Thursday 24 December 2009

Swaddling Bands and in a Manger Laid

Swaddling bands were bandage-like strips, sometimes of a uniform width, sometimes of a tapering width. After the newborn's umbilical cord had been cut and tied, the baby was washed, rubbed with salt and oil, and wrapped with strips of cloth to keep the little one warm and ensure that tiny limbs would grow straight. The swaddling bands would stay in place for around a year. Ezekiel 16:4 describes Israel as unswaddled, a metaphor for abandonment. Poor families had to make do with plain strips whilst richer families could afford the sacrifice of elegantly embroidered strips such as these Italian ones of 1600-1625.

These binding cloths are from Alsace and date from 1719-1720. These are just some of the wonderful items you see when you extend your search to embroidery in the V&A digital collection.


  1. I did not know that! Thanks for the timely explanation. Have a happy holiday season! Karmen

  2. the alsatian binding cloth in the picture "mappa" is made from the cloth used during circumcision.

    Washed,cut in strips, it is then embroidered to used as a belt to attach the Thora scroll.

    The belt is offerd by the boy, when he reaches age of 3.

    While style and embroideries are different, on all of them figures name of the boy, his father name, the date of birth and benediction that says may the child be raised to accomplish good deeds and fulfill mitzvot (good deeds toward Almighty)and huppa (wedding canopy)