Embroidered Textiles

Here is one of the multiple motifs for love commonly embroidered upon linen.
Here is a non-custom embroidered top. This is something similar to what could be found in a lacemen’s shop.

Embroidered Textiles were very common in Europe in the Early Modern period. The upper classes chose to embellish their couture in a variety of ways. Monograms came about to distinguish ones clothing
from another’s, as it added a personal touch. Outer wear was “usually decorated with ribbons and trimmings”, “handiwork was lavished” on aprons and bonnets, and “red cross stitch embroidery on linen” was popular as well (Paine & Rivers, 61). Many fabrics could be embroidered but linen was most reliable. In fact, in Spain, “background fabric [was] usually linen” (Paine & Rivers, 61). This was because linen does not shrink, so one did not have to worry about the embroidery upon the fabric getting distorted. In Portugal, linen garments were usually embroidered with “the word amor, initials and dates, always worked in red” (Paine & Rivers, 61). These embroidered motifs demonstrated the motifs of love. By the late eighteenth century in England, embroidery was in such high demand that “London shoppers could buy embroidered ready-made dress in the shops of lacemen and linen drapers” (Thunder, 87). This shows that embroidery did not have to be custom, although most people did enjoy hiring designers to develop a custom design. Extant early modern textile designs have been found with names inscribed upon the them. “The names inscribed on the designs are all of aristocratic, gentry or wealthy women”, thus proving that embroidered textiles were for an “èlite clientele” (Thunder, 87).

Here is an embroidered marriage bed.

Embroidery was not only for apparel. It was very fashionable to have interior furnishing embroidered. Monogramed tablecloths were a very common item in elite households, as well as monogramed bedding. In Portugal, a household usually had embroidery on “linen for display on the marriage bed and washbasin” (Paine & Rivers, 62). A married couple chose to show off their union by embroidering their coverlet and having it visible to whoever would enter their home.   Households where embroidered furnishings were found were usually homes of upper class families, as they wanted to show off their initials and family crests. This is similar to today, as one can find embellished furnishings in most upper class households.


Recommended Readings:

  • Paine, Sheila, and Victoria Z. Rivers. Embroidered Textiles: Traditional Patterns from Five Continents with a Worldwide Guide to Identification. London: Thames & Hudson, 1997.
  • Thunder, Moira. “Object Lesson Designs and Clients for Embroidered Dress, 1782-94” 37, no. 1 (May 1, 2006): 82–90. doi:10.1179/004049606×94486