Blue Ribbon

This article was written in April 1992 for a competition in the East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It was based on some earlier pamphlets that I wrote to accompany classes and workshops, and it also spawned the more up-to-date and detailed article "Viking Embroidery Stitches and Motifs". For the nonce, it is posted as-is; I hope to manage an update sometime soon.

This document is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained, the author assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. The definitive version of this work resides at

Anglo-Saxon and Viking Works of the Needle: Some Artistic Currents in Cross-Cultural Exchange

© 1992 Carolyn Priest-Dorman


This paper contains a typology and brief discussion of some stitches that have been discovered on extant textiles from the period between the seventh and eleventh centuries in Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and related cultures. Embroidery, construction stitches, style, and usage are considered. Information is organized in a comparative framework based on techniques, not on culture or period, in order to facilitate a practical understanding by needleworkers. An appendix lists the cultures and sites considered.


Humans have been using needles since the Stone Age (Hald 1980, p. 278). Historically, the chief use of needlework has been the construction of garments, whether they be of skin, linen, wool, or silk. This work considers some stitches that have been discovered on extant textiles from the period between the seventh and eleventh centuries in Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and related contexts. Some of them would be familiar to the modern tailor; some of them, although eminently practical, lie outside the modern aesthetic; and some of them represent heights of intricacy seldom achieved by a modern embroiderer. Perhaps by learning and utilizing these stitches we can catch a glimpse of the minds of their original users.

The textiles found at Anglo-Scandinavian Jorvík (modern-day York, England), date from the ninth and tenth centuries; they comprise one of the largest bodies of textile finds from the period in northern Europe. Large finds of Saxon textiles from London in the ninth and tenth century, along with Viking Age textiles from Birka in the ninth and Hedeby and Birka in the tenth century, supplement the Jorvík information and help to offer a more comprehensive view of the kinds of needlework associated with those cultures. Finds at other sites in England, Ireland, Denmark, and Belgium are equally useful, if less large in size. Appendix I contains information about the various sites considered herein.

Construction Stitches

The Jorvik finds are diverse enough that some useful general conclusions can be made from them, such as the fact that different kinds of stitches at different guages were used on the different fabrics of wool, silk, and linen at that site. Generally speaking, sewing thread was composed of the same fiber as the textile that it held together. Wool and linen sewing thread was usually two-ply, while silk thread was usually single. Wool threads ranged from 0.8 to 1.5mm in diameter, while linen threads were finer, at 0.4 to 1.0mm in diameter. Silks were the finest sewing threads used at Jorvík, ranging 0.3 to 0.8mm in diameter. Wools were worked at about 1-3 stitches/centimeter, linen at about 3-5 stitches/centimeter, and silk at about 4-6 stitches/centimeter (Walton 1989, p. 409). Because the textiles found there were usually not complete garments, it is not always known what sort of item was being stitched--whether clothing, bedding, or other textile work. Accordingly, not all of these guages may be suitable for the construction of clothing; however, they provide a good jumping-off point for creative reconstruction.

The running stitch forms the basis for almost all the seams in the textiles that this work discusses. However, it was not the only stitch used in the period to construct joins between fabrics. At Jorvík, a common way to join two pieces of silk or wool fabric was the overcast stitch. It could join raw edges on wool, folded-under edges on wool or silk, or rolled edges on silk (Walton 1989, pp. 407-8). The seams on the tenth- and eleventh-century Hiberno-Norse caps from Dublin provide evidence not only for running stitch but also for whip-stitching. One interesting seam variant from that site involved turning the two edges of a seam toward the inside of the cap and whip-stitching the seam from the outside of the cap (Heckett 1987, p. 167).

