Medieval Textile Glossary

As promised, these are some of the terms that I came across during the research process with the wardrobe accounts.  If you disagree with one of the definitions please let me know.  I will also try to add a list of the accounts that I used a little later today.


Bankers: tapestry coverings for benches

Blanket Cloth: cheap white wool

Brocade: silk with a large woven pattern sometimes with gold or silver threads.

Bruskyns: probably denotes cloth was bronze or tawny color

Buckram: fine cotton or linen cloth

Budge: imported lambskins (to England)

Cloth of Gold: a cloth woven with a silk warp and gold weft threads to create a fine pattern.  Compared with brocades and damask, which sometimes have gold thread in them, cloth of gold is usually dominated by the gold thread rather than using it as a highlight to the pattern.  See also Lampus.

Cloth of Gold in serico: gold threads with a core of silk

Cloth of Gold in canabo: gold threads with a core of hemp

Gouna: tunic-like garment, possibly the English equivalent of the French houppelande.

Grain/Graine: a name given to a dye made from the kermes insects (also called Armenian Red, St. Johns Blood and Oak Kermes).  When dried and crushed these insects produce a bright red dye that works well on silk and wool.  To be dyed “in grain” implied this red.

Gris: fur of the Baltic Squirrel-gray back of the winter skin

Diaspered silks: silks woven with two warp over two weft (basket weave) sometimes in two colors

Ell/Elle: a unit of measure 45” long (1.25 yards or 1.143 meters)

Figured Cloth: usually made from silk these textiles feature woven patterns with animals, plants or people.  They can be either cloth of gold or simple silk without any metal threads.

Fustian: strong cloth of cotton or cotton and linen blend

Lampus: fabric made of silk and gold or silver threads with usually a satin or taffeta background with figures in gold.  Part of the cloth of gold family of textiles

Mantlett: a deep shoulder cape

Medley: wool cloth woven with wools of two colors

Minever: Baltic squirrel furs, made of bellies only, white with a little gray surrounding it.

Popel/Poppelen: the early summer skins of the Baltic squirrel

‘Porre’: meant leek or vegetable pottage, possibly meaning that the cloth was pale green

Pured Minever: The white belly skins of Baltic squirrels with the entire gray area trimmed off.  It was used extensively as a lining for royal clothing.

Robe: a term used for a set of clothing rather than a single gown, usually comprised of three to six items including full length gowns, stockings, cloaks and hoods.

Russet: medium to low quality wool

Samite: a heavy silk fabric with a twill-type of weave, often including gold or silver threads.  Part of the cloth of gold family of textiles.  Could be plain or figured.

Satin: silk with usually a high shine due to the long floating wefts on the surface of the fabric

Scarlet/Scarletta: a rich wool cloth that could be red but was not necessarily so. It could be red, white, blue, green or brown among others. The weaving and finishing techniques gave the cloth a slight elastic quality from the way in which the fiber was spun.

Sendal: silk

Taffeta: a tightly woven even-weave silk

Tartarin: silk

Timber (of fur): bundle of 40 skins

Tirtayn: cloth of mixed fibers: cotton or linen warp with a wool weft.  Queen Isabella of England had a cape made of it.

Yard: a unit of measure 36” long

Velvet: fabric made with a short pile, made from silk and developed in the late 1400’s.  It is sometimes figured or cut with a background of cloth of gold/gilt threads.

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