Silks in the period 1066 - 1216

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Cecilia
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Silks in the period 1066 - 1216

Postby Cecilia » Mon Aug 24, 2015 7:40 am

Hi

I've been doing some research with some other members of my group into silk usage in the period 1066 - 1216 approximately. I particularly interested in secular usage rather than church usage and was wondering if anyone knew of any sources or finds of silk on clothing or even for an entire garment (I'm fairly sure this is rare to not happening at all but if anyone knows of any evidence to the contrary i would love it).
Also if there is evidence, would anyone know anything about the types of fabric? We're working on the assumption so far that they would have silk woven in patterns much the way linen or wool is woven in patterns but would rather like to find evidence of it first.

Thanks,
Cecilia



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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Silks in the period 1066 - 1216

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Mon Aug 24, 2015 8:10 am

I know it predates your period but....... The Oseberg dress from the Norwegian boat burial is one of the few silk finds known. The silk in question is 'brocaded' with a variety of Byzantine style designs. Many of these pieces of silk have then been cut into strips and used to decorate and re-enforce seams on the dress.


Lurv 'n' Kizzez

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Silks in the period 1066 - 1216

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Aug 24, 2015 8:38 am

Linguistic evidence is often helpful, with Anglo-Norman French supplying a large number of silk-related words (with the usual variable spellings):

mutabet/mustabet - oriental silk fabric (first mentioned in England 1160)

saye/seie/soie - silk fabric (12th century in secular usage)

ciclatun - silk cloth, sometimes incorporating gold threads (late 12th century)

cendal/sandal/sendal etc - a silken fabric (first mentioned 1200)

diaspre/ drap de diaspre - silken cloth with flower patterns (first mentioned in England 1160)

purpre - [can mean] rich silken cloth (first mentioned in England 1180)

samnel/saminel - fine silken cloth (first mentioned in England 1180)

samit - samite, a silk fabric (first mentioned in England 1180)

I have not included many other terms which appear later than your quoted dates. The fabrics listed above are all mentioned in connection with imported goods, or in describing the dress of aristocrats, or inventories in wills and other documents. It is almost impossible today to define any differences between, say, mustabet and samit; the differences may have been in quality, or weave structure, or the place of origin, or some other factor.


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Silks in the period 1066 - 1216

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:07 am

An anonymous monk of Westminster Abbey wrote the Vita Aedwardi Regis soon after 1066. In it he mentions a certain Mahalt (a variant form of Matilda):

Mahalt she was called and she was a worker; marvellously did she know how to work, to embroider fine gold upon purple silk, to ornament with regal jewels. She knew how to place gems and good stones better than anyone before her. Her fame in this was such that she was sought after by the highest nobles, honoured and demanded for her art


I also have references to embroidered silks during the 12th century, so this is a factor to consider alongside patterns woven into silk fabrics.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Re: Silks in the period 1066 - 1216

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:43 am

A few more musings on silks:

In the catalogue published to accompany the 1984 Hayward Gallery exhibition entitled "English Romanesque Art 1066 - 1200", Donald King* wrote:

Almost all silk cloth used in England was imported from the Near East, Byzantium, Italy or Spain. Much of it was plain cloth, but some was woven with repeating patterns , generally with birds, animals or monsters. Some of these silks were used as wall-hangings or altar-hangings; others were made up as secular or ecclesiastical garments. Extant examples of these imported silks include tiny scraps from the shrine of Edward the Confessor, small pieces used as seal bags at Canterbury Cathedral and the vestments of Archbishop Hubert Walter. The only silk weavings likely to have been produced in England are narrow tablet-woven ribbons of silk and gold thread, generally with geometric patterns.


The catalogue also mentions underside couching - designs of foliage, birds, animals and religious scenes worked in gold thread embroidered on silk cloth. All of the examples included in the exhibition were religious items, since no secular items have survived.

One term for silk I did not mention previously is the word bliaut (Anglo-Norman French), which eventually passed into Middle English as blẹ̄aunt. Its true meaning was "a costly silk fabric, or a garment or bedspread made from it", so those people using it to specifically mean a type of dress are missing the point. It had a slightly different meaning in Old French, emphasising the marked difference in English and Continental language and fashions at the time. The word bliaut first appears in Anglo-Norman literature in about 1170 and it is just one of many different fabric terms that were also used for garments made of that fabric.

*The late Donald King (d. 1998) was the founding father of textile studies in England. His knowledge of the technology and history of textiles of all periods across many lands remains unsurpassed. An erudite and yet modest scholar, he did much to promote the academic understanding of textiles, both in this country and abroad. His role as Keeper of Textiles in the Victoria and Albert Museum, allowed first-hand technical analysis of a large number of medieval and later textiles over a very wide range of techniques.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138


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