PAINTING By Mistress Alyna Wolfstan
SILK BANNER PAINTING
By Mistress Alyna Wolfstan
Table of Contents
1. History of Flags and Banners Page 2
2. Types of Flags and Banners Page 4
3. SCA Applications Page 6
4. Materials Checklist Page 7
5. Silk Painting Steps
Heat (Iron) Set Page 8
Steam Set Page 12
6. Hints & Tips Page 14
7. Glossary Page 17
8. Resources Page 18
9. Credits Page 20
1. History of Flags and Banners and Their Construction
Although the use of heraldry (and heraldic flags) did not come into common use until the late 12th Century, there is some documentation of the use of flags as early as the 9th Century. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the supposed capture of a Raven Flag of the Danish Vikings during battle in AD 878. The flag was thought to have been used to be a sign of the outcome of battle. The raven was fluttering before victory and drooping before defeat.
The Oriflamme, is one of the earliest mentioned flags in medieval times. It was the battle standard of the King of France and was first used in 1124 by Luis VI. It was last flown in the battle at Agincourt in 1415. When the Oriflamme was displayed on the battlefield it indicated that no quarter (mercy) was to be given, and hence it was called the oriflamme of death. It was described in 1225 as a red silk gonfannon with green fringe or tassels, flown from a lance. It was kept in the abbey of St. Denis, north of Paris and was destroyed in the French Revolution. In the 15th Century, the fleur-de-lis on the white flag became the new royal standard replacing the Oriflamme on the battle field.
The wax resist technique for decorating silk has been traced back to the 2nd Century in India. Tacky tree sap, thickened honey, starch, or wax was used. The Crusades (around 12th Century) brought silk to Western Europe and in particular Italy where new manufacturing techniques were developed and production boomed. The Industrial revolution in the 18th century where mechanization of the textile industry made production of silk cheaper meant that silk became widely available worldwide and was at its most popular. The method of batik on silk, using wax as a resist, was developed and family members of the Russian Tzar, Nicholas II brought the art to France where the Serti technique was introduced in the 20th Century. In the Serti technique you enclose a design with a non-dyeing inhibitor. The French verb Serti, translates to set, fix, secure. Basically, the substance penetrates the fibers, sealing them to prevent the flow of dye. The dye spreads up to the “fence” and the fence blocks its movement further.
Typically, in period, a banner was only painted if the painting guilds needed to construct a quick-turn around, one-time use banner. Period banners were mostly in embroidery, appliqué, and tapestry. The back of a heraldic banner is a mirror image of the front.
From The Craftsman's Handbook "Ill Libro dell' Arte" by Cennino d'Andrea Cennini translated by V. Thompson, Jr.
X.clxv: If you have to do palls or other jobs on silk, first spread them out on a stretcher as I taught you for the cloth. And, according to what the ground is, take chaboni (vine charcoal), either black or white. Do your drawing, and fix it either with ink or with tempered color; and if the same scene or figure has to be executed on both sides, put the stretcher in the sun with the drawing turned toward the sun, so that it shines through it. Stand on the reverse side. With your tempered color, with your fine minever brush, go over the shadow which you see made by the drawing. If you have to draw at night, take a large lamp on the side toward your design, and a small lamp on the side which you are drawing, this, on the right side; thus there might be a lighted taper on the side which is drawn on, and a candle on the side which you are drawing, if there is no sun. And if you have to draw by day, contrive to have light from two windows on the side with the drawing, and have the light from one little window shine on what you have to draw.
Then size with the usual size wherever you have to paint or gild; and mix a little white of egg with this size, say one white of egg to four goblets or glasses of size. And when you have got it sized, if you want to lay any diadem or ground in burnished gold, to bring you great honor and reputation, take gesso sottile and a little Armenian bottle, ground very find together, and a little bit of sugar. Then with the usual size and a very little white of egg, mixed with a small amount of white lead, you put on two coats of it thinly wherever you wish to gild. Then apply your bole just as you apply it on panel. Then lay your gold with clear water, mixing with it a little of the tempera for the bole; and burnish it over a good smooth slab, or a good sound, smooth board. And stamp and punch it likewise over this board.
Furthermore, you may paint any subject in the usual way, tempering the colors with yolk of egg, laying the colors in six or eight times, or ten, out of regard for the varnishing; and then you may gild the diadems or grounds with oil mordants; and the embellishments with garlic mordents, varnishing afterward, but preferable with oil mordants. And let this serve for ensigns, banners and all.
2. Types of Flags and Banners
Flag: From the Anglo-Saxon, fleogan = to fly, so called from their manner of flying or fluttering in the wind.
