My technique was all experimentation based on the techniques and tools for tooling leather. It seemed to work pretty well for me. This is not something that will work for embossing velvet (but that can be done with a shape that won’t melt and a high-temp steam iron). Once your fabric is stamped it will not be washable or able to be ironed, so be careful where you put your hard work
Smooth tightly-woven fabric, preferably silk satin, silk taffeta, or high-quality, low-slub dupioni. Your fabric must be of a heavier weight and stiffness to hold the stamping, i.e. silk satin should be duchesse not charmeuse.
Base to absorb impact: wood plank, fiberboard, etc. I recommend doing this on concrete or your floor rather than a table (unless your table is so sturdy that it won’t absorb too much impact or be damaged from the hammering).
Create your design on paper. Make sure to account for the size of your available tools and type of fabric. My design had to be scaled up because the original size pinks did not show on dupioni.
Transfer the design to one piece of the fabric. I used the lightest weight iron-on interfacing, but if you don’t want to use anything so un-period you can put your design on tissue and work through that.
Baste all layers together with your design on top, making sure right-sides are together to consistently mirror the pattern on all your pieces. I had four pieces for sleeve linings, but you may have two sides of a bodice or whatever. Just make sure you are meticulous about lining up the edges of your pieces so the design is placed properly on all layers.
Be sure you have a base behind your work that will spare your table AND not dull your tools. I used a piece of thick saddle leather with a piece of fiber board behind it.
Begin using the hole punch to work lines in your design (i.e. 16c pinked design), or a scallop punch to shape the raw edges (i.e. 18c flounces). You will be hitting the punch with the mallet hard enough to cut through all layers and into the scrap leather to make clean cuts. Chisels and punches work better through more than one layer of fabric and this is a huge time-saver. Be warned, though, one mistake will be on all your layers if you blow it! Trust me on this.
I also used a template for my straight lines that was another huge time-saver and kept my lines straight and evenly spaced without having to mark each dot on my pattern. Now you should have the framework for your stamping accents.!
Undo the basting and separate your pieces back to individual layers.
Spray the tooling leather backing piece to moisten it so it takes the impression. This is important. Because I did not use heat in making the impression, the fibers are forced around the stamp by pressure alone. The wetting of the leather gives the backing enough movement to get a clear impression in the fabric.
Place your fabric on the tooling leather and fiber board, spray the spot you will be stamping so it is moist but not soaked, carefully place your stamping tool and strike it with the hammer 3-4 times hard enough to make a firm impression in the scrap leather underneath it. Be sure to test this on each new fabric to find the right amount of pressure to leave a good mark without damaging/cutting the fibers.
Remember that you cannot get stampings wet or iron them if you want them to stay put!
Notes on Sources and Period Correctness
I searched the internet extensively and through all of my costuming resource books and could find nothing on how to do this. I found several examples of pinked/slashed/stamped fabrics from the 16c, but no references to techniques. The Tudor Tailor book by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies has pictures of their reproduction tools and samples of their work, but again, no description of how they did it.
Ninya was very gracious in chatting with me about it and we have a few differences in approach. For using punches or chisels that will cut through the fabric, she uses a piece of lead flashing to protect the table and not dull the chisels. For stamping, she uses a heated tool and wool wadding as a backing. The heat is what sets the impression against the wool backing, rather than the pressure from my method.
She uses reproduction tools made by Greenman Forge (no longer in business).
I think our results are similar, but only time will tell which lasts longer. I found the pressure results satisfactory for my needs, but I noticed that the heat and pressure of my thumb on a stamping when stitching it into the sleeve was enough to lessen the impression. I must be careful of that.
I hope this was helpful to you – good luck! 🙂
I had the pleasure of attending the Tudor Tailor lecture and workshops in Fullerton, CA. Ninya and I had emailed back and forth years ago about this and it was really fun to get to play with her tools and try her process. Her stamps are similar to mine, but since she uses a heat instead of pressure process, they had wooden handles on them for use and safety. She places hers on a hot plate (on that day, set to 350 degrees) or a skillet on the gas stove at home, LOL!
The tools are hot so this will not work on melty fabrics. Place your silk or velvet on a piece of cotton batting folded 2 or more layers thick to get an impressionable surface. When the tool is hot, press it into your fabric firmly for 3-5 seconds. You should be able to make 3-4 impressions before the tool is too cool. In the case of some more stubborn fabrics (stiffer or longer pile velvets, or very tightly woven satins) you may want to dampen your stamping area first to get a good impressions. Test, test, test before working on your actual garment!
A last note on longevity for both methods. Ninya says the heat changes the fibers intrinsically so you should be able to wear your work and clean it without losing the impressions. The pressure method also changes the fibers and has lasted a long time. My first stampings were in 2004 and they still look as sharp as the more recent pieces in 2013, but I have not gotten them wet at all.