Many different methods existed for finishing a seam neatly. At Jorvík, sometimes the folded-under edges of a plain seam were individually sewn to the inside of the underlying textile. Flat-felling, or "run-and-fell," was also common at Jorvík, on linen: the initial seam was sewn in running stitch, and the folded edge was then sewn down in overcast stitch. Variants of flat-felling and plain seams, both of which involved an initial seam in overcast stitch instead of running stitch, were the most common seam finishings at Hedeby. One interesting variant of "French" seams was found on a pair of pants at Hedeby; initially a plain seam was constructed with running stitch, then the two raw edges on the underside of the fabric were folded inward toward one another neatly, so that no ragged edges showed, and then overcast (H„gg 1984, pp. 150-51, 256). Catch-stitching was used to join two parallel top edges of a small constructed bag, with running stitches sewn near the outside edge to strengthen and stabilize the join (Walton 1989, p. 408).

In Viking contexts, lengths of wool braiding or cord were often overcast along the edge or edges of a seam. At Birka this technique encompassed both sewing a cord to a selvedge and strengthening the edge of a garment at the point where a lining was attached (Geijer 1938, pp. 128-29). These braids were sometimes invisible from the outside of the garment. Similarly, small braids or cords of about 1mm diameter were sewn along the outside of garment seams at Hedeby (H„gg 1984, p. 169). Sometimes a selvedge at Dublin was finished by oversewing a cord onto it (Heckett 1987, pp. 167-8), just as in other parts of the Viking world.

Generally speaking, hem stitches were derived from the overcast stitch during the period in question. The main differences between finds seem to be in the way the edges of the fabric were folded before hemming. At Jorvík, hems were rolled on silk, single-folded or vertically sewn on wool, and double-folded on linen. Some hem finishings included decorative oversewing with running stitch or herringbone stitch (Walton 1989, p. 405). At London two hemming styles were represented. One style was overcast on a single fold; in construction it is much like a stitch which was discovered holding fur to the silk outside edging of a tenth-century woolen garment at Birka (Pritchard 1984, p. 74, n. 21). The other style found at London was an unclear kind of hem over a double fold where the edge is folded toward the outside rather than the inside (Pritchard 1984, p. 58f). The Dublin caps included rolled and double-fold hems (Heckett 1987, pp. 167-8). At Hedeby the most frequently represented stitches were two types of hems, one constructed with a single fold and one with a double fold; both were sewn with overcast stitch. Where it is possible to tell the type of garment concerned, it is evident that the single-fold hems occurred on outerwear: one example was on a caftan and three were on an overtunic. Double-fold hems occurred most often on underwear--a smock, two kinds of legwear, and legwrappings (H„gg 1984, Tab. 27, pp. 253-56).

Some other construction stitches evidenced by the finds include slip-stitching, revealed on a cap patched from the inside at Dublin (Heckett 1987, pp. 167-8), and an unusual technique discovered on a piece from the London excavations. This last stitch involves an inexplicable series of loops sewn into the edge of a textile in two passes. The effect is like alternating long and short blanket stitches except that the loops are not caught by the needle at the edge of the textile; instead the needle comes out of the textile just short of the edge. The purpose of this stitch is unknown (Pritchard 1984, pp. 58f).

Decorative (Embroidery) Stitches

No blanket statement suffices to describe decorative or embroidery work in early period northwestern Europe, despite the sketchy evidence for its existence and application. Materials between the sixth and eleventh centuries could include flosses of wool and silk, threads of spun gold, and background fabrics of wool, linen, or silk. Some works were executed so as to completely cover the background material; some were not. Some works were unsophisticated, crude, and provincial, while others displayed remarkable precision and ingenuity. This section seeks not to account for the entire history of early embroidery, but simply to catalogue and document several stitches. Accordingly, the stitches are discussed below in order of their relative frequency of known occurrence, together with some remarks about usage and motifs in the case of large works.

Examples of early period embroidery come from fragments of clothing, bedding, and ecclesiastical regalia. Extant embroidered tapestries from the era are virtually unknown, saving of course the Bayeux Tapestry. Although some Viking-era tapestries exhibit a certain similarity to the Bayeux Tapestry in their use of narrative content, they are nevertheless woven in various techniques rather than embroidered.

