Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

Bayeux-Tap-DH-art - 5/10/14


"The Bayeux Tapestry - Description and History" by Baroness Sine ni Dheaghaidh, CP.


NOTE: See also the files: Bayeux-Tap-msg, Bayeux-Tapsty-art, 8-P-Stitches-art, embroidery-msg, P-Emb-Frames-art, emb-linen-msg, merch-needlewk-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



The Bayeux Tapestry -

Description and History

by Baroness Sine ni Dheaghaidh, CP


The Bayeux Tapestry consists of eight conjoined strips of different lengths of fabric to form a longer piece 20 inches wide and 230 feet long. It was originally longer, but at some point in its long history, the end was torn off.


The ground fabric is linen and was originally off-white. It is now an off-white grayish color. It is woven in a fine tabby weave with warp and weft counts of 18-19 threads per centimeter. The embroidery consists of two stitches, stem and laid work and couching. Seven colors were used, terracotta, blue-green, old gold, olive green, blue, safe green and dark blue or black. In the nineteenth century, a sickly yellow was used to mend frayed threads in some areas.


There are 72 scenes with 1500 figures (623 humans, 55 dogs, 202 horses, 41 ships, 49 trees, almost 2000 Latin words and over 500 mythical and non-mythical creatures such as birds and dragons.).


The Tapestry tells the story of the events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings. It is thought that the missing piece depicts the crowning of William as King of England.


Most scholars agree that the Tapestry was commissioned by Bishop Odo, the half- brother of William and was made in the south of England before 1082. The first known mention of the Tapestry was in the fifteenth century, when it was listed in the accounts of the Bayeux Cathedral.


Because it was rolled up and stored, the Tapestry has survived fires and wars for nearly 500 years. The Tapestry is extremely important to historians because it is the prime source for knowledge of the Norman Conquest and the events leading up to it.


The Tapestry currently resides in Bayeux, France, in its' own museum, the former Palace of the Bishops of Bayeux. It is displayed in a special lighted glass covered frame that runs around three sides of a specially designed gallery, for the world to enjoy.



Laid Work and Couching

The Bayeux Tapestry Stitch


1. Outline your design with stem stitch.



2. Determine in what direction your stitches are going. It sometimes helps to pencil in light lines to guide you in keeping your stitches straight.


3. Fill in a portion of your piece with laid work stitches. These are similar to satin stitches, but do not go all the way around on the backside of the piece. Work back and forth across the area to be filled, picking up only a small piece of fabric at each edge. Then work back, filling in the spaces left.




4. When the area on which you are working is covered completely with stitches, you are ready to begin couching. Lay a piece of yarn (in a contrasting color) horizontally across the laid work. With small and uniform stitches, tack the horizontal yarn down at regular intervals with the same yarn. In other words, take your horizontal yarn down at the end of the design and come up to the surface at intervals to catch the yarn in a small tacking stitch.



5. Lay down another row of yarn and couch it, staggering the stitches with the row above it. Continue until all laid work is couched.





Denny, Norman and Josephine Filmer-Sankey. The Bayeux Tapestry. New York: Atheneum, 1966.


Edwards, Joan. Crewel Embroidery in England. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1975.


Staniland, Kay. Embroiderers. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. (Medieval Craftsman Series).


"William 1." Britannica Online. http://www.eb.com


Wilson, David. The Bayeux Tapestry. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.


Wilson, Erica. Crewel Embroidery. New York: Charles Scribner's Son, 1962.


Wilson, Eva. Early Medieval Designs from Britain. New York: Dover Publications, 1983.


Class in the Bayeux Tapestry stitch taught by Mistress Kalida Aristana (Sandra McFarland), Runestone Collegium, 1994


On Line Resources for the Bayeux Tapestry Eyewitness to History




Eyewitness to History



Bayeux Tapestry finale



More about the tapestry



View the Bayeux Tapestry



History of the events as told by a SCAdian




Techniques and uses:


Anglo-Saxon embroidery techniques



Embroidery and costuming



Uses of laid work and couching



Copyright 2011 by Jane Sellers, 7066 N. NC Hwy 109, Winston-Salem NC, 27107. <sinebee at triad.rr.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org