Although this post is way past 12th Night here in Atlantia, I wanted to wait until the recipient had received my gift. Then I forgot to post this. My apologies. My gift was an embroidered pouch done in the Elizabethan style. This pouch contained sewing tools and a matching needlebook. The story is from the point of view from the Bag itself.
I began as a large square of fine fabric hemmed and used as a cover for glassware displayed in the windows of a shop. Every morning I would be taken off of the wares in the window and stuffed into a bag of others like me, only to be taken out and put back over the wares at the end of the day. Sunrise allowed me to see out the windows in the morning. The view was not so undesirable as the street sweepers came by each morning and scooped up the muck from the cobbled stones put down the day before by people coming and going and the animals they brought with them. Then came that fateful day that I was taken down and not returned to the bag, but dumped into the rag bucket due to dirt and day to day stains. The shopkeeper’s boy was a lazy boy and did not want to wash me. A young woman stooped over and plucked me from the bucket, shook me out and quickly folded me. I could feel the joy of her luck at finding such a large piece of fabric for her needs. Her companion was surprised at the action but lauded the thrift and luck. I was stuffed at the bottom of her basket and the days shopping was put on top of me. All through the afternoon, I listened to the sounds of the markets and the shops and the voice of the baskets owner planning what use I would be put to. Part of me was to become an apprentice piece. A piece of work made to show the skills of the maker in order to become an apprentice. Most apprentices start out as children as young as six years of age, but occasionally an apprentice could be taken on if the apprentice could show themselves to be of sufficient skill. The girl was excited at the thought of succeeding her father in his business if she could show she had learned enough skills to show she was serious, as he had not yet found her a suitable prospective husband. It would not be hard to show her skills at embroidery, after all, she had grown up among the embroiderers employed in his shop and to keep her out of mischief, was sat down at a small slate and with plain thread and needle was taught the different stitches on a scrap of linen. Her mother let her continue, but added mathematics, reading and writing to the curriculum, and at her father’s insistence, drawing. After all, if you could not draw the designs, you would have to employ an artist to put your designs on paper and that was costly. At the end of the day, I was handed over to the companion to be washed. After being washed and hung to dry I was then folded and tucked away with the other belongings. It was dark but fragrant with dried herbs and the belongings tucked in with me were kind enough to share their knowledge of my new owner. The young woman was the only daughter, came a quiet voice from the bottom of the clothes press, “I was once the dress of another, but was sold at a shop and was purchased to be made into something suitable at a later date.” From off in a corner came the sibilant rustle of metal in a bag. “We are fine gold and silver spangles found on floors, and in the mud and muck outside. Picked up and washed and hidden away here until we have a use.” Faintly from above, I could hear the footsteps of people coming and going, the lid occasionally lifted and yet another belonging placed within. Each thing placed here in the box with us was only too happy to tell their tales and so my knowledge of the world grew.
Skeins of embroidery thread wrapped in sackcloth muttered to themselves and would not share their origin, but we in the bag could tell they hadn’t a story to add as they were newly spun and dyed, we would have to wait until they were embroidered to get a firm story of their making. Our owner was talented and smart and into the chest would come and go most often the little book in which she would draw her designs, and copy others from other books. Diligently she drew instructions for each stitch and gave descriptions. The little book was quite talkative and described the stitches as they were added to his pages. He could not show us the pictures in the dark but told us what they would look like when finished. I looked forward to seeing the pages one day.
Then came the day that I was to finally be used, or rather part of us, I was cut into large pieces and the smallest of me was stretched out onto a frame and each part of me not used was folded and put back into the chest. I was finally being put to use. The frame I was stretched upon was put on a stand next to another set of windows, and outside I could see the bluest skies, filled with birds. The room was small but the windows took up the most of it, running from one corner to another with deep sills to place one end of my stretching frame on so that the light would reach all of me. Over the top of me was placed a sheet of thin velum which had been poked full of holes in a design that I could not see, and it was pinned in place. A few moments passed and then I was gently tapped with something over the vellum and could feel a powdery substance filter through the holes. This went on for quite a few minutes until they were satisfied that there was enough of the powdery substance covering the holes. The vellum was unpinned and then gently removed. The girl seemed satisfied and she then brushed a staining liquid following the design of the dots made by the powder. The other embroiderers in the shop were working away, speaking of this bit of news or that bit of gossip, needles flashing in the sunlight streaming through the windows.
