[HNW] Re: 14th century embroidery

Tasha McGann demontsegur at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 24 13:49:52 PDT 2002

Alexandria wrote:
> Greeting all, this past weekend I was approached by
> a SCA fighter man who h=
> as decided to do more than just fighting and asked
> for information regardin=
> g embroidery in the mid to late 14th century.

Ah! Just the area I love. I can make some
recommendations, book-wise:

_The Pictorial History of Embroidery_, Marie Schuette
and Sigrid Müller-Christensen, New York: Frederick A.
Praeger, 1963

_Medieval Craftsmen: Embroiderers_, Kay Staniland;
London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1997.

_The Craft of Silk and Gold Thread Embroidery and
Stump Work_, Erica Wilson; New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1973

_The Victoria & Albert Museum’s Textile Collection:
Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750_, Donald King,
Santina Levey; London: V&A Publications, 1999

The first book is hard to find and very, very
expensive. Inter-library loan is probably your best
bet, but it's sooo worth the trouble.

The second book is still in print and easy to find.
I'm pretty sure the 3rd book isn't too hard to find
either. The last book is sometimes hard to get, I
hear, but I got my copy from the V&A a few years ago
when I was there.

These books all have examples of opus anglicanum,
which is the name given to a particular style of
'needle-painting' popular in England and France in the
14th century. Someone else already described it pretty
succinctly as split stitch, underside couching (also
called couche rentre <with accents over the last e in
each word), and chain stitch. Other stitches found in
the style include stem stitch and top-side couching.
Books such as the V&A book and Erica Wilson's
_Embroidery Book_ show how these stitches are done in
detail. The materials used were mostly colored silks
and precious metal threads (wire or beaten metal
wrapped around a silk core in some cases).

For detail about how embroidery was used on clothing
(not ecclesiastical, but actual clothing), take a look
at _Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince_ by Mary
Stella Newton. There's extensive information drawn
directly from wardrobe accounts and other contemporary
written sources describing the materials used and the
images created with a needle.

Good luck to your fighter friend,
(Marcele de Montsegur in the SCA)

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