Forms of Embellishment

What is Embellishment?

The short answer: Decoration, on anything, with anything.

German Embroidery on a small Bag (by Aelianora de Wintringham)

The Long Answer: The most commonly thought of forms of embellishment in the SCA seem to be needlework, embroidery, and decoration of garments and linens and home furnishings. However, embellishment can also be done with paints on wood or leather, with stamps and engraving tools on wood, leather and metal, with threads and other items on textiles, and on many other materials in many other media. In fact, embellishment is making just about anything more attractive by decorating it. Of course, we, as a Guild, are focused upon the ways items were embellished during the accepted SCA period of study.

See more examples on the Guild Sample Box page.

Forms of Embellishment Accepted by the Guild

Forms are generally divided by material/media and technique. There is also an ‘other’ category under each material/medium. This category is used to suggest new forms for that material/medium when challenging. If the new form is approved, it’ll be added to the acceptable forms list under the appropriate material/medium. For a printable copy of the forms list go here. The forms are listed on the last 4 pages.

All forms of embellishment should be executed upon period appropriate items if those items are to be submitted for challenging the ranks of the Guild. Period appropriate means the item and the form of embellishment come from the same time frame and location and both are acceptable to the SCA.

Note: A form may be consecutively challenged for increasing ranks up to three (3) times providing that each time the form is challenged it increases in knowledge. A form may not be challenged successfully at the same level of knowledge twice, improvement must be shown.

NEW! Note: Forms that are not completely documented as being period (e.g. we have tools but no extant pieces; for example, lucet cord in which we have tools but no actual cord) can only be challenge to competency level and no further. As soon as it is documented that these forms are period, they can be challenged to expert level.

