Praise of the Needle

Titel page of John Taylor's 'The Needles Excellency', London 1631 Titel page of John Taylor's 'The Needles Excellency', London 1631

In 1631, John Taylor published The Needles Excellency. A New Booke wherein are divers Admirable Workes wrought with the Needle, Newly invented and cut in Copper for the pleasure and profit of the industrious. The designs included in the book are preceded by a long poem and a series of five sonnets, all relating to the decorative art of the needle. Text and spelling follow the 1631 edition. GV


By John TAYLOR (London, 1631)

To all dispersed sorts of Arts and Trades,
I write the Needles praise (that never fades)
So long as Children shall be got, or borne,
So long as Garments shall be made, or worne,
So long as Hemp or Flax, or Sheepe shall beare
Their linnen-woollen fleeces yeare by yeare;
So long as Silk-worms, with exhausted spoyle
Of their owne Entrailes, for mans gaine shall toyle:
Yea, till the World be quite dissolv’d and past;
So long at least, the Needles use shall last,
And though from Earth, his being did begin,
Yet through the fire he did his honour win:
And unto those that doe his service lacke,
Hee’s true as steele, and mettle to the backe.
He hath I perse eye, small single sight,
Yet like a Pigmey; Polipheame in fight:
As a stout Captaine, bravely he leades on,
(Not fearing colours) till the worke be done.
Through thicke and thinne he is most sharpely set,
With speede through stitch, he will the Conquest get,
And as a Soldier (Frenchesyde with heate)
Maim’d, from the warres is forc’d to make retreate:
So when a Needles point is broke, and gone,
No poynt Mounsier, hee’s maim’d, his worke is done.
And more the Needles honour to advance,
It is a Taylors Iavelin, or his Launce.
And for my Countries quiet, I should like,
That Women-kinde should use no other Pike.
It will increase their peace, enlarge their store,
To use their tongues lesse, and their Needles more.
The Needles sharpenesse, profit yeelds, and pleasure,
But sharpenesse of the tongues, bites out the measure.
A Needle (though it be but small and slender)
Yet is it both a maker and a mender;
A grave Reformer of old Rents decayde,
Stops holes and seames; and desperate cuts displayde.
And thus without the Needle we may see,
We should without our Bibbs and Biggings be;
No shirts or smockes, our nakednesse to hide,
No Garments gay, to make us magnifyde;
No Shadowes, Shapparoones, Caules, Bands, Ruffes, Cuffes,
No Kerchiefs, Quoyfes, Chin-cloutes, or marry-Muffes,
No Cros-cloathes, Aprons, Hand-kerchiefs, or Falls,
No Table-cloathes for Parlours or for Halls.
No Sheetes, no Towels, Napkins, Pillow-beares;
Nor any Garment man or woman weares.
Thus is a Needle prov’d an Instrument
Of profit, pleasure, and of ornament:
Which mighty Queenes have grac’d in hand to take,
And high-borne Ladies such esteeme did make,
That is their Daughters Daughters up did grow,
The Needles Art, they to their children show.
And as ‘twas then an exercise of praise,
So what deserves more honour in these daies,
Then this? Which daily doth it selfe expresse,
A mortall enemy to idlenesse.
The use of Sewing is exceeding old
As in the sacred Text it is enrold:
Our Parents first in Paradice began, 
Which hath descended since from man to man:
The Mothers taught their Daughters, Sires their Sons,
Thus in a line successively it runs
For generall profit, and for recreation,
For generation unto generation.
With worke like Cherubims Embroidered rare,
The Covers of the Tabernacle were.
And by th’Almighties great command, wee see,
The Aarons Garments broydered worke should be;
And further, God did bid his Vestments should
Be made most gay, and glorious to behold.
Thus plainely, and mostly truely is declar’d
The Needles works hath still bin in regard, 
For it doth ART, so like to NATURE frame, 
As if IT were HER Sister, or the SAME. 
Flowers, Plants, and Fishes, Beasts, Birds, Flyes, & Bees, 
Hils, Dales, Plaines, Pastures, Skies, Seas, Rivers, Trees: 
There’s nothing neere at hand, or farthest sought, 
But with the Needle, may be shap’d and wrought. 
In clothes of Arras I have often seene 
Men figurde, counterfeits so like have beene, 
That if the parties selfe had bin in place, 
Yet ART would vye with NATURE for the grace. 
Morover, Poesies rare, and Annagrams, 
Signifique searching sentences from Names, 
True Historie, or various pleasant fiction 
In sundry colours mixt, with Arts comixion, 
All in Dimension: Ovals, Squares, and Rounds 
Arts life included within Natures bounds; 
So that Art seemeth merely naturall, 
In forming shapes so Geometricall. 
And though our Country every where is fil’d 
With Ladies, and with Gentlewomen, skil’d 
In this rare Art, ye there they may discerne 
Sometings to teach them, if they list to learne. 
And as this Booke, some cunning works doth teach, 
(Too hard for meane capacities to reach) 
So for weake learners, other works here be, 
As plaine and easie as are ABC. 
Thus skilfull, or unskilfull, each may take 
This Booke, and of it, each good use may make. 
All sorts of workes, almost that can be nam’d, 
Here are directions how they may be fram’d: 
And for this Kingdomes good are hither come, 
From the remotest parts of Christendome. 
Collected with much paines and industry, 
From schorching Spaine, and freezing Moscovye
From fertill France, and pleasant Italy
From Poland, Sweaden, Denmarke, Germany
And some of these rare Patternes have bin set 
Beyond the bounds of faithlesse Mahomet
From spacious China, and those Kingdomes East, 
And from great Mexico, the Indies West. 
are these works, farre fetcht, and deerely bought,
And consequently, good for Ladies thought
Nor doe I derogate (in any case) 
Or doe esteeme of other teachings base, 
For Tent-worke, Raisd-work, Laid-worke, Frost-worke, Net-worke
Most curious Purles, or rare Italian Cut-worke,
Fine Ferne-stitch, Finny-stitch, New-stitch, and Chain-stitch,
Brave Bred-stitch, Fisher-stitch, Irish-stitch, and Queen-stitch,
The Spanish-stitch, Rosemary-stitch, and Mow-stitch,
The smarting Whip-stitch, Back-stitch, and the Cros-stitch:
All these are good, and these we must alow,
And these are every where in practise now;
And in this Booke, there are of these some store,
With many others, never seene before.
Here Practise and Invention may be free,
And as a Squirrell skips from tree to tree,
So Maides may (from their Mistresse, or their Mother)
Learne to leave one worke, and to learne another.
For here they may make choice, of which is which,
And skip from worke to worke, from stitch to stitch,
Untill in time delightfull practical shall
(With profit) make them perfect in them all.
Thus hoping that these workes may have this guide
To serve for ornament, and not for pride:
To sherish vertue, banish idleness,
For these ends, may this booke have good successe.


