Llyn perffaith fal llun pwrffil,
Embroidery was quite common on costumes, especially on doublets and robes worn by the nobility. Although we do not know exactly how much of this work was being produced in Wales itself - perhaps the wealthiest people imported garments already embroidered - there is some suggestion in the poetry that women in particular would do some embroidery. Indeed, the fact that the poets often compare weaving and embroidery to their own craft suggests that they were familiar enough with the craft of embroidery itself.
The poets are also fond of using terms associated with embroidered work to symbolize other things. The word pwrffil is used by Iolo Goch to describe the plough; pwrffil referred to the decorative edges of a mantle. Guto uses the same word in describing the house of Siôn Mechain in Llandrunio:
Llyn perffaith fal llun pwrffil,
Llys o’i fewn, lle iso i fil,
Llys daear ynys Drunio,
Llys i holl Bowys lle bo.
A perfect lake like the border of a garment in shape,
and a court within it, a place below for a thousand people,
a court for the land of St Trunio’s region,
a court for the whole of Powys where it is.
In other words, the house is worth seeing: as pretty as a picture embroidered on the edges of a garment.
It is clear that the purses Guto received from Rhisiart Cyffin and Catrin and Dafydd of Abertanad were also heavily embroidered. Guto describes Rhisiart Cyffin’s purse as:
Alwar mawr o liwiau’r main
Nis brodiai Ynys Brydain,
Ysgrepan o sidan Siêb
Â sinobl dros ei wyneb,
a great almoner of the jewels’ colour
that no one on the Island of Britain could embroider,
a scrip made from Cheapside silk
with red colour over its face,
He also refers to gold embroidery on the purse (poem 58.40). Guto further suggests that the purse was imported, Nis brodiai Ynys Brydain ‘that no one on the Island of Britain could embroider’. The same is said about the purse he received from Catrin and Dafydd of Abertanad:
Pwrs hywerth, Paris wead,
Prennol aur nis prynai’r wlad.
a purse of great value, woven fabric from Paris,
a golden box that the whole land couldn’t buy.
In describing the purse, Guto talks of ‘the towers of golden thread’ (poem 87.53). Purses with similar embroidery were popular in France during this period, and towns like Paris and Caen in northern France were famous for their production. But Guto also suggests that Catrin herself was responsible for the embroidery on the purse:
Amner yw hwn mewn aur rhudd
A frodies merch Faredudd,
Calennig haul y waneg,
Catrin, dwf caterwen deg.
It’s an almoner which the daughter of Maredudd
broidered with red gold,
a festive gift from a sun of the appearance,
Catrin, growth of a great, fair oak.
Adafedd, lloer Dafydd Llwyd,
A droes Dyfr ar draws deufrwyd.
Dyfr wound thread across two
embroidering frames, Dafydd Llwyd’s moon.
And it is possible that gold roses were embroidered on the purse, Mae rhos aur ar fy mhwrs i ‘there are golden roses on my purse’ (poem 87.48). According to Marged Haycock: ‘The purse was embroidered by Catrin herself: small items such as pillows, purses, collars and belts were mainly produced at home by the fifteenth century’.
Bibliography: See, for example, Rh. Ifans (gol.), Gwaith Syr Dafydd Trefor (Aberystwyth, 2005), 11.27 and explanatory note, and R. Geuter, ‘The silver hand: needlework in early modern Wales’, in M. Roberts & S. Clarke (eds), Women and Gender in Early Modern Wales, (Cardiff, 2000), 159-85.
: M. Haycock, ‘Defnydd hyd ddydd brawd: rhai agweddau ar y ferch ym marddoniaeth yr oesoedd canol’, in G.H. Jenkins (ed.), Cymru a’r Cymry 2000 (Aberystwyth, 2001), 41-70.
: D. Johnston (ed.), Iolo Goch: Poems (Llandysul, 1993), 28.61.
: M. Haycock, ` “Defnydd hyd Ddydd Brawd”: rhai agweddau ar y ferch ym marddoniaeth yr Oesoedd Canol’, in Cymru a’r Cymry 2000/Wales and the Welsh 2000, ed. G.H. Jenkins (Aberystwyth, 2001), 55.
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