Pretty printed prancing period Persian ponies

Painting in some of the details on the silk

Painting in some of the details on the silk

For an A&S night (a SCA evening where we practice Arts & Sciences) one of the local artisans taught  a workshop on block-printing, and let me borrow two of her fabulous wooden blocks – winged horses based of an extant Persian fabric. While the original is woven, the blocks make great look-similar-from-a-distance printed fabric!

(Check out her page “Adventures in Block Printing” on Facebook here, and her original inspiration for this block here.)

Picking paints

Testing the three paint colours on my silk against the trim I plan to use

Testing the three paint colours on my silk against the trim I plan to use

I decided to print the horses (or pegasi? they do have wings after all…) on some of the smooth green silk I bought while I was in Helsinki in November. (It’s gorgeous, and was 10Euro/meter!) I sampled a few different paint colours, Rose Copper, Rust, and Gold from the Martha Stewart paint line from Michaels, and decided that I liked the rust and gold best (the rose copper was just too pink on the green). From there I went to the blocks to see how they’d print (versus just how they’d come off a brush…)

Rust on the left, gold on the right - neither was quite right for me.... so I mixed them!

Rust on the left, gold on the right – neither was quite right for me…. so I mixed them!

Once printed, the gold showed up well, but felt a bit too “brassy” to me, but the rust didn’t show up well at all on the green (too similar in tone). So… I mixed the gold and the rust together, which printed WONDERFULLY on the dark green silk.

According to the teacher’s instructions, I added Martha Stewart textile medium to the paint prior to printing. The medium seems similar to the art-store medium I’ve used before, but the thicker paint made a big difference on how successful the printing was. I’ll definitely use the thicker acrylic paints again, rather than the craft-acrylics I used in the past.


I pre-cut the fabric pieces out, and printed them flat (after printing my Ottoman Hirka once the garment was sewn, and comparing that to the Ottoman Entari which was printed flat, printing flat was much easier!) with the rust/gold mix, so that the horses ‘circled around’ the body. I went back in and added details with gold, and a red I had already mixed up from the Ottoman costume.

I realised after I sewed up the garment that two of the panels I reversed so they weren’t facing… OOPS!

Below- a photo of the printed horses before adding in the red details.


Once the printing was done, I also printed up some of the horses on scrap fabric and paper too for other purposes… but then it was time to let the paint dry (24 hours) and then pressed the fabric to set the paints according to the instructions on the textile medium.

Prancing ponies & inspiration

Extant pony fabric from Sotheby's

Extant pony fabric from Sotheby’s

I already blogged about the inspiration for the design and cut of the gown in my previous Byzantine posts, so then it’s just the printing…

The original fabric that the artisan based the block on is on the Sotheby’s website, and is listed as a “silk samit textile fragment, Near East (?), 12th century or earlier” (Photo used for research only). However, a short Pinterest search also came up with a few other horse motifs that are very similar, but from drastically different time frames.

An Antique Persian Sassanid Dynasty Silk Textile, 224-651 A.D. (not pictured) is listed on the website. It features a rhondelle with two facing winged horses inside it. (Pinterest link)

Byzantine ponies from the Met Museum

Byzantine ponies from the Met Museum

Another Sasanian (Byzantine) textile dated 5th–7th century A.D. is in the Met Museum. It is described as a “vertical strip of silk-weave fabric has a repeating pattern of winged horses in pearl roundels. The horses alternate facing left and right, with outstretched wings and knotted tails. ” I’m amazed how this textile is almost identical to the original silk samite. (Pinterest link)

Another textile fragment (not pictured) is from Lessing Images. It’s listed as a 10-11th century artifact, and is described only as a “Fragment of the sudarium of St. Austremoine”. The key words for this textile include the Byzantine empire along with references to Christianity and burials. The horses in this textile have riders, but have the same stylized tail ribbon and joints as the inspiration pony textile. (Pinterest link)

So… the dates on these artifacts..

  • 3-7th century
  • 5-7th century
  • 10-11th century
  • 12th century or earlier

…. so this gives me a WIDE time frame for what I could use this fabric for… but all of them have Byzantine or “eastern” references… which works perfectly for what I have in mind!


So once I had the fabric printed (back in June 2016… ) I put this aside, got distracted by other projects… and then finally came back to this in October 2017. (Too bad this wasn’t for a UFO project!) The construction was pretty much identical to the Byzantine Dalmatica I made. I sewed  the side panels together, sewed the sleeve upper and lower together, sewed the sleeves to the side pieces, and sewed the shoulder seam. Then it was time to attach the trim to the sleeve biceps – so I had to audition a bunch of different trims, and then accent colour silk to highlight the trim.

I even turned to my Facebook page to see what some of my friends and followers thought – it was pretty much a mixed bag – equal votes for the gold, red and purple…

… and then I got distracted once again.

As much as I loved the printing, loved the silk, loved the design, there were just other projects that were taking my attention. I returned back to this in mid-November 2017, and:

  • Pre-washed the red silk that had been a moderate winner in my poll
  • Cut the red silk into strips, and sewed them onto trim for the armbands
  • Sewed up the rest of the gown and pressed it
  • Cut the neckline and stay-stitched it
  • Cut more silk for trimming the sleeves and sewed them on as a reverse facing
  • Sewed trim down on top of the sleeve reverse facing trim
  • Then I let the gown hang overnight to let the hem fall out (if needed)
  • Pressed and machined basted the hem in place

I was fortunate to meet with Mysticus Photography (actually while the hem was still basted, and the neckline wasn’t even finished!) who took some great photos in her studio of me in the gown, along with the red/gold/blue accessories I made for my previous Byzantine gown.

