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

Carolyn Kayta Barrows kayta at
Tue Sep 14 21:55:42 PDT 1999

>> Chain stitch doesn't seem to have been the outline
>> stitch of preference at
>> this time, for English embroiderers anyway.

>Out of curiousity, what was?

(Where's my copy of Digby when I need it?)  Mostly, Elizabethans seem to
have done counted thread work, using some counted thread stitch for
outlines, and what we call blackwork, outlined in several stitches more
complicated than our usual chain stitch.

* * *

In the absence of Digby, I looked in my two blackwork books, and was in for
a surprise - chain stitch!  

The Geddes/McNeil book mentions chain stitch among the 7 or so "other"
outline stitches for blackwork.  They don't say which stitch was preferred
as an outline stitch among Elizabethan/Jacobean blackworkers, but they list
backstitch and double running stitch first.  They concentrate mostly on
modern blackwork.

The Gostelow book mentions 9 basic stitches found in Elizabethan/Jacobean
blackwork, among them ordinary chain stitch (these are listed
alphabetically, not by usage).  She also mentions variations of chain
stitch, some of which are among the complicated stitches I was referring to
above.  She cites chain stitch's versatility as an outline stitch, but
doesn't say what the preferred outline stitch of Elizabethan/Jacobean
blackworkers was.  She has many illustrations of period work, many of which
don't have any chain stitch at all.

So I am no longer sure what the preferred outline stitch of
Elizabethan/Jacobean blackworkers was.  Demonstrably, some preferred chain
stitch, while others didn't.  There seem to have been several stitches used.

Meanwhile, back at Faire, what the local Irish are doing still leaves a
funny taste in my mouth.  It doesn't 'look and feel' quite period to me.
Maybe it's their use of cotton embroidery floss (which, come to think of
it, reminds me of a Hippie's blue jeans).  Maybe it's their choice of
brighter colours, tho they tell me the Irish at the time were masters of
dyer's art.  But I'd still like to see what period Irish were really doing
at this time.

I'm still going to make myself one of these, if only because I can.  I have
been happily crawling thru every knotwork book I own, plus one each from
two of my room-mates.  I'm trying to balance time with size - I do want to
wear this thing before Faire is over.

   ((((   7 (((
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