A banner is a specific type of flag – a square or rectangular used typically to display heraldic arms.
All banners are flags, but not all flags are banners. For the sake of this class, I will use the term “banner” as that is what we are most accustomed to in the SCA.
Gonfalon (or Gonfannon)
The Gonfalon is a square or rectangular flag flown from a horizontal bar, usually supported by a vertical upright. Arms are displayed the full-length in the orientation of the flag. The Gonfannon has tongues or tails. The arms are displayed on the non-tailed portion. Mostly used for ceremonies and processions.
From the Latin, penna = a wing, or a feather; a small flag either single-pointed or swallow- tailed. Originally a symbol of a knight, usually depicting a badge or some simple armorial motif. Often edged in gold or colored fringed. A Guidon is an enlarged version of the Pennon. It is flown from the head of a spear or lance that is held “at charge” that is, horizontally. Any heraldry or artwork displayed on a pennon is oriented to be viewed in the “at charge” position. It indicates the physical presence of the person whose arms are displayed on it.
Closest to what we think of as a modern "flag", the medieval banner was more vertical in shape. Typically, the proportions were approx. 2 units horizontally to 3 vertically. It might also include multiple tongues from the fly or a long tongue from the top edge (in which case it's called a "schwenkle"). In medieval times, banners were typically used by Barons, Counts, Dukes and Kings as a symbol of their feudal rights and were made of stiff material to prevent flapping. The dexter side of the charge is always next to the staff.
The standard was the rallying point for troops in battle. As such, it indicated not the presence of the physical person leading troops, but the office of the leader. Medievally, they were about 8 feet long. There are definite rules as to what was displayed on a standard. In the hoist was the device of the country or overall allegiance of the owner. The remainder of the flag background displayed the owner's livery colors, upon which were his principal badges and "motto bends" (diagonal stripes bearing the motto). The standard was also frequently fringed along its entire edge in alternating segments of the livery colors. 'Standard' was used as a generic term to indicate any livery flag. It varied in size by the rank of the owner.
Pennoncelle or Streamer
A long tapering flag, the nautical equivalent of the standard, used to identify the allegiance of troops on board a warship. Unlike the standard, it had no motto or fringe, but consisted of a background of the livery colors and was charged with badges.
3. SCA Applications
In medieval times, flags with specific shapes or sizes were reserved to be used only by certain people (i.e. knights). Not the case in the SCA. As a matter of a fact, banner size has sparked some friendly competition. “Hey, did you notice that my banner is bigger than yours” or “Hey, what’s that? My banner is flying 2 inches higher than yours??”
Banners add so much to the pageantry of our encampments, tournament list fields, and even war fields with their splashes of color and graceful flutter. Banners made of silk will fly with just the slightest breeze.
Often, banners displaying our personal arms are used in ceremonies, such as peer elevations and crown tournament processions. The Gonfalon is perfect for this use.
If the monarchs are present at an event, whether indoors or outdoors, you can bet a banner depicting the arms of the royalty will be displayed.
I’m pretty sure that anyone who has been to an SCA camping event has looked for their friend’s banner flying above the pavilions to locate their camp.
We work hard at researching, designing, and registering our arms. What better way to proudly display them than to fly a beautifully painted silk banner for all to see?
4. Materials Checklist (See Hints & Tips section for my favorites for some of these items)
__ Silk (Habotai 8mm is good for banners) at least 1” larger than finished project and an
additional 3-5” extra on pole side – Measure AFTER washing
__ Chosen design boldly drawn on paper for transfer to silk
__ Dyes -- Heat (iron) set or steam set
__ Frame that is at least 1” larger in both directions than your finished project
__ Resist (clear or colored)
__Resist applicator bottle and tips
__ Water for cleaning brushes
__ Iron / Ironing Board
__ Press cloth
__ Unprinted newsprint paper or white cotton fabric
__ Silk tacks
__ Synthrapol or equivalent detergent
__ Eye droppers
__ Paper towels
__ Dye/paint palette
__Steamer (if using steam set method)
5. Silk Painting Steps – Heat (Iron) Set Method
15. Wash the silk in one capful of Synthrapol or equivalent detergent and very warm water. Gently agitate the banner in the water for a few minutes. Then, with only your fingers, rub the areas that have clear resist on them. The water will have dye in it, but don't worry. The Synthrapol encapsulates the dye particles to keep them from redepositing on the fabric. Drain water from the sink and rinse piece under running warm water until water runs clear.
