The second category of applied motifs are those that were used for furnishings and hangings. The Inventory of Henry VIII describes the use of this type of applied design as 9090 “ one Cusshion embrawdered with a cut of carnacion vellat” and 9884 “two fruntes for an aulter of crimson satten allover embraudered with a cutte of cloth of gold”. These were mainly shapes cut from fabrics sewn onto a onto a contrasting ground creating a pattern. Santina Levey defines this technique as follows: “The term ‘cutwork’ denoted applied motifs cut from fabric, and it was an important aspect of embroidery” and notes “The terms ‘applied work’ or ‘appliqué’ were not used.” IHVIII Textiles and Dress Pg 148.
The shapes could be applied and outlined without further embellishment however additional embroidery stitches could be effectively added to provide detail such as the motifs on the pall commissioned by Henry VII in the Ashmolean (AN2009.52). The rose (below left) is red satin embellished with details in red silk threads with a large padded centre. The crown and portcullis (below right) are cut from cloth of gold with fine embroidery and padded areas in the crown to create a three dimensional appearance. https://collections.ashmolean.org/object/724881
Another example of cutwork employing additional stitching is a large textile fragment (below) in the Victoria and Albert (T.90-1926). It incorporates two elegant designs running vertically, a scrolled vine in the centre, flanked on both sides by a repeating floral motif set sideways. The shapes of leaves and berries are cut out of black velvet and sewn onto the red wool ground fabric. These are embellished with surface embroidery and outlined with yellow silk cord. It was once part of a bed cover, hangings and wall coverings in Berkeley Castle. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O363492/hanging/
Another example is a small fragment of green wool (T.265-1959) embroidered in a floral pattern with flowers and leaves cut from satin and velvet. Additional embroidery has been added to detail petals, leaves and stems and provide an outline to cover raw edges. It is suggested that this fragment could possibly have come from a saddle cloth, however, it could conceivably be from a larger furnishing. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O361558/fragment-unknown/
Additional embroidery wasn’t necessary when the shapes were cut from luxury textiles. The heraldic embroideries at Hardwick Hall mentioned in last week’s post made great use of cutwork with many luxury textiles providing the shapes. A set of four valances in the V&A collection (T.4513-16-1858) have a ground of deep red (murrey) velvet embroidered with an arabesque design in gold cord highlighted with shapes cut from cloth of gold tissue. There are many detailed images of both sides of this object on the V&A website. https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115513/valance-unknown/. Because the cloth of gold is very fine, the cuts are lined with linen before applying to the velvet. There is also a backing of linen that provides an extra layer to accommodate a small amount of padding to be inserted between the lining and the velvet. This technique will be the subject of a future experiment. (Not sure whether this is Italian or English – V&A notes that T.4513-1958 was made is London and the other three in Italy.)
Next week: Slips