Sunday, 12 October 2014

With thanks to Catherine Raymond

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge 19 is HSF inspiration.  It's an excellent theme, but it was very hard for me to decide what to do because I was spoiled for choice.  There are so many HSF people making so many awesome things.

In the end I took my inspiration from blogger and HSF participant Catherine Raymond.  Catherine has made some stunning projects for this year's HSF, and in this case I'm thinking particularly of her Roman earrings for Challenge 7 and the Egyptian bag tunic she made for Challenge 9.

I decided to try making jewellery, and since I've never made anything Egyptian before I thought this would be a great opportunity to try something Egyptian.  I made a beaded headband of the type that was popular in New Kingdom Egypt.  Mine is based on an 18th Dynasty tomb painting showing a lady named Tjepu.

I couldn't find any existing examples of this type of headband, so I had to work out a plausible way to reconstruct it based on examples of ancient Egyptian beadwork that do survive.  Yes, there is an ancient Egyptian headband in the Petrie Museum, but it is a completely different style to Lady Tjepu's band and is constructed differently.  So, instead, I looked at other beaded items like this dress from Qau to see how the beading might have been done.

The Petrie Museum has an excellent handout titled Textiles in the Petrie Museum, available here, with instructions for making a number of ancient Egyptian garments including the beaded dress.  It's done with peyote stitch.  And how do I know about Textiles in the Petrie Museum?  Well, that's thanks once again to Catherine Raymond, who posted the link on her blog a while back.

Armed with this knowledge I used peyote stitch and size 8 seed beads to make my headband, and can confirm that the peyote stitch worked well for me.  I found I needed to use a combination of one- and two-drop peyote stitch to get the pattern looking right.  I've seen this combination on ancient Egyptian beadwork, so I'm confident it is an acceptable period method.

My version of Lady Tjepu's headband ties around the head with a plied linen cord.  This is an educated guess on my part since I couldn't track down any indication of how these headbands were attached.  Plied cords are easy to make and were extremely common in ancient Egypt, where they were used for all kinds of purposes.  The cord was easy to stitch unobtrusively to the top of the headband, using the ends of the tread I used to stitch the beads.

The Challenge: HSF Inspiration

Fabric: None.

Pattern: I drafted it myself based on the painting of Lady Tjepu.

Year: 1390 to 1353 BCE.

Notions: Glass beads and linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?  The beads are plausible colours and a plausible size, but I imagine they are probably a different chemical composition to ancient Egyptian glass.  I'd give this one 9/10, because it is as good as it's going to get with modern materials.

Hours to complete: About 6 hours.

First worn: To check the size.

Total cost: $16.


  1. Wow. Your headband looks great, and so much like Lady Tjepu's portrait! I'm humbled, and amazed, that you were inspired to do it by my posts, since I feel that you're a much better craftsperson than I am. Thanks!

  2. Your blog always inspires me. I love reading your posts and I always learn something cool. And really, I don’t think “better craftsperson” is correct. You make fantastic stuff.