The chief techniques employed in Anglo-Saxon pieces were split stitch, stem or outline stitch, and couching. There are several such examples, almost all intended for display rather than personal adornment. A woman's grave at Kempston, Bedfordshire, dated to either the sixth or the seventh century, yielded the "earliest piece so far of Anglo-Saxon wool embroidery" (Crowfoot 1990, p. 47); its original use is unknown. The Maaseik embroideries are a large Anglo-Saxon work dating to the late eighth or early ninth century. The original work has been cut up and sewn together with other later textiles into a large rectangular piece referred to as the casula of Saints Harlindis and Relindis (Budny & Tweddle 1984, p. 65), but it was apparently not originally an item of clothing. The embroidered relics of St. Cuthbert are reliably datable to the first third of the tenth century. An extraordinary example of the art of embroidery, they consist of three ecclesiastical garments--"a stole, maniple, and 'small maniple'." (Plenderleith 1956, p. 375) And of course the Bayeux Tapestry was clearly never worn as a garment.

Viking embroidery, like many other aspects of Viking culture, displays distinct western and eastern styles. The western style represented at Mammen and Jorvík involved the use of textile threads in simple stem, raised herringbone, and chain stitches. The eastern style of Viking embroidery, represented at Birka in Sweden, was more likely Rus, Slavic, or Byzantine in origin. It involved mostly metal threads in only a few techniques which are likely to have been worked with a needle. The textile historian Agnes Geijer discerned three main categories of embroidery, loosely defined, in her analysis of the finds from ninth- and tenth-century Birka and surrounding areas: (a) stielstich, or stem stitch; (b) ösenstich, or mesh stitch, of which several varieties were identified; and (c) schlingenstich, or twined wire work. For the purposes of this paper, ösenstich is classified and discussed under the category of "looped stitches," below. Schlingenstich is quite different from typical forms of embroidery and in some versions is not even a needle technique at all, so a discussion of its variants remains outside the scope of this work. Further information on schlingenstich can be found in Geijer, 1938.

The embroidery stitch most often represented in all the finds surveyed herein was the stem or outline stitch. The principal difference between stem and outline stitch is the direction in which the thread overlaps: stem stitch overlaps Z-wise, and outline stitch overlaps S-wise (Emery 1980, p. 239). Otherwise, the two stitches are constructed identically. Accordingly, this work treats them as the same stitch for classification purposes, and, indeed, often both were used in the same piece.

The sixth-century Kempston embroidery find is a fragment of fine lichen purple worsted wool textile in a broken lozenge twill weave embroidered with fine 2-ply wool thread. The motif is some sort of a scrolling vegetative border, outlined in one red line and filled with double lines of stem stitch. The other colours are hard to make out, but one of them is either yellow or white, and the other is either blue or green (Crowfoot 1990, p. 49). This unassuming little piece is the earliest known expression of an embroidery tradition that would reach dazzling heights of achievement in the High Middle Ages, and it helps to demonstrates the longevity of vegetative motifs in Anglo-Saxon art.

Known examples of stem stitch occur in five graves at Birka, belonging to both men and women; all date to the tenth century (Geijer 1938, pp. 108f). Materials used include wool floss on wool fabric, silk floss on silk fabric, and gold thread on an unknown and now-decayed background. One instance was of silk floss used to apply a decorative silk samite strip over a linen ground on a man's garment (Geijer 1938, p. 170); one was of decorative wool stemstitching used to strengthen two layers of wool in some sort of garment edging (Geijer 1938, p. 109). The stitching seems to have been planned to economize on thread; stitches on the wrong side of the fabric are short, and those on the right side of the fabric are long, especially when gold thread is being used (Geijer 1938, p. 108). None of the instances of stem stitch at Birka seem to employ an identifiable, separate embroidery motif. They seem largely to be used for such decorative construction techniques as appliqué and the strengthening of edges. Still, since the gold threads were found independent of any background fabric it is virtually impossible to determine what their original disposition was.