  • Fabric – cloth produced by weaving or knitting textile fibers.
    • Stitched Fabric – one complete movement of a threaded needle through a fabric or material such as to leave behind it a single loop or portion of thread, as in sewing, and embroidery.
      • Applique – Applique is a technique by which pieces of a material are attached to another larger piece of material, often in a decorative pattern.
        • Applied, reverse, single thickness, etc – reverse is a needlework technique whereby several layers of cloth are placed on top of each other and shapes are cut out in layers of decreasing size.
        • Foreign items: i.e. shells, mirrors, quills, etc
      • Quilting – Quilting is the term given to the process of joining a minimum of three layers of fabric together either through stitching manually by hand using a needle and thread, or specialised longarm quilting system
      • Trapunto — corded or stuffed – is a method of quilting that is also called “stuffed technique.” A puffy, decorative feature, trapunto utilizes at least two layers, the underside of which is slit and padded, producing a raised surface on the quilt.
      • Smocking – decoration on a garment created by gathering a section of the material into tight pleats and holding them together with parallel stitches in an ornamental pattern.
      • Other
    • Embroidery – This decorative stitching technique, with its varied stitches, is worked independent from the fabrics weave allowing you to embroider any design, realistic or abstract onto any fabric you choose. Surface Embroidery offers you the greatest versatility to create beautiful designs
      • Counted Thread – is any embroidery in which the fabric threads are counted by the embroiderer before inserting the needle into the fabric. Evenweave fabric is usually used; it produces a symmetrical image as both warp and weft fabric threads are evenly spaced.
        • German Brick Stitch – offset counted stitches produce a brick-like appearance giving the style the modern name of “German Brick Stitch Embroidery.”
        • Cross Stitch – Cross-stitching uses fabric stretched across a hoop. With stamped cross-stitch, a pattern is printed on fabric and the embroiderer uses this as a guide to create the final piece. With counted cross-stitch, the embroiderer counts stitches out from the center of the fabric to ensure an even final look
        • Long Arm Cross Stitch – Long-arm cross stitch is a variation on the more modern cross stitch most of us are familiar with. Rather than a line of X-shaped stitches, however, the long-arm version creates a texturized look, rather like a series of braids.
        • Voided Work – refers to a type of embroidery where the pattern is created by leaving the design unstitched and stitching the background in one colour. There are two major types of voided work known as Assisi (from Italy) and Reversa (from the Iberian Peninsula). There are also examples from other areas such as Iceland.
          • Assisi – This style of embroidery is monochromatic, and usually involves some form of linear stitch (generally backstitch) and a cross stitch (sometimes long-armed cross stitch or Italian cross stitch).
          • Reversi – A kind of reverse chain stitch used sometimes for joining pieces of fabric, sometimes for making free-standing figures; also called Ösenstich
        • Counted-thread Blackwork – Blackwork embroidery is a very old form of counted-thread embroidery. Because many of the designs are geometric it is most often stitched on an even-weave fabric. Despite the name “Blackwork” it was also done in blue, green, red, gold or silver. Linen or cotton was the primary fabrics since the original purpose of Blackwork was for costume adornment.
        • Pattern Darning – This style of embroidery weaves the embroidery thread over and under the fabric threads. The stitches that show on the front create a geometric pattern. To create this, one varies the length of your stitches.
        • Other
      • Metal Thread – are manufactured fibres composed of metal, metallic alloys, plastic-coated metal, metal-coated plastic, or a core completely covered by metal.
        • Surface Couching (metal thread) – Couching and laid work are techniques in which yarn or other materials are laid across the surface of the ground fabric and fastened in place with small stitches of the same or a different yarn
        • Or Nue – A goldwork technique involving couching gold threads with colored threads to produce a painted-like picture with a gleaming gold foundation.
        • Bullion Work – Bullion stitch, Caterpillar stitch, Coil stitch, Knot stitch, Post stitch, Worm stitch, Puerto Rico rose, Grub knot, Punto rococó / Punto precioso / Barrita de rococó, Point de poste, Wickelstich is a stitch used to make simple motif.
        • Underside Couching – is a technique whereby a thread (laid thread) is placed on the surface of the ground material, which is usually held taut in a frame. … The tying thread is returned through the same hole and pulled gently until a loop of the laid thread appears on the back of the material
        • Other
      • Canvas Work (“needlepoint”) – done by stitching wool yarn through a stiff even weave canvas
        • Tent Stitch – is a small, diagonal needlepoint stitch that crosses over the intersection of one horizontal (weft) and one vertical (warp) thread of needlepoint canvas forming a slanted stitch at a 45-degree angle. Variants are the Basketweave, Continental, and Half Cross tent stitch.
        • Cross Stitch on Canvas – on waste canvas. Waste canvas is made up of woven threads that are held together with a type of starch, which dissolves when wet.
        • Brick Stitch – A brick stitch is similar to a peyote stitch, but turned sideways. This technique is a bit stiffer than peyote, and is often used with beads.
        • Upright (gobelin) stitch – resembles the common plus sign, also called the straight stitch and St. George’s cross-stitch. A row of upright cross-stitches may be worked either from left to right or right to left
        • Satin Stitch – is a series of flat stitches that are used to completely cover a section of the background fabric. Narrow rows of satin stitch maintain a smooth edge, shapes can be outlined with back, split or chain stitch before the entire shape including the outline is covered with satin stitch.
        • Other
      • Surface Embroidery – is any form of embroidery in which the pattern is worked by the use of decorative stitches and laid threads on top of the foundation fabric or canvas rather than through the fabric; it is contrasted with canvas work.
        • Surface Couching (non-metal thread) – requires two threads: One remains completely on the surface, while the other loops through the fabric and over the thread to hold it in the form of the design. Couching embroidery can be used as either a freeform hand embroidery or a more structured type of crewelwork.
