Hearts Knit Together #34: Renaissance Embroidery


You know there were master painters and sculptors in the Renaissance period but did you know there were fiber artists too? And during this time the needle and fiber arts were chiefly practiced and controlled by men.

At my children's school it is required that we co-op for 3 hours a week per child, up to 6 hours per family. As a previous homeschooling mom this was a big part of what encouraged us to look at the school. I like to be involved in their education and spending time with them during the day, doing meaningful things, not just changing out bulletin boards or restocking books. In the younger grades the parent co-opers are used as additional teachers, allowing students to be in smaller groups for instruction. Having a smaller student to teacher ratio really makes a difference. Usually Joel or I are helping during math, working with 3-5 students on assignments that the teacher had previously taught the concept. I really enjoy the time with Maeve and teaching the students. It helps me remember and use my behavior management skills from my previous work as a school social worker.

In the upper grades, parents are given the choice to working in the classroom for core subjects with the teachers or to teach an explore/elective class on their own. I opted for the later this semester. As an upper school they are studying the Renaissance period so my explore is Renaissance Embroidery. Over the next few weeks I will share with you what I am learning about fiber arts during this time period. 

For starters, as I mentioned above, the fiber artists were men mostly. In Europe, during the Middle Ages, most people lived in the castles of the feudal lords. Gradually, small settlements sprang up under their protection, eventually becoming towns. During this period the weaving of cloth and other fiber arts, began to move out of the home and Guilds were established. By the 12th century, the Weavers Guild, the oldest in England, had been organized. In France, the Company of Embroiderers was formed as a Guild in 1272.
In the towns, men engaged in the same craft lived side by side, and streets came to be named by the craft practiced there, such as Threadneedle Street, which I am told still exists in London. Artists came to be known by the name of their trade, thus the origins of last names such as Weaver, Tailor, Dyer etc. Wouldn't it be interested to trace back your last name to find out who the baker or cook or weaver actually was?

Guilds helped the artist to be competitive and the strict standards protected the consumer by assuring high quality at a fair price. They had strict laws governing their trade such as only men could be Master Embroiders in the Paris Guild and boys had to learn the trade as apprentices. His parents would send him to a Master Embroider to learn the trade as an apprentice, when the apprenticeship was over he was allowed to become a journeyman. He could travel from town to town, looking for work and learning new skills. But no journeyman could become a Master until tested by the Guild. This was done by the Wardens of the Guild giving him a piece of work to do. This was called his "masterpiece", and he had to carry it out by himself, in the presence of the judges. Nerve racking right?! If his work passed their inspection, the new member became a Master Embroiderer and could set up his own shop.

I have two classes, with a total of 15 students, almost evenly split between guys and girls. My smaller class of 5 guys is actually my favorite because they work so diligently the entire time (and these were the same boys that gave me a hard time last semester when I was in the larger classroom with them!)

In the above photos , I used Jude as a guinea pig for my first lesson, teaching him at home. I found the idea from Childhood 101. Her tutorial calls for hessian fabric. I went to Joann Fabrics and asked for hessian fabric and got a blank stare. Turns out it is called burlap here in America. Oops. I looked pretty stupid. I cut the fabric into 5x7 inch squares and sewed a zigzag stitch around the edges with my sewing machine to keep the fabric from unraveling. Then Jude drew a rainbow on the fabric with fabric markers. He embroidered with the running stitch over the drawing. He was very proud of his work. Roman refused to have anything to do with the project but still insisted I take his picture. Little stinker.

Happy Monday!   

Part 2 Renaissance Embroidery

Part 3 Renaissance Embroidery 

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