Our Research Group

An Unexpected Collaboration Formed in Isolation

During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, the Medieval Dress and Textiles Society, unable to hold in-person conferences and study days at museums, began offering short talks and sharing photos of exhibitions online. Christine suggested that MEDATS offer a chat about the Bacton Altar Cloth and recruited Challe to share her photos and Jenny to provide commentary about both plants and embroidery techniques. Multiple questions about the meaning of the plants arose during the chat, and the presenters directed those to Natalie, who had written her Master’s Thesis about the symbolism of the altar cloth and the Rainbow Portrait. Cindy had already undertaken an extensive study of the altar cloth and had recreated multiple motifs, and after watching the MEDATS Chat she first offered to share her research, then accepted an invitation to join the group.

Together we are attempting to identify the species represented by the embroidered motifs, understand the meanings contemporary viewers would have interpreted in these patterns, locate potential sources for the designs, identify the materials and methods used to create the embroideries, understand the many uses to which this cloth has been put, and learn as much as possible about the people who created, commissioned, used and re-used the fabric throughout its lifetime. We began by studying our images of the cloth, then examining contemporary printed sources that the embroiderers might have used for their designs such as pattern books, herbals, and bestiaries. We are attempting to independently categorise and interpret the motifs rather than relying on published descriptions.

Challe Hudson

Technology, Science, Education


Challe is an independent researcher interested in late medieval and early modern English fashion. She has a Masters in Science Education from North Carolina State University with a focus on informal education and museum studies and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Biology and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Over 25 years of experience as a costumed living historian she has researched and recreated clothing from multiple eras, cultures, and social classes for herself, her family, and her friends. She is currently studying the depiction of Tudor women’s fashion preserved on church monuments, effigies and monumental brasses. She is the Treasurer of the Medieval Dress and Textiles Society and a member of the Monumental Brass Society Council.  

Christine Carnie

The Tailor, The Instigator


Christine studied German medieval Literature, English Linguistics and American Studies at the University in Tübingen, Germany. She has been researching textiles and clothing of the middle ages and beginning of the early modern period in Northern Europe for over 15 years as an independent researcher, and runs her own business The Sempster making historical clothing for museums and individuals. She is the Secretary of the Medieval Dress and Textile Society


The Sempster on Facebook

Cynthia Jackson

Embroiderer, Tutor, Researcher


Cindy is a graduate apprentice of the Royal School of Needlework who has taught, researched, and written about embroidery for over forty years. She earned a BA(Hons) Embroidery in 2007 and became an award-winning textile artist. Her current focus is sixteenth century English embroidery. She has designed, taught and published several projects and articles inspired by the techniques used by professional embroiderers of the Tudor era, most recently in Inspirations Magazine and the Journal of Medieval Clothing and Textiles. 

Natalie Bramwell-Booth

Early Modern Art, Fashion and Textile Historian


Natalie is a PhD student at the University of Southampton and has a Master of Research in the study of sixteenth and seventeenth-century art and fashion. She has looked at embroidery design particularly in relation to the Bacton Altar Cloth and the Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I, and is currently examining seventeenth-century dress and textiles. She has a background in dressmaking and costume making, and has made costumes for interpreters at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. She is the Events Secretary of the Medieval Dress and Textiles Society.


Personal Website

Jenny Worrall

Women, Culture, and Horticulture


Jenny studied Historical Geography at Cambridge with a focus on the interaction between women’s lives and their environment. After being fascinated by Elizabeth I as a child, she became involved in sixteenth century living history, especially the everyday life of women during the period. She is currently studying embroidery with the Royal School of Needlework and also occasionally does some accounting and auditing.