Kay Staniland is an English author and embroiderer, with five other titles to her name.
This small book, published by British Museum Press, London, in 1991 is a well-researched introduction into the somewhat hazy and indefinite world of medieval embroiderers – the actual people behind the magnificence of medieval needle arts, forming one part in a series of books on medieval craftsmen.
Filled with a mixture of both coloured and black and white images showcasing design and technique through surviving embroideries, paintings, frescoes and manuscripts, this book offers a sound and solid background for any embroiderer wishing to use it as a jumping board for further research into the medieval needlework era.
The images are more than adequate, remember this was published in 1991, with chapters covering the Guilds, Designers, Production, Patrons, Early and Later Embroiderers and Patrons. There’s also a glossary, which is useful and a well-rounded Further Reading list including The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker and English Medieval Embroidery by A. Christie.
Staniland asks the questions we all find fascinating. How did they acquire their skills? Did they work from home or in workshops? How much were they paid? Who drew up the designs and who commissioned them? And in the main, she answers these questions, allowing for the lack of surviving documentary information from this great period.
Whether stitched by amateurs or professionals, in convents, by royal or church patronage or in humbler homes, Staniland weaves an informative story connecting some of these diverse topics. And it’s fascinating.
It’s a book well worth reading and acquiring for a personal or group library.