Silk Painting Steps – Steam Set Method
17. Wash the silk in one capful of Synthrapol or equivalent detergent and very warm water. Gently agitate the banner in the water for a few minutes. Then, with only your fingers, rub the areas that have clear resist on them. The water will have dye in it, but don't worry. The Synthrapol encapsulates the dye particles to keep them from redepositing on the fabric. Drain water from the sink and rinse piece under running warm water until water runs clear.
6. Hints & Tips
When transferring your design to the silk, be sure the silk is tight so it doesn’t wiggle as you are drawing, but not too tight that it is stretched. Your straight lines will not be straight when you untape the silk. I’ve had to toss a large chunk of silk after spending a couple hours transferring the design because of this very problem.
1x2s work great for your frames. Inexpensive, not heavy and silk tacks go in nicely.
When you are not using your resist bottle, keep a piece of thin wire in the tip. This prevents the resist from drying in the tip and clogging it. Beading wire is perfect.
To check for breaks in your resist lines, hold your project up to the light at an angle and check them from the back. I’ve read that you can apply water with a clean brush as if it was dye to see if any runs through a break. It sounded like a brilliant idea but I tried it and got extremely bored fast and quit! It would probably work on a small project.
Dye is thin and splashes easily. Use the correct size brush for the area.
Have dedicated brushes that you only use for black and yellow.
Apply lighter colors before darker colors. If you goof, it’s easier to apply a darker dye over a lighter one than the other way around.
If the dye leaks through a resist line, use a Q-tip to absorb the dye and add water to the spot to dilute the dye as much as possible. If the dye is dark, be aware that it will rarely come out but you can minimize its appearance if you catch it quickly enough. Once you correct a mistake, you have to wait until that spot is completely dry before you paint over it. Correct gaps in resist if necessary before painting.
You must let the color dry thoroughly on the silk. The surface dries quickly (in a few minutes), but it takes at least 24 hours for the dye to set throughout the fabric. Keep the silk stretched the entire drying time for best results. Keep it away from water during the drying. Drops of water will stain.
When using the heat set method, you can toss the piece into the dryer after iron-setting the paint for additional setting.
You can “seal” the edges of your finished project with Fray Check (or equivalent), but I prefer hemming them. If you choose to hem, be sure to allow enough allowance.
If steam setting, be sure there are no wrinkles in your design as you roll it in newsprint. Steaming can set them in permanently.
Don’t paint over your clear resist lines. When you wash the resist out, the dye will remain and you won’t have a break between colors.
Lay a board (2x4) across your project as you resist/paint to anchor your hands/arms.
Mix colors to create your own shades. Prepare a small frame with a scrap of silk and resist a grid. Paint each square as you adjust your ratios. The picture below shows that when I was trying to make a forest green, I started with 6 parts green and added black in ½ part increments until I got the shade I was happy with. I then mixed the color using that formula and marked the bottle so that I can mix the same color in the future. I was making “An Tir yellow” in the squares above the green by experimenting with different ratios of yellow and apricot. The picture on the right shows the difference between mixing 6 parts yellow with 1 part apricot versus 1 part yellow to 6 parts apricot.
My favorites…please note that I’m not promoting these items, merely sharing which ones work best for me…
- Silk – 8mm weight
- Paints/Dyes – Dyna-Flow is good if you want to heat (iron) set; I use Jacquard Green Label dyes (steam set). Steam set dyes will give you brighter colors.
- Brushes – Loew Cornell (white handles) in all sizes. I’ve never had one drip!
- Resist – Clear - Jacquard Clear Water Based Resist. It is odorless, non-toxic, and washes out with warm water, even after steaming. Black (or other colors) - Jacquard Permanent Metallic Water-Based Resists are available in Black and 7 colors, these resists hold fine, crisp lines that do not spread. They emit no fumes and are completely permanent and can be steamed, washed, or dry-cleaned.
- Applicator bottles/tips - Professional Metal Tip Gutta Applicators with tips #4, #6, #8, #10 (thin to thick). I find myself using #6 routinely.
- Detergent – Dharma Professional Textile Detergent. It’s less expensive than Synthrapol, but works just as well.
Device – Your arms/registered heraldry that is used to indicate that you are physically present. Not a possession marker.
Ensign – Example: the An Tir Populace Badge. Can be used to begin a standard or for indicating that a member of An Tir is present.
Badge – Your personal/household/kingdom emblem that is placed to show ownership of items, locations, war units (does not indicate you are physically present).
Livery Colors - Colors representing your war unit, household, group, or kingdom affiliation (rarely were they the same colors as the kingdom device in period).
Fly – The end of the banner furthest from the pole/staff.
