HNW - Stumpwork

Jacquie Samples jacquie-samples at
Wed Sep 2 09:30:30 PDT 1998

Hello Kassandra,
I do have a source which dates the origins of stumpwork to the mid to late
fifteenth century.  I hope the following helps!

I happen to have a book here called "Stumpwork: Historical and Contemporary
Raised Embroidery," by Muriel Best.  (B.T. Batsford: London, 1987. ISBN
0713455721)  In the introduction it states:

"The definition of stumpork given in Chambers' 'Twentieth Century
Dictionary' is 'elaborate raised embroidery of the fifteenth to seventeeth
centuries using various materials, and raised by stumps of wood or pads of
wool.' ... The actual term "stumpwork" is a nineteenth century one used to
'describe the intricate embroidery of the mid-sevwenteenth century."  The
introduction also states the the period of greatest popularity of stumpwork
was 1650-1680.

The origins of stumpwork, according to this book, seems to have been
ecclesiastical work (church vestments, etc.) done on the Continent, where
it was termed "Brodees en relief."  It is described as highly elaborate
work, which included wrapping wrapping metal threads with braids for hair
and beards, etc., and made use of cardboard, leather, and hemp, over which
would be placed silk, satin, and couched metal thread.  The work was done
by professionals working in embroidery studios.  These embroiderers' were
inspired by sculpture, and so the figures on these pieces are very
realisticly modelled.  And the text says that much of this work was done in
the fifteenth century.  

Although there are no early examples of Stumpwork pictured in this book
(that I have found today at any rate) one piece is mentioned that you might
be able to find a photo of in some other source. I'll quote the whole
description for you, it sounds just fabulous:

"A particularly fine example of this rich and intricate work is seen on a
Czech chasuble originally made for Brno Cathedral in 1487.  The ground
fabric is violet-coloured satin on which are applied the figures of the
Virgin Mary and St. Venceslas surrounded by angels. All the ornamentation,
the rich gowns of the figures and the bands of inscriptions in the angels'
hands, give the impression of the Gothic style. The chasuble is now in the
Museum of Decorative Arts in Brno."

If you find out any more about any of this, please let me know.  I'll try
to find out if there are any publications from that museum which might
include a photo of teh above chasuble.

Jacquie Samples
jacquie-samples at

At 10:44 AM 9/2/98 +0000, Kassandra wrote:
>I'm trying to find some sources for stumpwork for a friend in 
>Calontir. Most sources rush to say it isn't period, but there  are 
>several brief mentions of it in Tudor times plus it seems that if you 
>look for it , you find it under other names in Germany and so forth. 
>She found it listed as "raised" needlework in Germany going back to 
>the 14th cent, but the book was in German and neither of us read the 
>There was one English source showing it dating in the 1470s, 
>"Textiles 5000 Years" .
>I'm looking for other sources as I'm now bitten by the same bug that 
>got her.
>Kassandra NickKraken


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