[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: LXXVI | By Viveka Hansen]
Quite a large number of textiles from the period 1525-1650 are kept in the Malmö Museum collection – mostly purchased from Italy, Spain and other countries in the 20th century – but it is only a limited number that with certainty can be traced to local citizens and their everyday life from this part of the early modern period. Like the well-preserved purse depicted below from 1602, fragments of knitted garments, a thimble and silver buttons. This text will briefly put these textile remnants etc in its historical context assisted by earlier research of local estate inventories. A range of other handwritten documents and a portrait which together gives quite a clear idea of the textile production and material culture in these years.
Quotes are translated from Danish/Swedish to English.
In 1559 the Danish King Fredrik II was to be crowned in Copenhagen, for this occasion a contemporary document stated that interior textiles among other matters had to be borrowed from the castle Malmöhus and the townsmen of Malmö, including: ’100 table cloths, 10 beds with bolsters, pillows, cushions, sheets, Flemish bed clothing and other…’. This list demonstrates some of the textile prosperity that existed in wealthy homes in the mid 16th century Malmö, while most homes owned a selection of “necessary textiles” depending on economical circumstances. The realities of ownership and the number/type of textiles in various strata of society, can foremost be studied via preserved estate inventories including textiles for the home as well as clothing owned by the deceased.
The late textile historian Ernst Fischer gave many examples of the townsmen’s textiles from late 16th century homes in Malmö, researched from estate inventories and other archival sources. One such informative description was as follows: ‘In 1594 Nils Guldsmed and his wife Bengta had 1 bench cover and 1 travel cushion, both embroidered, 3 Flemish tapestry bench covers of which one was old and one of the other had the considerable length of 10 alnar [ca 6 metres]. Furthermore they owned 7 long Flemish tapestry cushions, of which one had a pattern of faces. Finally, on the beds was 1 Danish bed-cloth, 2 piled rugs, one old and one new, and also 2 leather bed covers’. It must be noted that the “Flemish tapestry” was a tapestry type not necessarily woven in Flanders, but instead most probably produced in Malmö by local weavers.
Proofs for that selling of similar pattern books existed can be traced via an estate inventory of art merchant Thomas Bell in Malmö, 1617. Among many other articles, the merchant left ‘4 books to make lace and stitch in imitation of…1 dlr.’. Malmö estate inventories included substantial numbers of embroidered cushions etc already in the second half of the 16th century. The tapestry or “Flemish” weaving was another textile art form on the increase in Malmö, quite often based on pattern book styled designs. Due to studies of a large selection of local estate inventories, Fischer’s research also revealed that this technique became common in the townsmen’s homes in early 16th century and continued to increase in popularity up to 1650.
Broadcloth and wadmal for the Malmö citizens’ needs were both imported and produced by local weavers. The import was substantial and the English qualities were regarded as superior. However, it is not possible to be sure of the proportion between domestic woollen fabrics and the import, due to that when an estate inventory lists a loom it is unclear if this tool was used for woollen or linen cloth. Furthermore the professional woollen weavers were few in this period, for example only two in 1596 while the linen weavers numbered fourteen.
The local linen trade was also thoroughly researched by Ernst Fischer, giving detailed information about the many masters, journeymen and apprentices. The linen weavers guild in Malmö was introduced in the mid 16th century – producing bed linen, blue-striped fabric for bolsters, tablecloths, napkins and linen for clothing for the population. The demand and popularity for all type of linen wares became substantially intensified at the end of this century, meaning that flax growing as well as the number of weavers increased making professional linen weaving to an important occupation/trade in the period 1550 to 1650.
Four knitted woollen fragments found during archeological excavations, also adds knowledge to clothing used by Malmö citizens in this period. To knit garments with two or more needles was at least known already in the 1380s on the Continent, but no Medieval finds in this increasingly popular elastic technique for clothes have been found in the Nordic area. Two of the earliest Malmö fragments of knitted wool – excavated in an earth closet in St Gertrud area – have been dated to the 16th century. One of the tiny pieces was plain stitched without any types of patterns (4560: 19), 2,5 stitches x 3 rows/cm, a quite fine quality with a 2-ply yarn. While the second fragment (4560: 6) is garter stitched and has a coarser structure. The two other fragments are somewhat larger and have been dated to the first half of the 17th century. Including a fragmented plained stitched cap (MHM 1813) unearthed 1969 in the area Ellenbogen, whilst the remnants of a pair of mittens (MHM 648) were found seven years earlier in the area of Stadt Hamburg. The plain stitched mitten was particularly fine in quality, with 4 stitches x 6 rows/cm, the garment also includes decorative simple purl/plain stitch patterning. One can conclude that the knitter of these mittens must have used extremely thin knitting needles to achieve this extraordinary fine quality.
To be continued…
Previous post in this series:
– ‘Embroideries, Silks & Velvets – After the Reformation’.
– Fischer, Ernst, Linvävarämbetet i Malmö och det skånska linneväveriet, Malmö 1959.
– Fischer, Ernst, Flamskvävnader i Skåne, Malmö 1962.
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Kyrkliga textilier i Malmö – från medeltid till barock’, Elbogen pp. 61-135. 2000. (A large number of primary and secondary sources were studied for this article. For full Bibliography etc; please see the Swedish article.)
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Förhistoriska och Medeltida Textilier i Malmö’, Elbogen pp. 73-144. 2001. (A large number of primary and secondary sources were studied for this article. For full Bibliography; please see the Swedish article. Numbers within brackets, refers to Malmö Museum catalogue cards.)
– Malmö Museum, Sweden (Online collection, three images & information from catalogue cards).
– Zoppino, Nicolo d’Aristotile, Esemplario di lavori, Facsimile, Venezia 1878.
PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Textile Production & Traditions in a Coastal Town – 1525-1650’, TEXTILIS (March 3, 2017); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)