Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What's this?

Because I've got a new job at another university, I had to return some books that were on my desk for ages... One of those books was an absolutely fascinating book about 13th century textiles found in tombs of the Spanish monastery “ El panteon real de las Huelgas”, in Burgos:

Gomez-Moreno, M (1946), El panteon real de las Huelgas de Burgos, Madrid: Consejo superior de investigaciones cientificas, Instituto Diego Velazquez

I really like some of the pillows that were found.

In the book, these pillows were included in the chapter on embroidery, but they were described as follows: “Una segunda categoria, dificil de rastrear en sus origenes, es el punto de media, hecho con agujas, sin base alguna que recuerde el tejido” (p. 84). According to this description, they were made with the technique “punto de media, hecho con agujas”, which is some kind of crochet or knitting, made with needles. Hmm.. what would that mean... I don't really understand this part either: “sin base alguna que recuerde el tejido”. Does it mean that the pillows do not have a base that ressembles woven textiles? If it is somehow crocheted or knitted, that is quite logical. In addition, the author says that is is difficult to trace the origin of this technique, and the pillows were probably made in Andalucia.

This pillow, for example, is 28 cm, made in red, cream and grey wool. The heraldic figures are probably fantasy figures. The buttons on top of the pillow cover are interesting too (but they're not included in the catalogue description):

These pillows remind me of something completely different: a series of Swiss 14th century purses described in this book:

Schmedding, B. (1978), Mittelalterliche Textilien in Kirchen und Klöstern der Schweiz, Bern: Abegg-Stiftung

As fas as I can see from the pictures, the surface texture of both pillows and purses looks similar (but maybe that's just wishful thinking :-). Here is an example of one of those Swiss purses. Schmedding suggests that this purse might be made using a knitting frame:

These purses are so beautiful! There are also some with horiontal rows of flowers in red, blue and yellow (on top of my wishlist of “Things I'd love to try to make one day”).

Maybe it's not possible to compare objects from such different times and places, but I do wonder whether similar techniques were used to make the pillows and the purses.

If you know more about this technique, please let me know!


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Chris Laning said...

I have a translation of the descriptions from Las Huelgas into English, which has been verified by a native Spanish speaker, if that would help. I am 3,000 miles from home at the moment, but if you will e-mail me at CLANING at IGC dot ORG (all the letters should be lower case) I will happily e-mail you what I have when I get back home on Friday.

Yes, both the pillow and the bag that you show are knitted. The bag may have been made on a knitting frame rather than knitted on needles. Both the bag and the pillow are silk (Gomez-Moreno says the pillows are wool, but he is wrong -- definitely NOT a textile man!). It is a little confusing because there are three pillows at Las Huelgas that are all shown in the book: this one and the one with castles are knitted, but the third one is embroidered in long-armed cross stitch, which at first glance looks a lot like knitting (but isn't).

These are about 150 years apart in age, and they are two of the oldest pieces of knitting in Western Europe. I know a number of people who have made either reproductions or pieces inspired by these. The HistoricKnit group on Yahoo has abundant resources in its archives and files sections on these and similar items, and there are some nice reproductions and other pieces in the photo albums.

Feel free to write to me and ask more questions. There is a lot of information available and I'll be happy to point you to it.

Machteld said...

Chris, thanks for your comment!

I already got the impression that Gomez-Moreno's description were not always very accurate.

I just signed up for the HistoricKnit group and it's wonderful to see that some people actually made them!

There's a new book about these textiles, but I haven't got it yet:

de VV.AA.

ISBN: 9788471203830
Nº Edición:1ª
Año de edición:2005
Plaza edición: MADRID

Unknown said...


I believe the book "Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe" also has some information on those pillowcases.... at least I remember pictures, but I'd have to look it up. I made one of those pillowcases with the fler-de-lys and my husbands heraldry- a unicorn, that I designed so it would fit in the space either the lion or the eagle takes. Since I wanted a "big" pillowcase (I know, I made it in the days before accuracy became my obsession), I cheated a bit and only knitted the heraldic images into every second lozenge....

Great work!


Laura said...

Ooh, a new book about Burgos! Maybe I'll be able to get my hands on this one.

Keep us posted once you have a look at it!

Amanda Haugland said...

Please help? I just came across this while looking for information on the Sion pouches. Do you own the Schmedding book? I've been trying to find a color (or black and white) photo of one of the Sion pouches--it's not one of the floral ones; it's the one with the almost-mazelike pattern, and I can't find a photo of it anywhere! It's mentioned in Richard Rutt's book, and I know someone who said she saw a photo of it in Brigitta Schmedding's book. Please let me know if it is, or if I can find it elsewhere. Thank you!

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