Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery

Jan Messent

This book is tricky to describe. It is not a project book. It is not a book which goes into great details about technique. It is not a book about materials used. It is not a detailed history of textiles and embroidery…yet it does in a way contain all of these. Maybe the best way to encapsulate it is perhaps to say it is a very skilled textile artist’s journey of discovery as she follows her passion and her heart to create some stunning embroideries which interpret her vision of a distant past. Jan delights in making small pieces. There are little books, a delightful small box, her interpretation of what colours, textiles and stitches may have been used in the making of King Eadward’s tunic, knowing that his wife, Queen Edgyth, was a skilled needlewoman. I hope these examples whet your appetite enough to borrow this book from Auckland Libraries (746.44 M57). 

A few months ago, Elizabeth Darrah brought along her lovely interpretation of one of the ‘pages’, from one of Jan’s exquisite little fabric books described in her book. It was displayed on the new work table. Jan’s little objects evolve from her sketches and samples, as she plays with the ideas and inspiration she garners from her knowledge of the history of the period, her knowledge of embroidery and her obvious delight in experimenting with new materials. Her writing style draws the reader into her world. The photographs and illustrations are beautiful.

We are so fortunate that there are many publishers of embroidery books who take real pride and care over the finished product. This one is from Search Press who have done a wonderful job of producing this gorgeous book. It could be mistaken for a coffee table book. It is certainly large enough and lavishly illustrated enough to be categorised as one. It isn’t though. It is so very much more. Enjoy! 

Erica Marsden