Celtic, Viking, and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery

Celtic, Viking, and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery, by Jan Messent

This is such a great book, people.  If you are at all interested in textile arts, or the British Isles a thousand years ago, you've got to find a copy of this and sink into it.

Jan Messent has been doing various forms of textile arts, painting, and design for a long time, and if you look you can find a fairly long list of books to her name, most of which are about design or knitting.  She's also written a lot of historical romances under the name Juliet Landon.  In the 1990s, she produced an entire panel of Bayeux embroidery that was a theoretical fill-in for the missing final panel of the Bayeux tapestry (several people have done this).  And in about 2010, she was amusing herself by making mixed-media embroidered books and items in homage to Celtic, Viking, and Anglo-Saxon styles, which became this book.

Messent gives some nice history about the clothing and textile styles, and she explains what she was doing, but most of the book is large photos and close-ups of the books.  There is, for example, a book dedicated to playing with the Bayeux stitch, one about accessories, one about clothing.  One book features a modern rendition of a part of the Domesday Book.  Another has beautiful quilted Lewis chess knights.  And at the very back, there is the St. Cuthbert Project, a series of quilted pieces using motifs associated with St. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne.  These are stunning pieces, which I only wish I could emulate.  (My daughter is hoping I will and then give them to her.  Ha.  Should I ever produce anything remotely that beautiful, I will keep them my own self!)

The work uses mixed-media, combining painting, cut-outs, threadwork, and all sorts of things, often in a sort of collage.  None of it is meant to be completely authentic (how would anyone do such a thing?); it's playing around with and paying homage to the works of the past.

A page of Bayeux stitch
There are very few images of this work online; Messent has a small website but does not have much time or interest in posting galleries on the internet.  So unless you get hold of the book, you're pretty well out of luck.  It's well worth an ILL; I found this book to be a wonderful collection of art and an inspiration.  I'm going to have to buy a copy to keep!


  1. One of my characters in my NaNoWriMo project surprised me by developing a passion for British embroidery. Now I remember where I got that idea from!


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