        • Basic Embroidery – is a fiber art. Used to create beautiful shapes, characters, flowers, figures or any design using thread and needle. Basic stitches are running stitch, back stitch, satin stitch, split stitch, french Knot, and chain stitch.
        • Laid Work – is a form of embroidery, that is very closely related to couching. Laid work normally has three or more layers of thread (while couching normally has two layers of thread).
        • Beadwork – is the art or craft of attaching beads to one another by stringing them with a sewing needle or beading needle and thread or thin wire, or sewing them to cloth. Beads come in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes.
        • Split Stitch – is an embroidery technique that closely resembles the chain stitch. The split stitch is formed when the working thread, after a small straight stitch is taken backwards underneath the ground material, but instead of coming up next to the thread on top the point of the needle splits the working thread, and the needle/thread is pulled through the split portion.
        • Crewel – Crewel embroidery (or crewel work) is any embroidery worked using crewel thread, which is a fine, strong, worsted form of thread. Crewel embroidery on a linen background has been worked in Europe since the early Medieval period, although the term crewel embroidery/work, as far as is known, dates back only to the seventeenth century.
        • Raised Work – The threads are worked with surface couching and underside couching , satin and split stitch , and with laid and raised work and some padding.
        • Other
      • WhiteWork – refers to any embroidery technique in which the stitching is the same color as the foundation fabric (traditionally white linen)
        • Drawn Thread – is a form of counted thread embroidery based on removing threads from the warp and/or the weft of a piece of even weave fabric. The remaining threads are grouped or bundled together into a variety of patterns. The more elaborate styles of drawn thread work use a variety of other stitches and techniques, but the drawn thread parts are their most distinctive element. It is also grouped as white work because it was traditionally done in white thread on white fabric and is often combined with other whitework techniques.
        • Pulled Thread – also known as drawn fabric, is a form of whitework that does not involve cutting the fabric threads. Instead tension is used when working the stitches to draw the fabric threads together to produce a lacy effect.
        • Cutwork – is a surface embroidery technique and two main stitches are used: running and buttonhole stitch. It is worked on fine linen or cotton fabric or lawn. It is generally worked in threads that match the fabric colour, traditionally white or ecru.
        • Buratto work – is named after buratto cloth, which in its turn is named after buratto, an Italian word for a sieve or sifter. Buratto embroidery is worked on an open, even weave cloth (buratto cloth) with a single warp and a double weft. The ground has a square mesh. Designs are worked in a running stitch, and may be counted or drawn directly onto the net.
        • Reticella – results in a characteristic geometric design of squares and circles with arched or scalloped borders. The resulting appearance of the cloth is like a giant mesh or network. Reticella is distinctive in the large size of its individual meshes (6–13 mm) and the use of button hole stitch to create the patterns within each mesh.
        • Other
    • Painting – fabric painting has happened for thousands of years, and artists in places like Asia and India developed many special fabric-painting methods. Fabric stamping is a type of this art form.
    • Other
  • Thread – is a type of yarn but similarly used for sewing. It can be made out of many different materials including cotton, linen, nylon, and silk.
    • knitting – is a method by which yarnis manipulated to create a textile or fabric: it is used in many types of garments. Knitting creates stitches: loops of yarn in a row, either flat or in the round (tubular). There are usually many active stitches on the knitting needle at one time. Knitted fabric consists of a number of consecutive rows of connected loops that intermesh with the next and previous rows. As each row is formed, each newly created loop is pulled through one or more loops from the prior row and placed on the gaining needle so that the loops from the prior row can be pulled off the other needle without unraveling.
    • Decorative netting – the technique of making knotted fishing nets, was appliedto silk threads, resulting in hair nets. These were often adorned with jewels, pearls and other items. Decorative netting could also be found on small items of clothing, throughout the 13th century.
    • lace – a fine open fabric, typically one of cotton or silk, made by looping, twisting, or knitting thread in patterns and used especially for trimming garments.
      • Bobbin – is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbinsto manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a rounded pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.
      • Needle lace – is a type of lace created using a needle and thread to stitch up hundreds of small stitches to form the lace itself. A variety of styles developed where the work is started by securing heavier guiding threads onto a stiff background (such as thick paper) with stitches that can later be removed. The work is then built up using a variety of stitches. When the entire area is covered with the stitching, the stay-stitches are released and the lace comes away from the paper.
      • Drawn Work – is where the weave and or weft threads have been withdrawn from the linen fabric. Patterns and designs are then woven into the threads that have been left to create rich and intricate borders.
      • Punto in Aria – is an early form of needle lace devised in Italy. It is considered the first true lace because it was the first meant to be stitched alone, and not first onto a woven fabric. It is a closely related needle lace to reticella, and their designs have many similarities when compared side-by-side.
      • Pulled Work – A type of openwork embroidery in which fabric threads are pulled or bundled together by embroidery stitches, creating an open, lace-like effect. No threads are clipped and drawn out of the fabric.
    • Weaving – the craft or action of forming fabric by interlacing threads.
      • Loom Woven Narrow Wares (e.g. Inkle) – An “inkle” is a braided linen tape. These braided tapes look like the bands woven on inkle looms.
