Antique Chinese Silk Embroidered Sleeve Band Forbidden Stitch Embroidery 7”x 21”


Brand Poppy's Vintage Clothing

I acquired this piece along with a number of other antique Chinese textiles 38 years ago from Miss Alice Lighthall.  Miss Lighthall was 91 years old at the time and was the daughter of William Douw Lighthall, an important Canadian historian, lawyer, novelist, collector, politician and poet.  WD Lighthall was the mayor of Westmount (a wealthy suburb of Montreal) from 1900 until 1903 and practiced law for 63 years, from 1881 until 1944.  Mr Lighthall was what we might call a Renaissance man, with many varied interests.  One of his interests was collecting art and ethnographic artifacts, hence the presence of many Chinese objects in the estate.  He had a theory that the Mayan culture was somehow connected to the Chinese culture.  Miss Lighthall herself was a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in France during WWI and was involved in the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, which had been co-founded by her mother Cybel.  Her brother was an early  member of the British Royal Flying Corps and a recipient of the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) in 1919 as a result of his service in Egypt and Palestine.  So, the family was a very important one.

I’m unsure of the exact age of this embroidered “sleeve band”, but my best guess would be late Qing dynasty, mid-to-late 19th century.  There is some marking on the back, three Xs and 11-17, so maybe acquired in 1917?  The piece is intricately embroidered with satin thread on silk using the “Forbidden Stitch” also known an the “seed stitch” or “knotted” stitch.  This stitch is known as “forbidden” because young girls were not allowed to use it because it would cause eyestrain due to its intricacy.  In addition, there is metallic gold thread applied by “couching”, where the thread is attached using stitches.  The background silk is woven with patterning raised against the background, which has a linear patterning in the weave itself.  The piece is worked with various floral motifs, wheels, pagodas and a bow of a boat.  The embroidery is in tones of blue, green and metallic gold.  It is bordered with black silk that is embroidered with blue, magenta, orange, light green and purple silk.  The piece measures 7” wide by 21” long, typical measurements for a sleeve band.  Decorative sleeve bands became popular during the 17th century when the Manchus conquered China.  It is in very good condition - there is one dark area about 4” up from the bottom, but this is quite minor (see last close-up photo).  In addition, there is a loose thread and probably some couched thread missing, but nothing very noticeable

This is a very interesting Chinese textile from an important Canadian family.  A very detailed embroidery, great piece to frame and display!