HNW - Irish embroidery in the 1500's???

Carolyn Kayta Barrows kayta at
Tue Sep 14 19:40:00 PDT 1999

I am working at a Ren. Faire, and all the Irish there have 'Celtic
knotwork' embroidery on their costumes.  They mostly use chain stitch to
outline and satin stitch to fill, and work in cotton embroidery floss.  The
designs are straight out of places like the Book of Kells (they know this),
but nothing 'reads' Irish like knotwork, to the modern American.  They are
doing it for theatrical reasons, so our visitors/customers know they're

Does anyone know what stitches and patterns the Irish were really using in
the mid- to late-1500's?  Are there any surviving examples of Irish
embroidery from this period?  Books about it?  Did the Irish even have the
leisure time to embroider?  The way they are doing this doesn't seem very
'period' (certainly not in cotton), so the pureist in me just had to ask
what the Irish were really doing.

BTW, I am using the fact that the Irish at Faire are doing this as an
excuse to do some for myself to wear to Faire.  It looks really great, and
I suspect this is the real reason it is being done.  Anyway, that's why I
will be doing it. 

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