HNW - 15th/16th c. embroidery

Frank Thallas hardcorps at
Tue Mar 20 23:25:39 PST 2001

  What are you making?  Men's/women's?  Noble? Middle Class?  Poor folk?
Embellishment differs....
    For instance, English sumptuary law of "Renn Faire" time period forbids
anyone of lesser rank than a Knight from having
"plaited" (pleated) shirts, or shirts embellished with black silk"...
    Starting at the top (nobles and such) - all sorts of techniques in use -
jewels, beading, couching, all sorts of stitches on the outer garments,
often in metal threads, pearls, etc.  Here's where you'll find the most
blackwork  on the body linen - embroidered collars, cuffs, frills, and
fronts on shirts, embroidered frills, neckbands, and cuff ruffles on shifts,
embroidered partlets.  Basically think about the whole design of your
outfit, and blackwork whatever bits of body linen show through to the
    With the "middle class" (wealthy merchants, etc) you see less decoration
on all garments.  Simpler embroidery or simple guards of some more luxurious
fabric on the outer garments, still might be blackwork on the body linen but
less of it - simpler bands at collar, cuffs, and so on.
    The poor folks, from what pictorial evidence I've found so far, used few
embellishments, and I've seen no blackwork at all (someone else's mileage
may vary, and I'd love to hear about it).
    As for books - if you're concentrating on the blackwork for your undies,
there are quite a number of books that teach the basic techniques (no, it
does not have to be reversible or double-running, unless both sides of the
piece wil be on constant display.)
Drea's "Elizabethan Costuming" site has a very nice bibliography especially
for blackwork - in fact the whole site will probably be very useful to you,
if you haven't seen it.

Happy Stitching!

> Hi all.
> I hoping to get some help.  I'm sort of new to embroidering, I do some
> cross-stitch and a few other things.  Anyway, I'm making another set of
> RenFest costumes and I would like to embroider them.  I'm looking at late
> 15th and early 16th c.  I have quite a few books on order through ILL and
> I'm always happy to order a few more.  Basically, I was hoping someone
> recommend books or other sources for historically accurate embroidery.  I
> know blackwork was used but after reading some of the recent messages, I
> think the books I ordered won't work.  Any help would be greatly
> appreciated.  Thanks.
> Avien

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