[HNW] 14th Century Embroideries

Rosemary Stecher stecher3 at comcast.net
Tue Sep 24 19:21:31 PDT 2002

Alexandria Doyle wrote:
> Greeting all, this past weekend I was approached by a SCA fighter man who >has decided to do more than just fighting and asked for information >regarding embroidery in the mid to late 14th century.  I was a bit at a lost >because I usually do late 16th century embroidery.
> . . .
> So, what sources should I be pointing him to?  What style of embroidery was >done in the mid to late 14th century? Stitches?  Future projects?

Your fighter is in luck, there are many types of embroidery done in the
14th century, and lots of information about them. Two of the most
important styles are:

1. Opus teutonicum:
"German work", primarily brick stitch and counted satin stitch, but
other stitches as well. I first heard of this style as something done
just in white, but there are many embroideries done in brightly colored
threads that are close in style to the all-white ones.  This type of
embroidery was done on pouches, cushions, etc.

There is a Compleat Anachronist pamphlet about this style:
Mitchell, Timothy J. (as Richard of Waymarc).  "A Stitch Out of Time:
14th and 15th Century German Counted Thread Embroidery,"  The Compleat
Anachronist, Issue #86, July 1996.

The author also has a very good website:

Another good website is:

2. Opus anglicanum:
"English work", done in split stitch in silk with couched gold
This is ecclesiastical embroidery, but the same combination was also
used on the French aumonieres (alms-purses). There is a color photo of
one of these in Staniland, and several in black and white in Schuette.

There were many other types of embroidery done, such as applique,
convent stitch, very simple pulled/drawn thread work and darned net

Staniland, Kay.  Medieval Craftsmen: Embroiderers.  British Museum Press
and University of Toronto Press, 1991.
ISBN  0-8020-6915-0
This either is in print or was until recently, and it should be possible
to turn up a copy without too much trouble. A small book, but a good
general introduction, with mostly color pictures.

Schuette, Marie and Mueller-Christensen, Sigrid.  A Pictorial History of
Embroidery.  New York: Praeger, 1964.
The best place to go, if you have access to a copy. Nearly all black and
white, but a huge number of medieval embroideries.

--Mathilde Eschenbach

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