Among Viking needlework only the late tenth-century man's grave at Mammen, Denmark, has yielded the kind of finds likely to be considered as "true" embroidery: the remains of a wool 2/1 twill garment, possibly a cloak, with several different motifs embroidered on it in stem stitch. The cloth fragments are dark brown now, but they may once have been brightly coloured; similarly, the two shades of brown thread used to execute the motifs may originally have been two completely different colours. Although Hald does not mention whether the thread is silk or wool, internal evidence in her discussion implies that it is wool (Hald 1980, p. 104). The motifs are outlined in threads of the dark shade and filled in selectively with the lighter shade.

The two Anglo-Saxon techniques of surface-couching and split stitch seem to have been used in conjunction on the same pieces rather than separately. The Maaseik and St. Cuthbert pieces are good examples of this style of embroidery. Surface-couched gold thread was used for the background or principal motif, and the details of outlining and small motifs were filled in with split stitch. In this style of embroidery sometimes the stem or outline stitch was also used for detailing. The Bayeux Tapestry is worked in a related technique, laid-and-couched work detailed with stem or outline, but with no split stitch.

The original Maaseik embroidery was performed with several colours of silk--"red, beige, green, yellow, light blue and dark blue" (Budny & Tweddle 1984, p. 76)--and spun-gold threads on fine evenweave linen of roughly 24x24/cm (or about 54x54/inch); none of the linen shows on the right side of the work. The gold thread is surface-couched and the coloured silks are split-stitched or stem-stitched. The motifs are very elaborate, comprising sections of "interlace, geometric, foliate and animal ornament, with the geometric ornament reserved for the borders." (Budny & Tweddle 1984, p. 74) Judging from the photographs in Budny and Tweddle, the overall effect is very rich and dense. Again, the use of Anglo-Saxon vegetative motifs is prominent.

The tenth-century St. Cuthbert embroideries come from Winchester and are a fairly pure example of the Winchester style, also prominent in illumination during the tenth century. The very high-quality spun gold thread which comprises a large percentage of all three pieces of these embroideries was surface-couched with red silk in various patterns. The background fabric was an evenweave silk netting of about 56 count, i.e., 56 warp threads by 56 weft threads per inch (Plenderleith 1956, pp. 377, 379). Details were worked in split stitch, possibly over an underlying layer of padding stitches, and outlines were worked in stem stitch (Plenderleith 1956, p. 380). The motifs are mostly religious, involving depictions of saints, some animals, and several generic vegetative elements such as acanthus, fruits, and flowers. The extremely high proportion of gold thread to colored couching or detail thread, plus the burnishing to which the pieces were subjected after their completion, gave these embroideries the overall effect of almost unrelieved goldwork.

The Bayeux Tapestry was most likely designed and executed by Anglo-Saxon hands between 1066 and 1082 (Wilson 1985, p. 212). It is a frieze-style continuous panel about 260 feet long and about 28 inches high, made up of five shorter panels sewn together. The frieze itself recounts in cartoon format the events surrounding the Norman conquest of England; all along the top and bottom of the frieze are embroidered beasts, humans, scenes of battle, and many curvilinear vegetative motifs. The background material of the tapestry is plain tabby linen in about a 48-count weave (i.e., about 19x19 threads/cm). Wool threads are laid closely together on the surface of each design element, then crossed at right angles by a second set of threads laid down at about half-centimeter intervals; the second set of threads is couched down, thus securing the whole mass. Several colours of wool--red, blue, blue-green, black, dull gold, and two shades of green--are used (Wilson 1983, p. 10); sometimes one colour may be couched down using another colour. The effect is one of richness and bulk, neatly restrained but remarkably vital. The background and areas such as faces are not embroidered, and details are worked over the laidwork in stem or outline stitch.

