Extant Medieval Hairnet photos on the Web

February 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Netting | 17 Comments

I have been trying to track down as many extant hairnets from the middle ages as possible, to use in my research of medieval netting. I thought that since I am hopefully not the only person interested in such things that posting a listing of as many of the hairnets as I could find might be helpful to others. Because I am unsure of exactly how the copyright laws work, most of these are just links to where you can actually find the pictures.

1. a hairnet made of silk (1300) that is apparently in the Germanisches National Museum in Nurmberg. The black and white picture shows even square mesh with lacis designs.

2. An early 16th century hairnet from Linz. The black and white photo shows one side of a hairnet that appears to have been done with a decorative netting technique (mezza mandolina) of large and small diamonds.

3. A hairnet made of red silk from sometime in the 16th century found at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Belgium. The mesh alternates between plain mesh diamonds and mesh diamonds that have been split into smaller pieces for a highly striking visual effect. This is my personal favorite.

4. A hairnet from St. Truiden, also at the RICH in Belgium, dated approximately between 1200-1400. The incredibly fine mesh (64 holes per square centimeter, if Google Translate is correct!) is almost completely covered in colored lacis.

5. Another hairnet from St. Truiden, with lacis birds decorating it. The picture is black and white but I think from Google Translate that the net is done in green silk while the birds are done in white. Updated: Alwen gave me a link to a color photo.

6. Fragment of a hairnet patterned with lacis birds  This was also found at St. Truiden and dates to about 1200-1400. Updated: Alwen found a link that is in color, but the photo is upside down.

7. A tiny fragment of a hairnet that appears to have been embroidered on with gold thread. Also from St. Truiden and found at the Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage in Belgium.

8. A hairnet from St. Truiden with lacis fleur de lis and bird designs.  Also from St. Truiden and found at the Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage in Belgium. Google Translate suggests that the plain mesh is red dyed with madder and the embroidery is white and yellow dyed with weld.

9. Yet another hairnet from the Abbey of St. Truiden, this time with swastikas embroidered on it.

10. An embroidered hairnet from the 14th century located at a museum in Nurnberg. Embroidered with designs.

11. A hairnet from before 1570. My bookmark has it listed as “found down a well in Prague”, but I’m not sure why I labeled it that way based on the information on the website.

12. A 16th century child’s hairnet. Found in the tomb of Count von Stubenberg and now at the Johanneum Regional Museum. A very large mesh with a honeycomb-like pattern. The edging has jewels or metal details attached to it.

13. A 14th century hairnet that does not appear to be knotted netting.  There appear to be small appliqued designs attached at each of the intersections of the diamond meshes.

14. A 14th century hairnet done with large white meshes, small green meshes, and decorated with embroidered shields that were attached to the hairnet.

15. A roman hairnet done in patterned netting, seen on page 2 of A History of Handmade Lace. It only says “found in a Roman cemetary”, so there is no real time period associated with it.

16 A border(?) of netting with lacis designs, found at St. Truiden, dated between 1200-1400.

17. One of the London hairnets at the V&A, a picture taken by visitors to the museum. The book Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450: Medieval Finds from Excavations in London has more information about this and other hairnets.


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  1. Oh HI! Another netter, YAY!

    I’ve puzzled out the first pattern in Natura Exenterata – you can see my redaction here:


    and here, a better attempt after I worked it out:


    If you’re on Ravelry (http://www.ravelry.com), you can find me there as alwen – there are many SCA groups, and there is a very quiet netting group, too. (http://www.ravelry.com/groups/netting)

    • Neat! I’m glad that I saw that, since it is not what I thought it would look like based on the description “Broad Arrow” and I would have driven myself to distraction assuming that I was doing something wrong. It’s great to see other people netting. I can’t figure out why it’s not more popular, since it is so much fun and reasonably practical.

  2. I don’t have a huge list of extant hairnets, but here are links to a couple of paintings of nets being worn:

    Portrait of a Woman
    c. 1506

    Lady with a Hare

  3. I’ll probably keep coming back and commenting as I work my way through your links!

    You’re right about #5 – here’s a nice photo in color:

    After looking at #6 in color

    I think the photo is upside down. And could they be birds?

    • They may well be birds, with the wings kept to the sides instead of outspread. I just don’t know. I have ordered the Dutch book about the St. Truiden finds from inter-library loan. It’s supposed to have lots of detailed information about the hairnets. I don’t speak Dutch, but google translate has been pretty decent so far when I’ve had to use it. Polished no, but I get the gist of what they’re trying to say. I’m hoping it’ll tell us more.

    • You’re right, they are birds. I have used Google Translate to interpret the entry about this piece that was published in the book Stof uit de kist, and the analysis of the fragment specifically refers to the embroidery as being birds.

  4. Thank you so much for collecting these links. I know I’m going to come back several times to look more closely at these lovely hairnets. I wish we could figure out how to remake some of these lovely pieces.

  5. More info on #15 — I know I was happy to find this!


  6. […] entstanden im Mittelalter die wunderschönen und oft noch mit kunstvollen Stickereien verzierten Haarnetze (bzw. Abbildungen auf Pinterest), mit denen sich sowohl Frauen als auch Männer je nach Zeit und […]

  7. What a great resource – thanks! – Cynthia Virtue/du Pre Argent

  8. Thank you for setting up these wonderful hairnets. I was interested in the hairnet #16. Would you happen to have photos of it. I am working on a filet project and it would be nice to show older evidence of Filet. Love your site by the way.

  9. Hi, thanks for your nice website. Are all these hairnets reallly netted? The Nürnberg subscribt says ” gestrickt, netzartig” , translated ” knitted, netlike’, and the childrens hair net looks much like the greek stitch or the antwerpstich in point lace. The not-knotted net is small tape with parchment flowers ( says the subscribt in German, but not in English). There are two point lace stitches that are much like knotted net, both called filet stitch. Those stitches are somewhat more versatile and precise than knotted net. Would be interesting to know if there are different ways of net making were used, in times and places.

    • Not all of them are netted, although most of them are. There’s one that I suspect is some sort of macrame (or at least I haven’t been able to replicate it with netting, and I have been able to replicate it with macrame, which was a technique that I know was used, though usually for fringes. I haven’t researched that topic enough to know for sure that it is what was used or conceivably could have been – you know, the whole “just because they had tents and velvet doesn’t meant they had velvet tents” argument.)

      While I’ve tried to put together all the hairnets I could find, I’ve only ever tried to reproduce a fairly standard clearly netted one from one of the London finds. While it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that hairnets were made with all sorts of other techniques, I haven’t done the research on most of the hairnets. And I’m sadly unfamiliar with point lace, so I really can’t comment on that. But it sounds reasonable, and perhaps I will look into point lace the next time I am looking for a project, so thanks for sharing that.

  10. Thank you for the lovely list. But please note that items 1 and 10 are the same net, before and after restauration that was done in 1967 (photos from 1927 and 1973).

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