If you're interested in learning to net, you're at the right place! This page is a collection of links to websites related to the craft of netting, with an eye towards re-creating 13th-14th century netted hairnets.
Knotty Headwear: How to Net a Medieval Caul or Snood (revised August 2014) (PDF file, 14 pages, 1.03MB) ©2005/2014 by Giraude Benet. This isn't the definitive word on how hairnets were done in period, but I update this document with new information as I learn more. To view or download previous versions of the handout, click here.
Net Making (A Traditional Craft of Pennsylvania) (PDF file, 2 pages, 893KB) ©1982 by Anthony S. Emery. Good basic instructions (ideal for making an authentic-looking hairnet, actually!), plus three simple projects. Note especially the illustrations of both a correctly and incorrectly tied knot! You can view photos of Mr. Emery's netting work if you click here.
The Art of Netting. Jules and Kaethe Kliot, eds. Berkeley: Lacis Publications, 1989.
This book presents a series of different netting instructions and projects reprinted from books and magazines from the late 1700’s up to the early 20th century. Of particular interest are the variety of netting knots illustrated at the beginning of the work, and the glossary of darning stitches in the back which can be used to make filet lace. Most of the rest of the book isn't useful for medieval or Renaissance recreation, since the majority of the reprinted projects are for Victorian-era items such as doilies and clothing accessories. Still, it's a very good reference to have on hand if you want to go beyond the basics! (Thank you, Regina!)
Brittain, Judy. The Step-by-Step Needlecraft Encyclopedia. New York: Portland House, 1997.
Some very well-illustrated and clearly presented instructions for netting are found on pages 186-191 of this all-around useful needlecraft book. Basic techniques for mounting a project, how to increase and decrease meshes in a row, how to add a new thread, and how to create square and diamond mesh nets are given as well as how to net in the round. Projects for a string bag and a hammock finish up the chapter on netting. This book is often seen on the bargain tables of many of the large chain bookstores. If you find a copy, grab it! While the histories of the various types of needlework aren't reliable documentation, this book is great for learning the techniques of just about any area of needlework you might want to pursue in the SCA or anywhere else.
Carità. Lacis. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1909.
The focus of this book is embroidered net lace, or lacis, but included in the text are some very fascinating and well-researched chapters on the history of nets and netting, and also the production of flax/linen. And the best thing about this book is that it can be viewed and downloaded in PDF format (158 pages, 7.9 MB) if you Click Here. Many other interesting books on lace can be found online where this one is at the Digital Archive of Documents Related to Lace.
Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing c.1150-c.1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Boydell Press, 2001.
This volume of the Museum of London series is without a doubt the best readily-available primary documentation to be found on medieval clothing and textiles, including hairnets. The entire series is a gold mine for the modern recreationist, and it's a wonderful thing that it's being republished by the Boydell Press. The book is expensive, but worth the price if you are a serious student of medieval clothing production. Pages 145-149 of this edition deal with various fragments of hairnets from the 13th and 14th centuries found in the medieval excavations in London. The analysis of these fragments gives information on construction, materials, tools, and techniques used to create the nets. Tantalizing mention is also made of another surviving hairnet in the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg, and also of a manuscript illumination of a woman working on a net. I'm currently pursuing more information on these cited examples via InterLibrary Loan.
Dillmont, Therese de. Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework: Anniversary Edition. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 2002.
First published in 1884 in French, this book is a reprint of the English translation that was still hugely popular throughout the 20th century. It has a chapter on filet lace, and quite an extensive catalog of stitches (not all of which are SCA-period, however).
Guild, Vera P. Good Housekeeping New Complete Book of Needlecraft. New York: Good Housekeeping Books, 1971.
The section on netting from pages 399-403 is unusual in several respects. First, it shows an unusual way of tying the basic netting knot. It also illustrates the use of a "starter chain" of meshes as a way to begin a piece of netting, which I have found to be the easiest for a beginner to work with. It's different from other instructions I've seen, too, in that it works one row from the left to right, then shows the switching of tools from one hand to the other to work the next row from right to left, so you never flip the work over to always start from the left. The outstanding thing about the black-and-white illustrations in this book is that they have been enhanced to make them remarkably clear, so do give these a look if you can.
Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework. Pleasantville, New York: Reader's Digest Association, 1979.
Instructions for netting are found on pages 420-425 of this book. The chapter is specifically on filet netting, but the basic instructions are the same for any type of netting work. This is a good companion to the instructions to be found in The Step-by-Step Needlecraft Encyclopedia, since the techniques illustrated here offer some alternative methods to those in the other book. The illustrations of the techniques are very clear and understandable, which is a hallmark of almost all Reader's Digest "how to" books. There is a glossary of darning stitches for filet netting, and a sampler project to make. This is another good, basic book that I recommend you own if you are interested in netting and other needlework, such as embroidery and making bobbin lace. Again, not good for historical documentation, but very solid on learning the basic techniques. Don't buy it new, though! Try to find an older edition at a thrift store or used bookstore. The content is exactly the same as that of the newer reprints, and your savings will be substantial!
Stof uit de kist. De middeleeuwse textielschat uit de abdij van St.-Truiden. Leuven: Peeters, 1991.
Although the text is in Dutch, there are descriptions and photos of seven surviving hairnets from excavations at the Abbey of St. Truiden in Belgium. Click here for the Peeters Publishers online catalog listing for this book, which can be ordered for 30 Euros. (I don't have any associaton with Peeters...I just want more people to be able to get their hands on this book!)
Vinciolo, Federico. Renaissance Patterns for Lace, Embroidery and Needlepoint: An Unabridged Facsimile of the 'Singuliers et nouveaux pourtraicts' of 1587. New York: Dover Publications, 1971.
This is a good book for anyone wanting to take their skill with netting one step further to create authentic filet netting (also called filet lace). While the first part of the book is dedicated to other forms of lace designs, the second part offers an interesting selection of patterns that can be darned into square netting. Stitches for darning net can also be found in both The Art of Netting and The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, mentioned above.
This page was last updated on July 10, 2022