Lemurian City of Ladies

A Lemurian City Built in Memory of Christine de Pizan

Stitches in Medieval Time

with 11 comments

“They must be careful, diligent and wise,

In Needleworkes that beare away the Prise.” 

— William Barley, 1596

“She (Mary, late Countess of Pembroke) wrought so well

in Needleworke that she nor yet her Worke shall ere forgotten be.”  

— John Taylor, 1630


Women artists in the middle ages worked with

the needle and created other artworks,

but often remained obscure.  According to this article

“Women Artists in the Middle Ages”, by Stephanie Smith

there were some odd things resulting in the “almost” disappearance

of various types of women’s works. 

It can reasonably be assumed that most women, from a young age,

would be expected to gather certain skills in order to

become viable contenders on the social marriage market. 

Even in more recent Regency

times, young women had to learn piano, to sing, to create needlework,

to sketch and mind her manners to become an eligible bride. 

Perhaps this social trending accounts for the relative obscurity of

women’s arts, as it appears a gathering of creative strings

to their bows was mandatory, and was not considered particularly special. 

However, this does not seem to affect noble women, whose names often

endured past their own lifetimes, some of which continue to be well

known today.  Perhaps it was not possible to enjoy fame

if the purse or position was not high enough in medieval times? 

Certainly the patroness of the City of Ladies, Christine de Pizan,

has endured to be closely studied in modern times,

and other luminaries like Hildegard of Bingen, refuse to disappear

into obscurity.  Perhaps a middle class woman’s stitching was

not considered remarkable enough to be lauded

beyond her time, but here are some nice examples of

medieval styles and samples of embroidery from the

Victoria and Albert Museum in London, courtesy of the

comprehensive “Medieval and Renaissance Embroidery” web site,

well worth exploring in fine detail, through the various links.

However mandatory it was for a woman to stitch, it seems a

shame to categorize this skill to the realms of the mundane.  Imagine

a gallery showing the works of Christine de Pizan, which her mother

urged her to make, albeit mostly in vain, or a decorative collar work

by a traditional housewife of her times?  Social purse or position did

not dictate innate talent, and genetics could grant the humblest woman a skill

with the needle, which would be a blessing to her, and those around her.

Some further reading and historic trending follows, in the rich resources of

Soper Lane, regarding the Medieval London Silk Women, and their

daily lives, which is worth the consideration of valuable women’s work.

(copyright Imogen Crest 2008.)

(Above quotes courtesy of Whiteworks online.)

Written by imogen88

June 1, 2008 at 2:54 pm

11 Responses

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  1. This Imogen, is a fascinating , little known chapter of history.
    Thank you for posting.



    June 1, 2008 at 4:17 pm

  2. Imogen, I always enjoy learning from your posts. This one gave new understanding about stitches in medieval times 😉


    June 1, 2008 at 7:29 pm

  3. Someone I know (not among the Foodies) is very proud of the fact that she cannot (i.e. will not) sew a button to a pair of pants. She seems to think it’s beneath her: I think she’s really missing out, especially when we go beyond the mundane world of fixing of garments (and even then, a badly sewn button could reveal a world of things!).


    June 3, 2008 at 12:52 am

  4. This is indeed interesting. I don’t sew yet but I want to learn and have been reinspired by seeing my daughter doing sewing at school. She loves it!


    June 3, 2008 at 3:16 am

  5. Thanks for these comments, Vi and Genece. And Joanne, I think like you, that women miss out on a handy toolkit of skills, toward a good self-sufficiency, if they deny themselves these worthy heritages.


    June 3, 2008 at 4:19 am

  6. Pearlz, your comment is heartening! Isn’t it great? These things are never lost!


    June 3, 2008 at 9:55 am

  7. Fascinating stuff, thank you.


    June 13, 2008 at 3:45 pm

  8. 😉 !


    June 14, 2008 at 11:59 am

  9. The history of women’s work and the needle arts has always fascinated me.


    June 17, 2008 at 4:38 pm

  10. Those women knew what to do with their time, Jane!


    June 18, 2008 at 9:56 am

  11. I’m doing a school project on this and it helped me out a ton! Thx SO much Imogen!


    January 7, 2010 at 6:28 pm

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