The Praise of the Needle.


Here follow certain Sonnets in the Honourable memory of Queenes and great Ladies, who have bin famous for their rare Inventions, and practise with the Needle.

King David by an apt similitude
Doth shew, with Majesty the Church her worth:
And to a Kings faire Daughter, doth alude,
Where to her Spouse, he bravely brings her forth,
In Garments wrought of Needle-worke and Gold,
Resplendent and most glorious to the eye:
Whose out-side much more glory did infold,
The presence of th’ternall-Majesty.
Thus may you see Records of holy Writ
Set downe (what Death or Time can nere deface.)
By these comparisions, comparing fit,
The noble worth of Needle-workes high grace.
Then learne faire Damsels, learne your times to spend
In this, which such high praisings doth commend.


The Praise of the Needle.


Katharine, first married to Arthur Prince of Wales, and afterward to Henry the 8. King of England.

I Read that in the seaventh King Henries Raigne,
Faire Katherine, Daughter to the Castile King,
Came into England with a pompous traine
Of Spanish Ladies, which she thence did bring.
She to the eight King Henry married was,
And afterwards divorc’d, where vertuously
(Although a Queene) yet shee her dayes did pas
In working with the Needle curiously,
As in the Tower, and places more beside,
Her excellent memorials may be seene:
Whereby the Needles praise is dignifide 
By her faire Ladyes, and her selfe, a Queene.
Thus for her paynes, here her reward is just,
Her works proclaime her praise, though she be dust.