Hoist – The part of the banner closest to the pole/staff.
mm referring to silk (i.e. 8mm) - The abbreviation "mm" stands for momme (rhymes with tummy) and is a Japanese measure of fabric weight. 1mm = 3.62 grams per square yard, so an 8mm fabric weighs 29 grams (1 oz) per square yard. The smaller the "mm" the lighter the fabric.
Resist – Water-based substance used to prevent dye from spreading. Clear easily washes out with water. Black and other colors remain on the fabric.
Gutta – A solvent-based substance made from latex used to prevent dye from spreading. Must be dry-cleaned to remove.
Sources for silk and supplies:
Dharma Trading Co. www.dharmatrading.com (800) 542-5227
Banner History and Related Topics:
Medieval Pavilion Resources: https://www.currentmiddleages.org/tents/banners.html
Compleat Anachronist, Issue #50 Armorial Display – Historical forms of armorial display and its use in the SCA: http://www.sca.org/ca/issues.html
Definitions and examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraldic_flag
Instructions for building your own steamer, courtesy of Dharma Trading
Here's a quick and easy method for steaming a small quantity of silk (2 to 4 scarves or under 2 yards of fabric). Building your own steamer is somewhat time consuming but not difficult. The object is to subject the dyed fabric to a steam filled environment for a specific period of time without water drops landing on the fabric.
1.On a work surface lay 2-3 layers of clean, unprinted newsprint. Next, lay your dry, dyed silk on the paper with 2" allowance all around. If placing scarves side by side be sure they don't touch each other (at lease 2" apart). Then place 2-3 more sheets of paper on top of that. Start rolling into a tube. Be sure to smooth out any wrinkles as you roll (this is very important, or you may unwittingly be steaming wrinkles permanently into your silk!). You can try using a small diameter pole (broom handle) to facilitate rolling into a neat, tight roll. When completely rolled, tape everywhere you think it could come unrolled. Remove pole. Flatten the roll a bit, tuck in the opening nearest you and seal with tape, and then roll like a cinnamon roll, into a coil. Tuck in the other end and seal with tape and then secure the coil with tape or tie gently with string. The final flat roll must be small enough to fit into the pot, on top of the stand you will make below.
2.In a large pot (a canning pot is ideal), put about 2 inches of water or whatever mixture the instructions for the dye you have used call for. (For example Tinfix requires 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water).
3.To keep the fabric out of the water make a stand using a tin can with both ends removed and an aluminum pie pan or wire rack on top. On top of the pie pan place a dish towel or several layers of newsprint cut into circles to fit. This is to absorb moisture and avoid a puddle. The aim with all of this is to set up a situation where your wrapped silk can be steamed but at no time get wet!
4.After placing on the stand, Cover the wrapped coil with 4-5 more layers of newsprint circles. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the coil and lightly crimp it around the edges of the pie pan. The foil will protect your piece from any condensation that may collect on the inside of the lid.
5.To pad the inside of the lid, cut a stack (3/8-1/2") of lid-size circles from newspaper. Place the paper on a thick cotton towel and the lid on top of that. Gather up the sides of the towel and fasten securely over the top of the lid with clothes pin or safety pins. Place the towel-covered lid on the pot making sure that no part of the towel is hanging down in danger of being near the flame or heat from the burner. Weight the top of the lid with something heavy to build pressure inside. (Careful this is not intended to be a bomb. The steam needs to escape or it will explode. A brick or two or an upside-down heavy pot will do just fine). Stay near the pot during the steaming process so you can ensure that all is safe!
6.Begin heating the water to a boil, then turn heat down to an even, constant simmer. The amount of time needed to steam-fix the dye varies depending on the type and amount of dye used, the weight of the fabric, and the amount of yardage. This can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. Follow the dye manufacturer's suggestions. Try to have enough water so that you don't need to add any along the way, but if it is necessary, do so with boiling water so you don't lose as much time and temperature.
7.After steaming, remove and unwrap the roll carefully—it will be hot to the touch. Hang fabrics so that the fabrics don't touch each other, wait 24 hours, then wash in synthrapol. Blot with a clean towel, and iron dry with a cool iron.
· Wrinkles will set when steamed. (Actually that is how designer crinkle-silk is made.) So be careful to keep your silk smooth and flat while you roll it.
· Condensation in the steamer creates drips of water that can water spot your work if you don't carefully protect it.
I want to give credit where credit is due as I’ve used some drawings, descriptions and photos I found while researching banners. They were just too good not to use!
Banner drawings and descriptions courtesy of A Cursory Glance at Medieval Flags and Banners.
I found the third picture in the top row on page 6 online and am unable to determine the owner. Nonetheless, I appreciate them making the photo available publicly.
If you have questions or would like a copy of this class emailed, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com