A 15th century depiction of a group of silkwomen. A 15th century depiction of a group of silkwomen.

Silkwoman is an English term for a woman who imported silk and metal threads, worked them into embroideries and/or braids, fringes and other types of passementerie. There is written evidence for the existence of 'silkwomen' in Paris (France) in the fourteenth century.

The term is first recorded in England in the fifteenth century. The male equivalent in England was a ‘silkman.’ From the mid-fifteenth century onwards, seamstresses in England were responsible for linen pieces stitched with linen thread, while silkwomen worked with silk and metal. These women were not members of a formal (male) guild, but carried out their training and conduct in a comparable manner, with an apprentice/ journeyman/master system.


  • ASH, Kate (2012). 'Silkwomen', in: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward (eds.), Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, 450-1450. Leiden: Brill 2012, pp. 522-523.
  • DALE, Marian K. (1933), 'The London silkwomen of the fifteenth century', The Economic History Review, vol. 4, issue 3, pp. 324-335.
  • LEVEY, Santina M. (1998). An Elizabethan Inheritance: The Hardwick Hall Textiles, London: The National Trust, pp. 43-44.
  • SUTTON, Anne F. (2006). 'Two dozen and more silkwomen of fifteenth-century London', The Ricardian, vol. 16, pp. 46-58. For the full text, click here (retrieved 31 March 2016)
  • Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: ‘silkman’.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 1 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 10:53
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