      • Tablet (Card) – is a weaving technique where tablets or cards are used to create the shed through which the weft is passed
      • Decorative weaving of cloth – is a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. … Woven cloth can be plain (in one colour or a simple pattern), or can be woven in decorative or artistic design.
    • Braiding – to weave together strips or strands
      • Kumihimo – is Japanese for “gathered threads”, and is an ancient Japanese form of braid-making. Cords and ribbons are made by interlacing strands to make a strong, decorative braided rope.
      • Fingerloop/Fingerweaving -is a technique of making sturdy and decorative cords from threads. It is a type of braiding known as loop manipulation
      • Språng – a weaving technique in which threads or cords are intertwined and twisted over one another to form an openwork mesh.
    • Thread-Woven Buttons – made of a core, wrapped in thread.
      • Wooden Core – made of a wooden core, wrapped in silk thread, have been identified in 16th century clothing across Europe. These buttons are seen in clothing of both genders and are evident on (though not exclusive to) sleeves, doublet fronts and overgowns. There are many different styles of weaving, including the spined and basket-woven techniques.
      • Other
    • Other
  • Metal – a solid material that is typically hard, shiny, malleable, fusible, and ductile, with good electrical and thermal conductivity (e.g., iron, gold, silver, copper, and aluminum, and alloys such as brass and steel).
    • Wire Weaving – is actually the oldest form of jewelry making known to date. Examples have been found at archaeological sites across the globe, but pieces found at a site in Scandinavia are responsible for this technique’s namesake.
    • Etching – the act or process of making designs or pictures on a metal plate, glass, etc., by the corrosive action of an acid instead of by a burin.
    • Enamelling – is the ancient art of melting powdered glass onto metal. This can be done on flat pieces of metal or three dimensional pieces of art, such as vases. Heat is applied with a high temperature torch or a kiln. The temperature must rise to at least 1450 degree F. for the glass to fully fuse to the metal.
    • Pierce work – in metalwork, perforations created for decorative or functional effect or both
    • Casting – is a manufacturing process in which a liquid material is usually poured into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowed to solidify.
    • Sheet metal work (chasing, repousse, etc) – working with metals to create individual parts. The metal (chasing) is worked from the front by hammering with various tools that raise, depress, or push aside the metal without removing any from the surface. Chasing is the opposite of embossing, or repousse’ in which the metal is worked from the back to give a higher relief.
    • Other
  • Earthenware – pottery made of clay fired to a porous state which can be made impervious to liquids by the use of a glaze.
    • Painted – Methods you use to paint earthenware include: Underglazes; Slips; Oxide stains; Glazes; Acrylic paint.
    • Glazed – glazed earthenware, also called tin-enameled earthenware, earthenware covered with an opaque glaze that, unless colour has been added, is white
    • Carved/Etched – is to make an impression in the raw clay, using various tools and mediums to leave a texture or line drawing.
    • Moulded – is a production method which guarantees the precision required, and also gives a good surface finish, using a high temperature method to better structure and shape parts. This process also gives a low grade of toleration.
    • Other
  • Leather – is a durable and flexible material created by tanning animal rawhide and skins. The most common raw material is cattle hide.
    • Carving/Tooling – is used to add decoration. By means of carving tools (metal stamps cast into certain shapes), lines, grooves and patterns, such as monograms or coats of arms, are pressed, stamped and punched into the leather.
    • Painting – are acrylic-based paints created specifically for work on leather to create decorative images on Leather, faux leather and vinyl.
    • Braiding – is soft and pliable and can be cut into different numbers of strands easily using the same techniques of fibre braiding.
    • Decorative Applique – is a treatment of leather applied by pasting, sewing or riveting upon another medium.
    • Other
  • Wood – is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and other woody plants.
    • Carving – the action or skill of carving wood to make functional or ornamental objects.
    • Burning – also known as pyrography, uses a heated tool much like a soldering iron to gently etch designs on the surface of wood pieces.
    • Painting – Acrylic paint is applied to the prepared surface of wood for indoor pieces, acrylic enamel is for outdoor pieces
    • Inlay – are made by cutting a shaped pocket or void into a piece of wood, and then filling that pocket with another piece cut to the same shape.
    • Other
  • Stone/Gems – a precious or semiprecious stone, especially when cut and polished or engraved.
    • Carved – is an activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of the material.
    • Painted – is the art of applying acrylic paint to stones.
    • Other
  • Glass – is a non-crystalline, often transparent amorphous solid.
    • Painted – applying glass paint onto a glass surface, or by painting and baking transparent colors on the glass surface.
    • Stained – Glass colored by mixing pigments inherently in the glass, by fusing colored metallic oxides onto the glass.
    • Engraving – is a form of decorative glasswork that involves engraving a glass surface or object. It is distinct from glass art in the narrow sense, which refers to moulding and blowing glass, and from glass etching which uses acidic, caustic, or abrasive substances to achieve artistic effects.
    • Other
  • Bone/Antler/Horn/Ivory – Derived from animals, they are soft substances that can be worked into various art forms.
    • Carving – an object or design cut from a hard material as an artistic work.
    • Inlay – any decorative technique used to create an ornamental design, pattern, or scene by inserting or setting into a shallow or depressed ground or surface a material of a different colour or type.
    • Other
  • OTHER: a piece that does not fit into one of the above categories of material and/or forms. However, every entry in the other category, regardless of rank challenged, must be accompanied by written documentation to prove the appropriateness of the material and/or form. If the material and/or form is accepted, a new category and/or form will be created and added to the list above.

Revised 29 June 2020