[HNW] Applique documentation?

Rosemary Stecher stecher3 at comcast.net
Tue Aug 12 20:16:03 PDT 2003

Chris Laning wrote:
> Having volunteered to write an article about applique before 1600,
> I'm unhappily finding that I'm coming up rather short when it comes
> to both examples and information. I'm hoping I can pick other
> people's brains <g>.
Examples are easy:
Wall hangings: Tristan hanging (Staniland); Hardwick Virtues (Levey)
Canopies: Baldaquin or canopy from 15th century Sweden (Schuette, fig.
190 and Staniland, fig. 35 (in color)). This can also be seen on-line at
(2nd piece in 2nd row, I think 3rd in 1st row is also applique)
16th century Italian, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Cavallo, #91)
Bed curtains: Scottish, 16th or 17th century, velvet on wool (Swain,
plate 6a and 6b)
Funeral palls: "Totenteppich" Funeral Pall, 2nd half of the 15th
century  (Schuette, fig. 304 and Clabburn, fig. 52)
Pillows: Hardwick (Levey), V&A (King & Levey, plates 21-24)
Bedcovers: Sweden, 15th century,
(about halfway down)
Heraldic bag (Staniland)
Mameluke cover and heraldic pieces (Ellis)
Schuette flower panel
Clothing in Patterns of Fashion
Gloves in Cleveland painting
Canvaswork slips

> I'm particularly concerned about techniques -- I know applique _was_
> used as a decorative fabric technique, and I know some plausible
> techniques that make it lots easier -- what I can't seem to find is
> information about whether anything was done in period that was any
> more sophisticated than plunking down cutouts of one fabric on
> another and starting to sew.

I've had the same problems, and questions about period techniques. 

According to Staniland (pp. 33-34), when wool was used there was no
fraying because of the partial felting that occurs during fulling. More
fragile fabrics such as silk brocades or velvets, used candle wax on the
edges to prevent fraying.  

In the 17th century, some sort of paste was being used by professional
embroiderers (Arthur, p. 22). She also mentions a paper backing, but
this is for one of the seal bags with metal thread embroidery on a slip
applied to velvet, and may not be typical of earlier applique. 

This is all I've been able to turn up, except some references in Queen
Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked to sizing needed for "cutwork", which I
think in some cases may refer to applique. The only thought I've had for
getting more information is to look at books about textile conservation
which might be more likely to mention the hidden details of


Arthur, Liz. Embroidery 1600-1700 at the Burrell Collection. London:
John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, 1995.

Cavallo, Adolph S.  Textiles: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston:
Trustees, 1986.

Clabburn, Pamela.  Masterpieces of Embroidery.  Oxford: Phaidon Press
Limited, 1981. 

Ellis, Marianne.  Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt.  Oxford:
Ashmolean Museum, 2001.

King, Donald and Levey, Santina.  The Victoria & Albert Museum's Textile
Collection:  Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750. New York:  Canopy
Books, 1993.

Levey, Santina.  Elizabethan Treasures: The Hardwick Hall Textiles.  New
York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998.

Schuette, Marie and Mueller-Christensen, Sigrid.  A Pictorial History of
Embroidery.  New York: Praeger, 1964.

Staniland, Kay.  Medieval Craftsmen: Embroiderers.  British Museum Press
and University of Toronto Press, 1991.

Swain, Margaret H.  Historical Needlework: A Study of Influences in
Scotland and Northern England.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons,

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