The eagle, a well known heraldic symbol of the
Holy Roman Empire, is shown here as roundels appliquéd
onto the background silk of the well known Eagle Dalmatic (c.
1330-40). These eagles are single-headed and are executed in black
silk split stitch on a gold ground, all worked on linen before
being appliquéd. The trims around the neck, hem, shoulders,
and cuffs are also a great example of "needlepainting"
with chiefly split stitch. More photos, assembled by Cynthia du
Pré Argent, can be seen at www.virtue.to/articles/extant.html.
Above left, dalmatic from the regalia of the Holy
Above Right, an enlargement of some of the superbly
shaded foliage and
saints' portraits from the neck and sleeve bands.
Below Left, an enlarged embroidered roundel from the
To stitch an eagle medallion
This is best worked on a fairly fine but sturdy linen, stretched
very tightly in a frame. Trace the design diagram below onto the
fabric after stretching, and ensure that the fabric is smooth
and at an even tension. This design is given very close to the
size on the original, but can of course be enlarged if you like.
The finished embroidery and others like it can be applied to a
pouch, to clothes, etc.
First work the outline of the eagle in black split stitch (or
the color of your choice), including the outline of the eye. The
original is black, but some other color might be preferable if
you are new to split stitch, since it's hard to do fine details
in solid black unless you have very good eyes.
From here on, work additional lines of stitching inside the
eagle, one inside the other, following the contour of the outline,
or the direction that feathers would fall on a real bird. The
wing feathers, for instance, can be worked with U-shaped lines
of stitching, nested one inside the other on each feather until
it is full. For a decora-tive effect you could also take the "knob"
on top of the wing and work it in a spiral, from the outside in.
The small feathers (they look like hooks) can be worked as you
come to them.
When the bird has been solidly worked, including the contrasting
eye, you can give it a round or square background, depending on
what you plan to use it for. The background can be worked in couching
or in split stitch in a contrasting color. Cut out the finished
patch and apply to your project.
(For thread and fabric recommendations, see Smooth
as Silk: Split Stitch Embroidery)