Examples of modern fabrics that are similar to known medieval fabrics

by Cynthia du Pré Argent
© 2000 Cynthia Virtue

This is intended to assist others in choosing patterned "medieval-oid" fabrics from fabric stores, upholstery stores, or any other source, such as thrift stores. This doesn't cover the plainer fabrics, such as wool, linen, hemp, and the known blends in period.  Remember that in the middle ages, the rich folks wore patterns!  Fancy printed linen!  Gold cloth with velvet motifs!  Damasks and silks and embroidery!

For information on these, please also read the Extant Garments page and the Real Medieval Fabric page.  If you are looking to decorate your house in a medieval fashion, I have a page on that as well.

In general, medieval patterns were:

Some of these are closer to the medieval examples, and some are farther away, but still carry the same 'sense' of design -- at least in my mind!

Each large picture of the medievaloid sample (click on the thumbnails below) has the same tag on it, with the scale information; a square one inch wide, and a square one centimeter wide; at the bottom of the picture.

They are arranged from early medieval to early renaissance types.

Note on Prices: Some of these are more expensive than you can afford -- certainly I can't afford enough for a whole garment, but if you can afford even 1/2 yard, you can make sleeves or trim for a tunic that will give the whole outfit a better flavor.
Tan and brown cotton upholstery fabric, woven design.
$50/yard from high-end store.  Eagle, pegasus, elephant and griffon(?) in circles; blue hearts added later by hand.
Very medieval; 1100-1500. 

See pourpoint of Charles of Blois, dalmaticas.
Lovely gold griffins against scarlet satin back.  Eye-popping in person.  Possibly Rayon; unknown original price,but Timeless Textils has it for $18/yd. Simialr to above; 
Light blue and burgundy printed cotton.  $5/yard or cheaper. similar to above;
Blue-grey polyester upholstery fabric with woven diamonds.  $5/yard or so. Reminiscent of diamond twills found at Coppergate, but on larger scale.
Blue checked fabric, nylon.  $2/yard in bargin bins at JoAnn's Fabrics -- comes in many colors.  Great for banners.  Easy and regular pattern to weave; opposing direction twills make the squares reflect brighter or darker.
Black and white cross cotton weave upholstery; remnant; orig. price $40/yd Likewise.
Neutral quatrefoil upholstery fabric from Stone Mtn & Daugher, CA.  $10/yd? This one is more "oid" than some of the others, but has the right flavor.
Red satin back with gold lattice, mostly-cotton upholstery fabric. 1300-1400s. Picture of garb using this fabric (collar).
Black and blue acetate; bolt ends store $2/yard. Probably high-end jacket lining. 1300-1400s
Burgundy and gold tassel/leaf drapery fabric; remnant, cotton. 1300-1500s.Picture of garb using this fabric (sleeves)
Navy and gold upholstery fabric, Wal-Mart, $2/yard.  Cotton. 1300-1400s.  Picture of garb using this fabric.
Brown lozenge pattern with centers of red, blue, and green, cotton upholstery fabric remnant, less than $10/yd. 1300-1400s
Picture of garb using this fabric.
Blue grey damask; satiny lighter grey background, cotton, JoAnn's, $13/yd, then dyed to this color. 1300-1400s

Picture of garb using this fabric.
Olive green (ya, the color's way off in the picture) upholstery cotton, Hancock's, $10/yd? This one is fairly "oid" also, as the ogee pattern is not a medieval one, although it's reminiscent of the "reticulated quatrefoil" shape.

Picture of garb using this fabric. And another.
Shades of grey and copper brown, JoAnn's, $10/yd. 1300-1400s
Brown and cream upholstery cotton, remnants and a gift; unknown price. This one looks more Italian to me than some of the others; not sure why. 1300-1400s.  Picture of garb using this fabric.
Burgundy and gold ecclesiastical brocade, rayon, La Lame and other sources, $15/yd.
© 2000 Cynthia Virtue  Email Author with comments
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