a compact 1 cm wide and about 10 cm long, including a tassel. There
all in all 210 braids on the gown, requiring roughly 21 meters in all.
pair of braids consists of one with a button covered with a stitched
in gold and silver thread and one with an integral loop at one end for
structure of these braids sparked my curiosity after I learned about
loop manipulation. The strange configuration of the groups of threads,
passing over and under like a twill but the groups themselves seemingly
dividing and joining in an unusual pattern had confounded me for years.
A fortuitous meeting with NoeLmi Speiser, Masako Kinoshita, Joy Boutrup
and myself - over various braids from the Royal Collections - was the
inspiration that resulted in a final identification and Joy Boutrup's
suggested procedure for recreating the braid.
braids are all made in short lengths rather than having been cut from
one long piece. This is particularly evident for the braids with the
integral loop for buttoning. Each piece must first be braided in the
middle of the warp for about 5 cm. The whole warp is divided into 5
loops for this braid, which is made as a typical unorthodox braid with
5 loops. Then the braid is doubled to create the loop and the two ends
of the braid are
connected in a flat braid. No new elements are added but the strands
both ends of the initial braid are regrouped into 15 loops, 5 loops of
gold and 10 of silver.
flat braid was difficult to analyze and we were baffled by the
seemingly irregular structure, the many strands in each loop making the
case worse. When a colleague from Sweden sent us a copy of Elisabeth
from 1950 with three women loop-braiding (1937), we suddenly made some
progress. This picture, shown in both of NoeLmi Speiser's books, is
the only photographic documentation of 2 or 3-person loop-braiding
describes the production of shoulder straps for backpacks
with coarse hemp yarn. It is pointed out that this technique produced
that were strong, flexible and did not cut into one's shoulders when
backpack was heavy. The article is without detailed information about
the braiding itself, but includes pictures of both sides of the
similarity between the structure of the shoulder straps and the
gold-silver braid was immediately obvious. The general description of
the braiding procedure gave the impression of a 3-person unorthodox
braid, each working 5 loops, which was in accordance with the features
of both braids. The crucial point seemed to be the exchange of loops
between the workers - there
had to be some twists of the crossing loop to prevent what would
otherwise be relatively long floats. We tried systematically different
exchanging and found the following to be in accordance with both
The loop going outside around the other is twisted after the
the lower shank turning up in front of the upper shank.
of exchange is easily achieved by using a variation of the Tollemache
of exchange (Speiser op.cit., p. 91). The following drawings illustrate
loop exchange and the structural result compared to that resulting from
structure of the exchange with the extra twist on the obverse side is
illustrated to the left (a) and the ordinary exchange to the right (b).
two parallel threads in to the left of the middle of a. are from two
different loops, the long float is broken up by the twist. The details
can be studied in the following drawings.
curious thing is the span of time between the braids, one from 1937 and
the other one from around 1630. After we made several reconstructions
the braid?fs features became more familiar and easier to recognize. A
2-person braid of this type seems to show up on central European relic
purses from 13th -14th century. This has yet to be confirmed by a more
detailed study not only of the pictures of the braids but also of the
this is true, this particular braid is just the first to be analyzed of
a large group of braids. The technique could have been an established
way of producing flat braids without excessively long floats.
Elisabeth: "Fyrkantiga Snoddar", RIG, Stockholm 1950, p 64-69.
NoeLmi: Old English pattern books for Loop Braiding, 2000, Published by
Christensen, Sigrid.: Kongedragterne fra 17. og 18. Aarhundrede,
Katia: (about the dressing gown) "How to read Historic Textiles" i
Brooks, M. ed.: Textiles Revealed, London 2000; and "Polish garments"
and "In the lion?fs den - on nightgowns and dressing gowns" in Lions of
Fashion, male fashion of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, ed. Lena
RangstroNm, The Royal Armoury, Stockholm, 2002.