Cloth with diamond-shapes and hooksOn display
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With its repeated diamonds against a fret pattern ground, this small textile demonstrates the versatility of pattern darning, one of the prevalent embroidery techniques in Mamluk Egypt (1260-1517). Although this has been compared to handkerchiefs, of which numerous fragments exist in the Ashmolean Museum’s Newberry Collection, it has been suggested that this cloth was most probably used as a decorative cover as the stitching is only visible on one face. Indeed, the prominence given to its decoration and its compact and precise execution suggest the cloth’s special quality.
Cloth with diamond-shapes and hooks
Material and technique
linen, embroidered with blue and pink silk
Dimensions32.5 x 30 cm (length x width)
along length/width 16 / 16 threads/cm (thread count)
wide embroidery bands 5 cm (width)
narrow embroidery bands 4 cm (width)
ground fabric 0.04 cm (thread diameter)
additional fibre, embroidery 0.05 cm (thread diameter)
No. of items
Presented by Professor Percy Newberry, 1941.
Museum locationLower ground floor | Gallery 5 | Textiles
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Four bands run parallel to the sides of a complete square cloth. The blue embroidery provides the outline to the designs, which are made up of diamonds and hook motifs, identical in all four bands. A small pink diamond is in the centre of the cloth, and is repeated in the four corners.
The bands vary slightly in width; two are 4 cm wide, the other two 5 cm. The edge of the cloth is overcast with pink buttonhole stitch.
In: Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum
The bands of embroidery worked on this square are exceptionally wide for a comparatively small textile. Their complex pattern demonstrates an outstanding expertise in pattern darning developed by this time, and great care has been taken to match each pair of bands to ensure the design has a balanced appearance. The worker has added extra decoration and colour by embroidering a small diamond shape in the centre and at each corner, and finishing the edges with a rolled hem overcast with pink silk. All these features imply that this was a special textile rather than an everyday one and probably used as a decorative cover. Although in size it is comparable with handkerchiefs, it is unlikely to have been one of these: kerchiefs are worked in such a way that the embroidery is reversible, using either double running stitch (see No.31 [EA1984.400]) or in a darned pattern that looks right on both sides.
In: Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001)
Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, vol. ii, vol. i
Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 22 on. p. 38, illus. p. 38