Redwork Bible Bag

Redwork Bible Bag

Object Description & Source Material
My bag is based on an bag in the British Library collection dated 1639, Shelfmark c25m17, found at Museum Website #1 listed below.

In the seventeenth century, embroidered linen bags were often found with bibles. The bibles were stored in bags to protect them from wear and tear since the bindings covering the bible were embroidered as well.

Original Materials => Unknown
I have listed my embroidered bag as a “study” rather than a reproduction because it is based on guess work. The British Library website does not list the materials used in the original bag. In addition, the museum photograph is quite blurry. I undertook this project on the spur of the moment because I wanted some fun embroidery work to do on vacation.

In corresponding with Philippa Marks, Curator of Bookbindings and Early Printed Collections at the British Library, the following details about the bag were revealed:

Fabric: silk twill
Embroidery floss: silk
Design on the back of the bag: repeat of the front design
Lining: none
Original color of the linen: tan
Finished size 9 3/4 x 7 inches
Embroidery method: stem stitch

Since I did not have this information before I made my bag, I used guess work.

Study Materials
– 100% Linen
– Silk embroidery floss (The Caron Collection, color 2013)
– Silk lining

Method
– Two-strand silk done in split-stitch.

What I Learned from the Study
It’s amazing what one learns during the execution of a project like this. When I made the design from the drawing, I drew the flowers and their details from the source photograph without thinking much about the execution. During the embroidery process, I determined that I hadn’t been consistent with my flower drawings. Sometimes the leaves had veins, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes a flower had spots, sometimes it didn’t.

I don’t know if these imperfections are due to the original maker’s embroidery, a degradation of the original bag’s materials or simply a blurry photograph. In addition, I think that sometimes we in the SCA are too perfect in our reproductions. We do not take into account that the object we are reproducing is less than perfect, itself. A higher resolution photograph will show the reason for the imperfections in design.

Bibliography

  1. Davenport, Cyril. English Embroidered Bookbindings. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Company Limited, London, 1899. http://posner.library.cmu.edu/Posner/books/book.cgi?call=655.7_D24E

Museum Websites

  1. British Library – Book Bag link. http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/BindingsDisplay.aspx?BookId=019-000002805
  2. English Embroidered Book Bindings. http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/bookbind/engembbook/embroideredbookbind.html

4 Responses to Redwork Bible Bag

  1. Val Aldridge says:

    i would be interested to hear if Phillipa Marks was able to supply any details of the threads and stitches used on the linen bible bag. There seems to be very little published on early British redwork and I never found any reference to it when I was studying the history of British embroidery at college

    • Amie Sparrow says:

      She took some photos for me but of course I can’t publish them. It’s been awhile since I looked at the material. I’ll see what she sent me and get back to you tomorrow.

  2. Val Aldridge says:

    Thanks for your quick response. I am at the start of a project which involves looking at early (pre 19th century) embroideries worked in red only threads -long way to go.yet.

    • Amie Sparrow says:

      A quote from an article in “Tournaments Illuminated” in my section “Embroidered Book Bag” Issue 174, Second Quarter, 2010:

      “In corresponding with Philippa Marks, Curator of Bookbindings and Early Printed Collections at the British Library, the following details about the bag were revealed:
      Fabric: silk twill
      Embroidery floss: silk
      Design on the back of the bag: A repeat of the front design
      Lining: none
      Original color of the linen: tan
      Finished size 9 3/4 x 7 inches
      Embroidery method: stem stitch”

      Hope this helps! Please use attribution if you write a paper. Thanks! Amie

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