[HNW] period wwall hangings

Chris Laning claning at igc.org
Tue Sep 24 20:59:19 PDT 2002

At 8:12 AM -0700 9/24/02, Mairi wrote:
>i am hoping somebody here will have an idea;-) i would like to
>embroider some wall hangings for the inside of my merchant booth, to
>hang in front of the area we use for a kitchen, to hide all the mess
>and mundanities there. i am looking for something along the lines of
>crewelwork hangings, but most of those examples are post 1600.[and i
>want pre 1600] or only seem to be used around beds, not on walls.

The Western European sources I've seen before 1600 also seem to show
wall hangings or drapes _only_ around beds. Annoying if you're
looking for documentation for other uses! One possibility, of course,
is that drapes actually were _not_ used much anywhere else.....

As far as how they were decorated, you may actually be in for less
work than you think, because most of the drapes I've seen in
paintings have a large _woven_ pattern, not embroidered (i.e.
brocade, damask, etc.).

Hangings for tournaments (the other place I've seen them) seem to be
either appliqued or painted -- there's a famous picture of Christine
de Pisan presenting a copy of her book to the Queen of France, who is
sitting with her ladies in a room whose walls, bed draperies, etc.
are all royal blue with gold fleurs-de-lis. This looks like a good
candidate for the kind of hanging that could have been produced by

>the other style i'm finding is like the oxburgh hangings, where the
>motifs are in tent stitch on linen cut out and applied to velvet.
>however, again, they seem to be for beds [but do you know where
>there is a picture of the whole panels of these? all i can find are
>the individual motifs, not the designs in between them or how they
>are arranged on the ground fabric]

_The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots_ by Margaret Swain (1986, Ruth
Bean Publishers, ISBN 0-903585-22-7) has a few smallish pictures
toward the end of entire hangings, both in black and white and in
color. It also has several closeups of individual panels that show
bits of background -- they seem to be mounted on plain green velvet
worked with very simple loops, swirls, etc. in red thread in what
looks like stem stitch.

>i have the book about the hardwick hall textiles and know about the
>appliqued hangings. something like that would also work, though i
>don't care for the subjects used at hardwick and would prefer
>something that looks more like the period tapestries.

That's a good notion too. Heraldry -- your own, others', or just
motifs you happen to like -- is another good source of designs. A
curtain appliqued all over with crescents or large ermine spots, for
instance, would look very nice and not be too hard to do.

If you do applique, you can make your job even easier by using what I
call a "period cheater method" -- cut out your motifs with no
turn-under allowance, _glue_ them onto your background fabric
(medieval = fish glue, modern = iron-on adhesives like Stitch
Witchery) then couch a cord around each motif just barely _inside_
the edge of the applique. The pressure of the cord on the edge of the
applique helps hold it in place.

>  i have also thought of just adapting a period tapestry design and
>doing it in crewelwork. What do you all think?

My understanding is that "crewel" as we understand it --
semi-freestyle embroidery of lavish flowering branches in colored
wools on linen -- didn't really come into fashion until at least
1620. You can kind of see the beginnings of the designs in some of
the elaborately embroidered Elizabethan jackets, but those are
generally worked in silks and gold thread (in plaited braid stitch,
stem, chain, and buttonhole stitches), and the designs are much more
tightly controlled and formal. As time goes on, the flowering
branches get looser and less tightly curled, add more leaves, and get
bigger -- Digby's _Elizabethan Embroidery_ (long out of print) shows
a nice series of examples. But the crewelwork panel in Hardwick Hall,
for example, dates to around 1700.

Hope this helps -- looks like you have a number of choices.
O    Chris Laning
|     <claning at igc.org>
+    Davis, California

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