Interlaced stitching occurs much less frequently than the previous stitches. The various manifestations of wire mesh stitch found at Birka, generically called ösenstich ("loop" stitch), defy simple classification. The most common variant, however, which Agnes Geijer called "Type A" (Geijer 1938, p. 110), seems to be constructed almost exactly like the "Vandyke" stitch (Emery 1980, p. 243). An apparent relative of the Birka Type A stitch is found on the man's cushion at the Sutton Hoo cenotaph. This raised, interlaced looping stitch was sewn over a seam in the cushion cover (Crowfoot 1983, pp. 420-22). A relative of the Sutton Hoo cushion was probably the one found in the man's grave at Mammen, on which closely worked herringbone stitch was found covering the seams (Hald 1980, pp. 110-283).

Only one example of embroidery on textile has appeared from the Jorvík excavation. It was found on a small, clumsy bag dating to the late tenth or early eleventh century. The outer cover of the bag is red silk samite imported from Byzantium; it is decorated with a crude silk cross in what appears to be chain stitch (Walton 1989, p. 369). The bag is thought to have been a reliquary.

Some Conclusions

From all the evidence mustered here it is evident that the Anglo-Saxons were remarkably talented embroiderers. Anglo-Saxon embroidery was substantially more technically and artistically developed than Viking embroidery. Indeed, this evidence suggests that opus Anglicanum, the highly acclaimed English embroidery of the High Middle Ages, had a discernible history and tradition of excellence dating back to at least the eighth century. However, there seems to be very little evidence of garment-related embroidery in the Anglo-Saxon context.

The Vikings, on the other hand, wielded their needles to different ends: they seem to have been surpassingly excellent tailors. Remains of their garments reveal considerable sophistication in cut and execution. Evidence of such finishing details such as the braid edgings mentioned above from Birka, Hedeby, and Dublin indicate the importance they placed on fine construction stitchery. About this kind of finishing work at Birka, Agnes Geijer said "der Verwendung,--sehr diskret aber ohne praktische Funktion--am Rande eines Kleidungsstckes, deutet eine recht forgeschrittene Schneiderkunst an [the employment--very discreet yet without practical function--on the edge of garment pieces, implies a very advanced tailoring skill]." (Geijer 1938, p. 128) Additionally, the needle-made looped metalwork and interlace at Birka are both unique and, in many cases, breathtakingly intricate. Even the Sutton Hoo wool embroidery find betrays its Swedish influence in the use of an unusually complex eastern-style looped stitch. On the other hand, more orthodox forms of embroidery such as silk and wool stitchery are virtually nonexistent in the Birka finds and, where extant, they are simply undeveloped variants of construction stitches.

The Anglo-Saxon influence on the Scandinavians during the tenth century, when several kings in England were of Scandinavian origin, provided a new means of expression for the Viking fascination with fine needlework. Typically, the Viking passion for ornate personal adornment dictated the use to which the new skill of textile embroidery was put--namely, the embellishment of garments such as the ones found at Mammen. The Mammen embroideries are a perfect example of the adaptation of foreign motifs to a Viking context which was central to the development of Viking Age art; they suggest that Anglo-Saxon embroidery exercised considerable influence on the nearby Viking culture, regardless of the frequently confrontational nature of the other relations between these two cultures.

The Mammen garment embroideries include at least five different motifs on different scraps of the Mammen textile, only some of which are noticeably Viking in style. (For a good line drawing, see Roesdahl 1982, p. 127, from which this description is taken; for photos of the originals, much less easy to intepret, see Hald 1980, pp. 107-110.) The most characteristically Viking of the lot is a running strip of stylized round human faces placed vertically; each face is about three inches across, and they are interlaced with small hands and looping bits of what looks like vinework. A second human mask motif is less carefully constructed; its faces are more oval and there is no interlacing. The third motif is more Anglo-Saxon in appearance; a twined vine with simple S-curves, about three-quarters of an inch wide, it looks a good deal like border vegetation from the Winchester school of illumination. The fourth motif is even more foreign--a pair of quadrupeds facing one another with a narrow vertical motif, possibly a Tree of Life, in between them. This motif is stiffly executed in comparison to the others; in the case of similar motifs from the St. Cuthbert find, an Eastern origin is postulated for the design. The fifth motif is the exuberant rear half of a spotted male quadruped with legs and feet that are purely Viking in character.