With a deadline of Borealis Yule December 9, 2017 (and the weekend before Yule completely booked with the holiday market where I wanted to sell my corsets) I WANTED to make more coordinating accessories, but was glad I had these to use all the same – since time was not on my side!

Photo by Mysticus Photography - me in my new green Byzantine gown with older accessories

Photo by Mysticus Photography – me in my new green Byzantine gown with older accessories

Last-minute finishing

With only a few days before I’d need to pack up to head to Borealis (mundanely Edmonton) for Yule, I finished off the dress itself.

  • Hand-stitched the hem in place and removed the basting.
  • Made self-bias for the neckline and finished the neckline.

It’s funny how each of these photos above shows a different colour…. the hand-stitching third photo is the closest to the actual colour of the silk.

Next… the accessories…

Auditioning embellishments on the Byzantine collar

Auditioning embellishments on the Byzantine collar

Taking the photos with Mysticus Photography really illustrated to me that the blue and red accessories from my previous Byzantine costume didn’t really seem *right*. The bright blue was too high of a contrast to the green silk, and really pulled the eye away from the silk. After all of the beautiful work block-printing the silk… I wanted IT to be the star of this show… so I looked back to my research and saw that most of the illustrations of these kinds of costumes had ‘golden’ collars and hanging pieces accented with gemstones/etc. I dug into my stash of fabric and pulled out the gold damask I’ve used over and over again before for other projects to make the collar and hanging front piece for this costume.

I’ll highlight both of these in a follow-up post… stay tuned!

Selfie in my new green silk block printed Byzantine gown with golden silk accessories.

Selfie in my new green block printed Byzantine gown with golden silk accessories.

Historical Sew Monthly December 2017

The Challenge: 

December: Go Wild – You can interpret this challenge as an excuse to make something that incorporates animal print, or wild animals in some way, or to simply make something wild and over the top.

I didn’t want to do an animal print (like leopard or zebra print) because it really doesn’t work for any of the eras that I want to work in for the most part… I thought instead I’d do either wild bright colours for more pieces of my Ottoman Turkish costume – or perhaps translate it as fur – like a fur trim or lining on a garment.

Then I remembered my UFO… the pony-printed silk. Well.. ponies are animals, right? And… it’s sort of an “animal print”… so… there we go! Challenge met!

Material: The main green fabric is 100% silk. The red silk is a striped red and gold 100% silk that I only used the red to show. The trim is synthetic, purchased in bulk originally for a different project. The paint is acrylic, for usability, durability, and washability. My friend is exploring period printing pigments – but I’m not at that level of authenticity yet.

Pattern: self-drafted based on rectangular (and trapezoid) construction.

Year: 11th Century Byzantine

Notions: thread, trim, self-fabric bias.

How historically accurate is it? I think the overall look-and-feel is pretty good, based on the research I did back when I originally did a Byzantine costume.  This time however I chose fabric colour that I thought would be beautiful with the block printing, and based my colour choices on it. The fabric content is better than my first version though! Block printing IS a period technique, but in this case the printing is meant to replicate woven fabric. The acrylic paint is totally NOT period, but was chosen for it’s ease of use, washability, and other factors. I feel that the pattern is plausible for the time period, compared with my better understanding of construction techniques from other cultures at the same time period, and quick interpretation of period illustrations.

Hours to complete: … over a year. The block printing I started in June 2016, but then I didn’t begin construction until October 2017. I worked on it in pieces while doing other things… to finish it off for this challenge. I finished off the hem and neckline in early December.

The printing probably represents 15 hours of work alone, while the construction in turn was probably another 2 hours total work, and the hand-finishing another 4. That doesn’t even begin to count all of the time spent ‘auditioning’ trims and paint swatches, etc. It also doesn’t include the accessories.

First worn: I wore this to Borealis Yule, December 9, 2017. (Mundanely Edmonton, Alberta)

Total cost: The main silk fabric was only 10Euro/meter, (so about $15 Canadian/meter) and I used about 4 meters of it for this costume. The red silk and woven trim were in my stash – leftover from my 2015 Italian Renaissance over dress. The red silk was in the neighbourhood of $14/meter on sale, and the trim was around $3/meter I think because I bought it in bulk. The blocks were borrowed, and the paint and medium probably was in the $20 mark, though I didn’t use it all. The brings the total cost of this costume to around $110 Canadian. (Not including things like shipping, etc.)

Photo by Mysticus Photography - me in my new green Byzantine gown with older accessories

Photo by Mysticus Photography – me in my new green gown with older accessories


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Promotional image for my blog post on Dawn's Dress Diary about my second Byzantine gown - block printed with period-informed ponies!I cross-post all of my blog posts to my Facebook page – so if you aren’t a WordPress user, or just don’t want to hit the “subscribe” button, you can follow me on Facebook and see when I load new content. Since I don’t blog daily, I also have a few links, videos, and photos that I load to Facebook as well.

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2 comments on “Pretty printed prancing period Persian ponies

  1. […] my previous post about my new (Pretty printed prancing period Persian ponies) Byzantine gown, I mentioned also making new accessories to wear with it – namely the collar (Superhumeral) […]

  2. […] Palette developed by for my Byzantine costume […]

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