|"Tailor's" buttonhole stitch. |
Original graphic by Grace Christie,
"Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving",
downloaded from Wikimedia Commons
|Open buttonhole stitch. |
From "Ancient Danish Textiles", p. 284
The one that surprised me most is that the neckline of the Skyrdstrup blouse is decorated with a few lines of nalbinding. I learned that from Susanna Broome's booklet, Nalbinding from Finds. The stitching is what we know of today as "buttonhole stitch."* However, if you work buttonhole stitch along a line of previously worked buttonhole stitch, or along a loop of thread, instead of through fabric, the result is a very simple form of nalbinding. Ulrike Claßen-Büttner, in her recent book "Nalbinding - What in the World Is That?: History and Technique of an Almost Forgotten Handicraft," (Books on Demand 2015), calls this technique "simple looping"(page 21) and classifies it as a simple nalbinding stitch.
|Twisted buttonhole stitch.|
From "Ancient Danish Textiles," p. 284
In "Ancient Textiles from Bogs and Burials", Margrethe Hald discusses the Skrydstrup blouse and other instances of buttonhole stitch that were used as ornamentation. One might deduce from this that the humble "buttonhole" stitch had many decorative uses in antiquity and the early medieval period. Hald notes that at least one find of a cap worked in open buttonhole stitch has been found. More interestingly, a scrap of textile worked in twisted buttonhole stitch, a variation of buttonhole stitch, was found at Ordrup Mose and has been dated to the New Stone Age (Hald, p. 283).
The lesson here, as is so often the case in examining archaeological textile finds, is not to import one's assumptions into the examination. Many of us do not think of buttonhole stitch as embroidery, let alone an art that can create a textile, but it's clear from early finds that it has been used that way, and that use of needle looping (which is what the term "nalbinding" means) goes way back into the distant past. Clothing technologies change, and any study of pre-modern costume must remain alert to that fact.
* Some people equate "buttonhole stitch" with "blanket stitch", but the two stitches, though very similar, are not the same. This site has a good explanation of the difference. By the definition provided on the Nordic Needle, Hald's diagram of buttonhole stitch on p. 284 of "Ancient Danish Textiles" is actually blanket stitch, which is why I have not reproduced it here.