[HNW] Merovingian needlework terms

SNSpies@aol.com SNSpies at aol.com
Fri Feb 22 08:06:05 PST 2002

Here is the documentation I have for Merovingian embroidery.  The quotes,
except for the one about Arnegunde's cuffs, I can not document with finds,
and the Boucher quotes should be viewed with great caution in any event as he
also states that other Merovingians clung to their traditional costume of
undressed animal-hides.

"Wool was used by the Merovingians for short and long trousers;  breeches
were often decorated with rosettes, trefoils, quatrefoils, and spots ..."
(Note that these could have been metallic studs, etc.)  (Boucher, Francois.
"20,000 Years of Fashion". (NY:  Harry N. Abrams, 1983, 163.)

"Female costume is composed of two tunics worn one on top of the other, or of
a long tunic with a mantle fastened on the shoulder, sometimes covering the
head.  Embroidery is used ..." (Boucher, 158.)

"The fashion for gold embroidery may have come from the Franks ... Perhaps
the embroidered armband [from Kent] itself was a Frankish import --
'Arnegund' wore a wide-sleeved robe with gold-embroidered cuffs, although the
embroidery work and almost certainly the silk robe which it decorated were
from Byzantium."  (Owen-Crocker, Gale.  "Dress in Anglo-Saxon England".
Manchester:  Manchester University Press, 1986, 59.)

There is a tiny fragment of what appears to be coarse, blocky embroidery
(silk on wool?).  (Helmuth, Hermann et al.   "Das Reihengraeberfeld on
Alternerding in Oberbayern II".  Mainz:  Philipp von  Zabern, 1996.)

There is the amazingly-embroidered "chasuble" of Queen Bathilde from Chelles,
France.  This linen tabard had been embroidered with silks -- one red, one
green, two blues, one bright yellow, and one deep yellow -- to look like a
richly-jeweled Byzantine gown worn with jewels.  Althought there is a
photograph of this embroidery in "Sepultures et Reliques", it is difficult to
determine the types of stitches used.  It looks like there is outline/back
stitching and some kind of fill stitch such as split stitch, but without a
better-focused picture, I wouldn't like to state anything with certainty.
(Laporte, Jean-Pierre and Raymond Boyer.  "Sepultures et Reliques de la Reine
Bathilde et de l'Abbesse Bertille".  Chelles:  Societe Archeologique et
Historique, 1991;  Laporte, Jean-Pierre.  "La Tresor des Saintes de Chelles".
 Chelles:  Societe Archeologique et Historique, 1988.)

There are several fragments of leather mittens.  Two such mittens, found in a
boy's grave in Cologne Cathedral, were stitched over the whole hand surfaces
in lines that formed a lattice.  (I have made a pair of these mittens, using
red silk on light-brown leather, and can attest to how cool they look!)
(Doppelfeld, Otto.  "Das frankische Knabengrab unter dem Chor des Kolner
Comes" in "Germania" 42, 1964, 156-188.)

A photograph of the two gold-embroidered cuffs from Arnegunde's grave is
shown on page 161 of Boucher.  (With this, he redeems himself!)  The gold
embroidery thread is "spun-gold" and appears to be couched.  The design is a
row of rosettes in circles with a bottom line of zigzags, on one cuff, and
triangles on the other.

There is a photograph of four embroidered squares of "spun-gold", probably
couched, worked in tight spirals into the square shapes, in "Die Alamannen"
(Stuttgart:  Theiss, 1997, 377.

As more information finally comes out of the Merovingian excavations in
Europe, I'm sure there will be further examples of embroidery.  At the
moment, that is all I've been able to track down.


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