Examples of beadwork that can be associated with makers whose names and dates are known suggest that they were usually made by teenage girls from affluent families. Their function is uncertain. They may have been used as layette baskets, which held baby clothes, because they are similar in form to silver examples. But it has also been suggested that they were made to celebrate betrothals or used at wedding ceremonies to hold gloves, sprigs of rosemary or other favours given to guests. Most examples depict a couple as the central motif. All of the design elements may be found in silk embroidery on domestic furnishings of the period.
Link to item @ V&A
Materials & Making
The basket is made from glass beads strung on linen thread and fine wire, supported on a wire frame lined with silk. Beadwork keeps true, clear colours, an advantage over coloured silks and wools, the usual materials for embroidery. A beaded cushion in the V&A dated 1657 bears the inscription ‘natvrs flowers soon doe fade ful long we last cavse art vs made’.
Ownership & Use
Another beaded basket of identical design exists, with only the name and date different. This suggests that it may have been worked from a type of kit, or possibly made to commission as a gift, with the recipient’s name added.
1659, English; Signed Sarah Gurnall
set with the maker or recipient’s name : sarah gvrnall avgvst 24 anno 1659
- Height: 11cm
- Width: 46.5cm
- Depth: 36cm