Persian Cowl

7th C Persian Cowl Jahanarabanu Vivana Materials

  • Linen Cloth
  • Wool thread for embroidery
  • Linen thread for hemming/hand sewing


  • Outline stitch
  • Chain stitch
  • Hand sewing

Methods and Tools The embroidery was done using a modern embroidery needle. I did not use any frame or any kind of modern device to hold the fabric while embroidering onto the cowl. I did use a compass and fabric pencil to draw the lotus motif. However the ivy pattern was drawn on free hand using a fabric pencil. I used a bronze hand made needle when hand sewing the hem. Research Chain and outline stitch are used in a 6th C. embroidery found in Egypt, see Figure 1, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum attributes the piece as being Egyptian embroidery. I feel this documents the use of these stitches in 7th Persia, as the piece pre-dates this period and was found in a part of Egypt that was periodically controlled by the Persian Empire.This piece, along with many 7th C Persian tapestry woven decorations, show that floral designs were a common design element in use by the Persians. Figure 1 shows that wool was being embroidered onto linen clothing as early as the 6th Century. The 7th Century Persian tapestry woven decorations, see Figures 3 and 4, show that linen was still a common fabric for clothing in the 7th Century. The wool used in this embroidery is as close to the wool used in the this piece as the tapestry weavings. The purple and red used in Figure 1 is very similar in colour to the purple and red used in my embroidery. Figure 1 A silver dish, held at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, depicts a court woman wearing a cowl (Goldman). The cowl covers her shoulders and chest. Another dish held at the Smithsonian's Freer-Sackler Gallery depicts a Persian nobleman wearing a cowl, see Figure 2. Neither dish shows whether or not the cowl includes an actual hood or not. Therefore when making this piece, I had to decide if I thought that an attached hood was likely to have been a common inclusion. As at this point it is merely a guess either way, I chose not to include an attached hood. I have not found any evidence to show that attached hoods were in use, however this is not conclusive evidence either way as only a small portion of extant textiles remained through to this era. Figure 2 Artistic design I chose to use the lotus blossom and ivy as part of my SCA "heraldry", because these elements are commonly used in Persian silverworks (held at the Freer-Sackler Galleries, and stone carvings. The colours are of my own personal choice. I felt that a single lotus blossom on the front of the cowl would be the best use of these design elements. I used twelve petals as it best filled the space on the front. The tops of the ivy vines are based on a 7th Century Persian tapestry woven roundel held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Finally the jade beads were attached to the tips, because I thought it added an extra panache. Peck also writes that historical accounts describe embroidered and beaded cuffs. I felt that if cuffs were embroidered and beaded, that including beading with this embroidered decoration would also be appropriate. Figure 2 7th C Persian Tapestry found in case N at the Victoria & Albert Textile Study Room Figure 3 7th C Perisn or Egyptian Tapestry weaving found in case N at the Victoria and Albert Textile Study Room Bibliography Goldman, B. (1997). Women's Robing in the Sasanian Era. Iranica Antiqua Vo. XXXII. pp. 233-300. Peck, E. (2006). Clothing in the Sasanian Period. Encylcopedia Iranica. Retrieved Dec. 2006). pp. 739-752. Personal notes taken on several trips to the Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile Study Room. All pieces are held in case N, which houses the 5th-8th Century Middle Eastern Textiles. 2004-2008. Personal notes taken at the Smithsonian's Freer-Sackler Galleries on silver works. Dec. 2006 Note all Figures are pictures taken by the author. These and other research photos can be viewed at