The Praise of the Needle.


Mary, Queene of England, and wife to Philip King of Spaine

Her Daughter Mary here the Scepter swaide,
And though she were a Queene of mighty power:
Her memorie will never be decaide,
Which by her workes are likewise in the Tower.
In Windsor Castle, and in Hampton Court,
In that most pompous roome cal’d Paradice:
Who-ever pleaseth thither to resort,
May see some works of hers of wondrous price.
Her Greatnesse held it no dis-reputation,
To take the Needle in her Royall hand:
Which was a good example to our Nation,
To banish idlenesse from out her Land:
And thus this Queene, in wisedome thought it fit,
The Needles worke pleas’d her, and she grace’d it.


The Praise of the Needle.


Elizabeth Queene of England, and Daughter to King Henry the eight.

When this great Queene, whose memory shall not
By any tearme of time be overcast:
For when the world, and all therein shall rot,
Yet shall her glorious fame for ever last.
When she a Maide, had many troubles past,
From Jayle to Jayle, by Maries angry spleene:
And Wood-stocke, and the Tower in prison fast,
And after all, was Englands Peerelesse Queene.
Yet howsoever sorrow came or went,
She made the Needle her companion still:
And in that exercise her time she spent,
As many living yet, doth know her skill.
Thus was she still a Captive, or else Crown’d,
A Needle-woman Royall, and renown’d.


The Praise of the Needle.


The Right Honourable, Vertuous, and learned Lady, Mary, late Countesse of Pembrooke.

A Patterne and a patronesse she was
Of vertuous industry, and studious learning:
And she her earthly Pilgrimage did passe,
In acts, which were high honour, most concerning.
Brave Wilton-house in Wiltshire well can show,
Her admirable works in Arras fram’d:
Where men and beasts, seeme like, trees seeme to grow,
And Art (surpass’d by Nature) seems asham’d.
Thus this renowned Honourable Dame,
Her happy time most happily did spend:
Whose worth recorded in the mouth of fame,
(Untill the world shall end) shall never end.
She wrought so well in Needle-worke, that she,
Nor yet her workes, shall ere forgotten be.


The Praise of the Needle.


The Right Honourable and religious Lady, Elizabeth Dormer, Wife to the late Right Honourable, the Lord Robert Dormer deceased.

This Noble Lady imitates time past,
Directs time present, teacheth time to come:
And longer then her life, her laud shall last,
Workes shows her worth, though all the world were dumbe.
And though her Reverend selfe, with many dayes
Of honourable age is loaden deepe,
Yet with her Needle (to her worthy praise)
Shee’s working often, ere the Sunne doth peepe.
And many times, when Phaebus in the West
Declined is, and Luna shewes her head:
This antient honour’d Lady rests from Rest,
And works when idle sloath goes soone to bed.
Thus she the Needle make her recreation,
Whose well-spent paines are others imitation.


The Praise of the Needle.

To all degrees of both sexes, that love or live by the laudable imployment of the Needle.

If any aske to whom these lines are writ,
I answere, unto them that doe inquire:
For since the worlds creation none has yet,
Whose wants did not the Needles helpe desire.
And therefore, not to him, or her, or thee,
Or them, or they, I doe not write at all:
Nor to particulars of hee or shee,
But generally, to all in generall.
Then let not Pride looke scurvily a-scewe,
Without the Needle, Pride would naked goe:
Nor yet let Scorne cry pish, and tush, and mew,
Scorne is forgetfull much in doing so.
Nor yet let anyone presume to prate,
And call these lines poore trifles, by me pend:
Let not opinion be preiudicate,
But mend it, ere they dare to discommend.
So fare-thou-well my wel-deserving Booke,
(I meane, the works deserts, and not my lines)
I much presume that all that on it looke,
Will like and laude the workemans good designes.
Fooles play the fooles, but ‘tis through want or wit,
Whilst I to wisedomes censure doe submit.



Digital source of illustration (retrieved 8 July 2016).

John Taylor.

Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 19:28