Then the stitching began, the book lay open and very carefully she began to stitch the vines and outlines of flowers. She called the stitch the split stitch as she went along very carefully stitching the tiny stitches. She called the color of the vines green and I watched the light flash off of the sharp needles and felt the pull of the thread as it was pulled through me. Each stitch swift and gentle gathered at length along my surface. She would embroider from dawn to nearly dusk, then cover me with another cloth until the next morning. It did not take long, mere days blending into weeks and she was finished with the vines and outlines, for there were days that I sat without her working upon me. I enjoyed listening to the other embroiderers, their gossiping let me know why I wasn’t being worked on, her father had found her a suitor and they were planning on a courtship. Days later the girl came back and then the spangles and paste jewels were applied and the silver-gilt thread couched down. The girl and the women in the shop talked about the young man and his being worthy of her. It was not a matter of being worthy, she said above me as she sewed down the spangles, it was a matter of her father needing a male heir for the shop and his goods. Being an only child was not enough reason to allow the mother to run the business after the father is gone, but it worried her that this man would ruin them if he were the wrong man for the job. Father is having someone follow him to make sure he is not a gambling man or wastrel. It doesn’t matter, either way, I must still be able to perform the duties of embroiderers, as well as a housewife. This piece must please father and mother. I must learn all of the stitches and techniques within a year once I am accepted. It really should be a bit easier for me, I grew up here in the shop alongside mother, and can remember how to do the stitches. I was allowed to stay home rather than be apprenticed off to a strangers household because I am an only child, but must still prove to the guild that I am good enough to sell my work. I can only hope that this piece gives them enough of my skills to gain approval. Once I am done embroidering this, mother is going to send it to the guild for judging. It will then come back to me and then sent down to the purse-man to be sewn into a pouch. I will need it to hold my needlework tools when I go to meet his family. Don’t tell father, I rather like his older brother better. He did not smell of ale and smoke and spoke well around me and my friends, and did not speak down to me as if I were an empty book. I learned much as she pulled threads through my fabric. Soon the work was done, and I was left on the frame to be taken down the street to the guild house and my judging.
In the morning light, I was wrapped in dark fabric and carted down the street to the guild house. When I was unwrapped there were four men and five women leaning in over my embroidered surface. They were silent as they ran their hands over the stitches and tested the knots on the back to see if the spangles would come off easily. I listened as they discussed the merit of her stitches, and level of skill. It was an important judgment and their seriousness gave me an idea of how hard she had worked the stitches upon my surface. They went away and returned later to have me wrapped back up and sent home with a sealed letter to the girl. After being unwrapped and placed back upon the stand I listened for the response, her happy laughter told me she had done well. That afternoon I was removed from the frame and carted off in a wrapped parcel to the purse-maker.
Into the shop of the purse-maker, I was taken and unwrapped along with the note from the girl with instructions as to which style of the pouch I was to be made into. The old man grumbled a bit then handed me over to his son, note and all. The son spread me out onto a large work table and placed a template over me, covering completely the design embroidered upon my surface. With a bit of thin paint, he traced around the template, making sure to put dabs where seams would meet up. I was then lifted and placed face down over a chunk of linen large enough for a lining and basted down.
The stitches that bound me to the white linen lining were simple back stitches, close to the edge of the circle I had been cut into once the lining had been basted down. All the way around my edges the needle poked and the thread pulled through me. He left a space un-sewn, and after clipping the edges all the way around me, turned me right side out to hide the stitches and clipped edge. I could see in the dim light of the shop once more. Shaking me out he pinned around the edge to lay me flat and sewed around the edge. Once close to the edge and again a bit further in for a double row. Holes were punched and bound with thread and a ribbon pulled through.
I was finally a finished piece; my girl would be an Embroiderers Apprentice.