Icelandic National Costume - Baldýring 2 - embroidery, using silk Part 2

I came across some written instructions for making the traditional embroidery "Baldýring" the other day.  It's from a course like the one that I took, except we didn't get a handout.  I got permission to copy it from the woman who had it and it's been really helpful to put into words the second half of this tutorial.  I have also updated the first post, where appropriate.

Unfortunately there wasn't any description of how to make the shapes, so I will attempt to describe that.

First you need to draw the individual shapes so that they can be cut out.

Use a fine line Sharpie and thick mylar to trace each shape once.

From this drawing all the shapes will be made, so be careful to trace accurately from the original pattern, but only once for each shape, even if the shape is repeated several times.

Cut out all the shapes, taking care to follow the lines carefully.  Nail scissors with a pointed end, preferable curved, work best.

Use old fashioned carbon paper to copy the shapes onto parchment, or if you can't find that, acid free cardboard. I used a thick blunt needle to trace, but an old dried out ballpoint pen works fine.

This time you need to make the correct number of shapes for each border. In my case, for example, I made 6 leaves for each border, 12 in total. Be careful to use a steady hand. You want all the shapes to be the same dimension, as much as possible.

It makes sense to keep the shapes for each side separate. It can also be good to label each one with either L for left and R for right. And often the shapes are given numbers. Just make sure you can tell them apart somehow.

Now the shapes need to be slightly padded.  We were told to use vlieseline interfacing, which I have to say, bothered me a little.  I think that the older method of doing this, is to use felt.  And I'm sure that in the olden days it was felted Icelandic wool.

But after thinking about this for quite some time, I decided to just go with the flow and use the vlieseline.  It is very important to use acid free material, as the silk will just be eaten away by acidic material in a few years.

Be careful when you attach the padding to keep the padding on the right side so that the shapes are mirrored for either side.

I used rabbit skin glue to attach the shapes to the padding.  After the glue is dry, you need to trim the padding and file the edges of the shapes.  An inexpensive diamond nail file works a treat.

You need to make sure that the same shape on each side are the same, so work on the left and right  shapes at the same time. Match them up (mirror them) and file them to the same size and shape.

Lastly file the padded side at the edges to make them slightly rounded.

The next step is to sew the shapes down onto the velvet.  This is done with black thread, a needle nr. 9-10.

The shapes need to be sewn very tightly to the velvet. In the photo the sewing is too loose.

There is a pattern as to how best to sew each shape down.  The points are sewn with a sharp V, but the rounded shapes need several straight lines, as shown.

Be aware that the rounded shapes are much harder to do evenly in the final embroidery than the pointed shapes.  Take that into consideration when you choose your pattern.

Althought the photo is out of focus I wanted to show how even the embroidery can be when an expert does it.

This was sewn by our teacher as an example, but she did tell us that if we look closely at many of the old costumes in museums, we will notice that not everyone was good at this.  That made me feel a whole lot better.

It is usual to use three tones of the same colour for each leaf.  It gives life to the embroidery and is very characteristic of silk baldýring.  In order to cover the bottom of three leaved shapes, small sequins were used, sewn on with small metalic spirals.

The silk is sewn with a black thread so that the silk is only on the surface. This is done by securing the silk on the back and sticking a needle treaded with the silk through to the front. Always starting from a point in the shape. Remove the needle from the silk tread and leave it hanging, moving the silk from side to side as you sew the silk thread tightly down with regular black thread.

Once the middle of the form has been reached, secure the the end on the back and start from the opposite point. Remember to change colours as needed. There are usually 3 tones of the same colour in each shape.

Here is a short video that may be helpful to understand how this in done.

The silk tread is held across the shape and sewn down with a back tread on the opposite side. Always stick the needle up close to the shape, almost slightly under it and at a slight angle outwards and then down over the silk on the same side. Be careful to make the silk tread taught while tightening the lack thread.

When sticking the needle down, over the silk tread to fasten it, point is inwards (under the shape) and tighten and bring the needle (with the black tread) back up on the other side. Bring the silk thread over the shape again and sew down as before.


  1. What a great post and it looks like such detailed work. It's so pretty.

  2. Takk fyrir þetta/ thank you =)


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