It may be due to this cross-pollination of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking cultures that Icelandic embroidery developed the way it did in the High Middle Ages. Iceland, the last outpost of Viking Age culture, developed more or less in isolation from the rest of Europe until a very late date. It is not surprising, therefore, that Icelandic embroidery retained a distinct technical similarity to early period Anglo-Saxon embroidery. In fact, Iceland continued to produce pieces in the style and technique of the Bayeux Tapestry until at least the sixteenth century (see the photo in Gudj˘nsson, p. 140). A sixteenth-century altar frontal now in the National Museum of Iceland is worked in laid-and-couched wool and linen on tabby linen in bright colors, and the vegetative motifs look much like those of 500 years previous. Perhaps late medieval Icelandic embroidery is the truer heir to the Anglo-Saxon embroidery tradition than English blackwork, which relied on the more Scandinavian style of chain, running, and looped "Vandyke" stitch.

Appendix I: Sites Considered

Textiles considered in this work come from several sources in northern Europe. Many other reports on textiles from this period and these places have been left out of this work because they lack specific information on needle techniques due to the fragmentary state of the surviving textiles.

The Anglo-Saxon insular culture is represented by finds from several different sites. The earliest find that is important for this work is the grave at Kempston, Bedfordshire, where a so-called "relic box" hung from the girdle of a sixth- or seventh-century woman yielded up a fragment of embroidered textile.

A good many textiles were recovered from the seventh-century man's grave at Sutton Hoo in East Anglia, which was excavated just prior to World War II. People are still arguing about who the dead man was, whether or not his body is in the burial, and whether or not he was a ruler; the evidence is that he was of Swedish descent and that his textiles represented both Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon traditions.

The ninth-century Anglo-Saxon embroideries now located at Maaseik, Belgium, are the most opulent early embroideries considered herein. They are clearly related to the St. Cuthbert embroideries, although their design may stem from a more northern context, with a stronger admixture of Scandinavian influence possible in the knotwork. Helen Stevens, a professional embroiderer, spent eighteen months studying and reproducing one-quarter of the Maaseik embroideries. Her article (see bibliography) offers several observations on such practical matters as the order in which the design was stitched, how much thread it took, and how many hours were required.

The relics of St. Cuthbert, now at Durham Cathedral, include some stunning early tenth-century embroideries which were last cleaned and examined in the 1950s. The designs for the embroideries are in the Winchester style, a late Anglo-Saxon artistic tradition.

Excavations at London in the late 1970s yielded many textile fragments from the late ninth to early twelfth centuries. Frances Pritchard's work on the pre-Conquest textiles from this location provide some of the most conclusive information we have about everyday textiles in Anglo-Saxon culture.

The Viking Age is represented by a great number of textile discoveries from ninth- and tenth-century Sweden and Denmark. While many textile finds from Viking Age Norway also exist, they are less informative about needle techniques than the ones considered herein. Textiles from the ship-burials at Oseberg and Gokstad, in the Vestfold district of Norway, include some samples of embroidery, but they have not yet been published in an accessible format.

The Birka (southeast Sweden) material are justly famed as the earliest and largest collection of textiles found in a Viking Age context; although first published fifty years ago, recent reconsideration of them has turned up some valuable stratigraphic information which helps us determine which layers of garments were actually ornamented with embroidery and which were not. In this regard the works of Inga H„gg have been an invaluable supplement to the original work by Agnes Geijer on the subject.

The Viking Age site of Hedeby was located north of the Danevirke in southeast Denmark, although now that area is part of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. A collection of seams from that site offers some interesting variations. The textiles on which they were found had been tarred and used as seam caulking in a ship; when cleaned, the rags became recognizable pieces of Viking Age garments! The information about the most frequently used stitches from the Hedeby rags comes from Hägg 1984, pages 150-51 and Table 27 (pages 253-256).

