The front tells the story; the back tells the history: a technical discussion of the embroidering of the Bayeux Tapestry

Lester-Makin, A. (2016) The front tells the story; the back tells the history: a technical discussion of the embroidering of the Bayeux Tapestry. In: Henderson, A. C. and Owen-Crocker, G. R. (eds.) Making Sense of the Bayeux Tapestry: Readings and Reworkings. Series: Studies in design and material culture. Manchester University Press: Manchester, pp. 23-40. ISBN 9780719095351

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The front the Bayeux Tapestry is famous for the story it tells; the end of the Anglo-Saxon era and beginning of the Norman through invasion. From the front it is possible to detect the embroidery stitches used in creating it. However, it is the back of the Tapestry that reveals how it was actually made. The back is not normally available to view but during the early 1980s photographs were taken whilst the Tapestry was being conserved and re-hung in its present location. Only five people including the author have been given permission to study the photographs in detail, and it is these that inform this paper. By studying the photographs the Tapestry’s creation has been revealed; the construction and embroidering of the seams, how the embroidery stitches were worked, and the order in which they were worked. By combining information gathered from the photographs and the front of the Tapestry a hypothesis for the logistics of creating such a large embroidered hanging can be suggested. From this, suggested working practices of designer, draughtsman and embroidery-workers can be drawn. Questions previously asked for example, what order the main panel and the borders were worked, and whether the inscriptions were worked in conjunction with the main panel can also be answered. This is the focus of the paper which, for the first time draws together all the available information from the eight seams in the linen ground fabric and the surrounding embroidered areas to discuss how the Bayeux Tapestry was created.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Bayeux Tapestry, embroidery, production, stitch, wool, linen; sewing, women, microscope, technical analysis.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Makin, Dr Alexandra
Authors: Lester-Makin, A.
Subjects:C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Publisher:Manchester University Press

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