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Needlework

Mary Magdalene, surrounded by instruments of the Passion. Embroidered picture, England, 17th century. Mary Magdalene, surrounded by instruments of the Passion. Embroidered picture, England, 17th century. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.18-1940.

Needlework is an English term referring, during the medieval period, to a technique in which a linen ground was entirely hidden by stitches. From the sixteenth century the term ‘needlework’ was applied to canvas embroidery, whereby the ground is covered by cross stitch, tent stitch or a related stitch (counted thread work). The person (male or female) who carried out this type of work was called a needleworker.

By the sixteenth century the term (originally French) term of ‘embroidery’ started to refer to rich materials that were either embellished with stitching or with applied cloth decoration. This form of work was generally free style in appearance. The person (male or female) who carried out this type of work was generally called an embroiderer. The same division between needlework and embroidery still exists in the twenty-first century, although the two terms are often used synonymously.

See also the TRC Needles entry on needle.

Sources:

  • LEVEY, Santina M. (1998). An Elizabethan Inheritance: The Hardwick Hall Textiles, London: The National Trust, pp. 48.
  • Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: 'Embroidery', 'Needlework'.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 9th July 2016).

GVE

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 May 2017 13:37