The tenth-century Danish finds from Bjerringhøj (Mammen), while only consisting of one man's burial, provide valuable evidence for embroidered ornamentation of both garments and furnishings. The best information in English on the subject is to be found in Hald, 1980.

Viking incursions into Ireland are represented by the Hiberno-Norse finds from Dublin. Information on Hiberno-Norse seams comes from two articles by Elizabeth Heckett which analyze several finds of headcoverings from tenth- and eleventh-century Dublin. One subgroup of the headcoverings consisted of nine caps in wool and silk, all executed in a similar pattern and technique.

The uneasy marriage of Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian cultures is best illustrated by the finds from Anglo-Scandinavian Jorvík (York, England) in the ninth and tenth centuries; for most of that time, this primarily Anglo-Saxon town was ruled by Scandinavians, with a related influx of Scandinavian artisans and inhabitants. Information about the textiles of Jorvík in the ninth and tenth centuries is based on Penelope Walton's discussion and catalogue of the 23 different finds of seams and hems from this period at Jorvík: four on wool, six probably on linen, and thirteen on silk (Walton 1989, pp. 404-411, 433, 435-440). Recent work suggests that the cultures of both the Anglo-Saxon and the Vikings are represented in the textile finds from this site (Walton 1991, p. 71).


Budny, Mildred, and Tweddle, Dominic. "The Maaseik Embroideries," Anglo-Saxon England, Vol. 13, ed. Peter Clemoes, pp. 65-96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

An art historical analysis of these embroideries in the context of Anglo-Saxon art and embroideries. Good notes and plates, but not a lot of practical re-creation information.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth. "Textile fragments from 'relic boxes' in Anglo-Saxon graves," in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, ed. Penelope Walton and John-Peter Wild, pp. 47-56. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, Monograph 3. London: Archetype Publications, 1990.

Brief but useful catalogue of early textile fragments, including the earliest Anglo-Saxon evidence for wool embroidery and the presence of silk.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth. "The Textiles," in The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, Vol. 3, ed. Angela Care Evans, pp. 409-479. London: British Museum Publications Ltd., 1983.

Comprehensive and in-depth discussion of the Sutton Hoo textile finds, including speculation on garments and household furnishings.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, and Hawkes, Sonia Chadwick. "Early Anglo-Saxon Gold Braids," Medieval Archaeology, 11 (1967), pp. 42-86.

Some information on the materials and basic technique of the Tomb 49 embroidery from St.-Denis outside Paris.

Emery, Irene. The Primary Structures of Fabrics, rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: The Textile Museum, 1980.

A comparative typology of weaving, braiding, plaiting, wrapping, and embroidery techniques with extremely clear photos. With very rare exceptions, no historical citations are made. This book sets the standard for professional textile terminology in the United States.

Geijer, Agnes. 1938. Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern, Vol. III of Birka: Untersuchungen und Studien. Uppsala: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akadamien, 1938.

Chapter IX, "Stickereien," is on the embroideries at Birka. This book is a paradigm of archaeological textile scholarship, but it's not available in translation.

Guðjónsson, Elsa E. "Icelandic Mediaeval Embroidery Terms and Techniques," in Studies in Textile History in Memory of Harold B. Burnham, ed. Veronika Gervers, pp. 133-143. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1977.

Mainly a glossary of Icelandic words, but a few photos of extant embroideries and some line drawings are also included.

Hägg, Inga. Die Textilfunde aus dem Hafen von Haithabu. Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu, Bericht 20. Neumünster: Karl Wachholz Verlag, 1984.

Pages 150-51 offer line drawings of the 22 different variants of sewing stitches found at Hedeby. The rest of the book is equally useful, including the tables in the back.

Hald, Margrethe. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials, trans. Jean Olsen. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark, 1980.

Chapter IX, "Needle and Sewing," covers Danish sewing and embroidery techniques from the Bronze Age through the medieval period. Good drawings and a few very good photos.

