Fleur-de-lis and swords

Baron Master Antonio di Rienzo Ruspoli was elevated to the Order of Defense at Plague Wars End Game XXXIII (May 2021).   Some months prior to this event, he had been pleased to accept my offer to make a set of garters, incorporating fleur-de-lis and the MOD device.


Antonio liked the idea of the garters having fleur-de-lis round the calf section, with a plain section dangling down, and finishing with the 3-sword motif about a cm above the metal tip.  This was the same concept I used before for a gift for another MoD.

(1) Measurements for each garter: garter-weaving-mockup-01

  1. ~3cm minimum plain doubleface, for turn under, hemming and attaching buckle. 
  2. calf section with fleur-de-lis (calf circumference of boot).  
  3. ~2-3cm ‘ease’, for knot near buckle. 
  4. ‘dangling section’, starting in plain and ending with the 3-sword motif (about 20cm).
  5. ~2-3cm lead-in plain doubleface, for turn under, hemming and attaching tip.

(2) Rough idea of what one of the  finished garters should look like

Research and testing

Given Antonio’s persona, I searched for Italian heraldry that displayed fleur-de-lis, and found a particular device that was dated between 1550 to 1555. 

‘Insignia pontificum Romanorum et cardinalium II. Insignia ab Urbano VI ad Robertum de Nobilibus cardinalem – BSB Cod.icon. 267’, Image 13 of 812 | MDZ (digitale-sammlungen.de) used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, / detail from the original.

Rough translation of first bit: Image 13 (page 3r) of 812, from volume 2 of ‘Devices of Roman Pontifs and Cardinals. Devices from Urbano the 6th to the noble cardinal Robert – BSB Cod.icon. 267

After checking with Antonio that it was ok, I then drafted up a couple of patterns inspired by it.

Two fleur-de-lis draft patterns with differently proportioned ‘tails’ and petals.

The first one I created, (above left), had the wrong proportions, but is certainly a valid representation of fleur-de-lis from other armorials.

The second one (above right) was better, with the ‘tail’ section taking up less space in the motif, making it closer to the source inspiration. To be even truer to the shape of the original, the petals should be slightly taller; but that would need more cards, making the band too wide, so I decided to compromise.

On to test weaving!

3 tablet woven fleur-de-lis, in gold on a bright red background

From right to left:

  • The first motif is the smallest in length, because I beat the weft in quite vigorously. I turned border cards on all rows.
  • For the second attempt, (central motif above), I relaxed how I beat the weft, and turned border cards on alternate rows. The motif was slight longer than the first.
  • For the third motif, (left, above) I just relaxed how I beat the weft, and turned the border cards on all rows. The motif was the longest of the three (by a couple of mm), and the easiest to work. This is how I decided to work for the main band.

Generally speaking, the more compact the motif is, the pointier the central petal is.

I already had a pattern with three rapiers crossed, so time to work the main band.

Weaving the garters

Each of the two motifs takes 48 cards total, so to achieve a suitable width, I used size 80 crochet cotton for the warp, in colours that reflected those of Antonio’s heraldry (arms).  I chose thread that would be colourfast when washed, and stand up to wear and tear well.  I used double strand standard sewing thread for weft.

I used a warp weighted setup this time, even with the thinner threads, because it’s better for my posture.  I made both garters as a single band to conserve warp. The warp was about 360cm long, to allow for up to 50% take-up plus wastage. I also allowed enough extra for one restart in the event of any major mistakes, and for a sample for my collection.  

The warp tension was a challenge at times. Despite each card being identically weighted, there was a variation in warp tension across the band, which lead to striations on the finished piece.  I’m reasonably certain that the main issue was with individual warp threads being slightly too loose. Luckily, wet finishing and pressing dealt with most of the defects . 

I worked the first garter from tip to buckle (E to A in diagram 1), then marked the midpoint of the band with two parallel horizontal stripes. I continued onto the second garter working from buckle to tip (A to E).   I turned the border cards on every row, because turning them on alternate rows doesn’t shorten the motif by much if any at all.

The fleur-de-lis were 26-29mm in length, usually closest to 28mm.  The band was 23-25mm wide.


Once I’d taken the band off the cards, I wove in weft ends and trimmed the excess warp.  I then steam pressed the band gently to even out minor irregularities.  And finally, I wrapped it and sent it on its way to Antonio.  


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