Friday 5 February 2010

How they Embroidered Then - 15th Century

I have steadily been building up a little library of early images showing how people stitched. The images on the lower half of this manuscript page interest me greatly. The work is stretched out on a fixed frame and rests on trestles, very much in the same way as couturier embroiders now work. However look at the direction of the work and the twist of the stitcher's body. He (for it is a man) is stitching at right angles to the orientation of the pattern, in other words this work is not being stitched from top to bottom - or bottom to top, but from side to side. There appears to be a school of girls or women engaged in subsidiary tasks which involve one member cutting paper or fabric with large shears. This activity has made me look again at the two gentlemen in the top half of the page who are very elegant in their fitted and tailored tunics, the peplums or skirts of which have a number of gores. Such body-displaying tailoring was a great innovation in the 1400s replacing a long T shaped tunic which had been gathered with quite a bulk of fabric to the body by means of a girdle or belt. So, are the girls preparing tunic gores for embroidery?


  1. That is a great image. Can you tell me where it is from?

  2. I`m thinking the skew in perspective makes it appear he is stitching side to side, but he is actually stitching top to bottom. Look at the angle of the legs of the chair he is sitting on...

  3. That the man is stitching from side to side is not that odd to me. I sometimes stitch that way on a large, long piece. That way I can reach the area in which I am stitching more easily.