Heckett, Elizabeth. "Some Hiberno-Norse Headcoverings from Fishamble Street and St. John's Lane, Dublin," in Textile History, 18, no. 2 (1987), pp. 159-174.

Archaeological examination and explicit construction tips for the little coifs worn in Dublin in the tenth and eleventh centuries.

Heckett, Elizabeth. "Some silk and wool head-coverings from Viking Dublin: uses and origins--an enquiry," in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, ed. Penelope Walton and John-Peter Wild, pp. 85-96. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, Monograph 3. London: Archetype Publications, 1990.

More on the Dublin headcoverings, from a cultural and sartorial perspective.

Ingstad, Anne Stine. "The Functional Textiles from the Oseberg Ship," in Textilsymposium Neumünster: Archäologische Textilfunde, 6.5. - 8.5.1981., ed. Lise Bender Jørgensen and Klaus Tidow, pp. 85-96. Neumünster: Textilmuseum Neumünster, 1982.

The garments, sails, and bedclothes from Oseberg, briefly catalogued and discussed. Very rare information, very useful. Mentions but does not describe some embroidery on the queen's tunic.

Plenderleith, Elizabeth. "The Technique" in "The Stole and Maniples," in The Relics of St. Cuthbert, ed. C.F. Battiscombe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956, pp. 375-395.

Good construction analysis of the Cuthbert relics, including the several variations of patterned couching employed.
Priest-Dorman, Carolyn. Early Period Needle Techniques in Northern Europe. Privately distributed, December 1991.
This pamphlet was written for a session of the SCA's East Kingdom University; it is a first draft of the present paper, considering the same set of textiles from a primarily cultural perspective.

Pritchard, Frances A. "Late Saxon Textiles from the City of London," Medieval Archaeology 28 (1984), pp. 46-76.

Excellent technical examination of some ninth- to twelfth-century Anglo-Saxon textiles.

Roesdahl, Else. Viking Age Denmark, trans. Susan Margeson and Kirsten Williams. London: British Museum Publications, Ltd., 1982.

A very good general history book distinguished by reproductions of the drawings made of the Mammen embroideries when they were excavated in the nineteenth century.

Stevens, Helen M. "Maaseik Reconstructed: A Practical Investigation and Interpretation of Eighth-Century Embroidery Techniques," in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, ed. Penelope Walton and John-Peter Wild, pp. 57-60. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, Monograph 3. London: Archetype Publications, 1990.

A professional embroiderer's perspective on the overall project planning and sequence of embroidery involved in the construction of this large project, informed by eighteen months spent working on a reproduction of one part of the work.

Walton, Penelope. "Textile Production at Coppergate, York: Viking or Anglo-Saxon?", in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, ed. Penelope Walton and John-Peter Wild, pp. 61-72. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, Monograph 3. London: Archetype Publications, 1990.

The answer is "mostly Anglo-Saxon," but the explication is interesting.

Walton, Penelope. Textiles, Cordage and Fiber from 16-22 Coppergate. The Archaeology of York, Vol. 17: The Small Finds, Fascicule 5. Dorchester: The Council for British Archaeology and The Dorset Press, 1989.

Careful, detailed archaeological analysis of the textiles found from the late ninth- through early eleventh-century period of the Anglo-Scandinavian site of Jorvík. Lots of very solid information on the fibers, weaves, colors and construction stitches used there, and on textile production generally.

Walton, Penelope, and Wild, John-Peter, eds. Textiles in Northern Archaeology. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles, Monograph 3. London: Archetype Publications, 1990.

Proceedings from the third NESAT (North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles), held in 1987.

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry. New York: Knopf, 1985.

An excellent photographic representation of the entire Bayeux Tapestry at about half size, with photos of some related embroideries, and some valuable essays by the director of the British Museum. The textures and colors of the photos are very good.

This page was created on 2 October 1999 and last updated on 2 October 1999.

Search this site | To Þóra's Viking resources page | To Þóra's Textile resources page

No soliciting! |