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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 2000 (DOST Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Sew, Sow, S(c)hew, v. Also: sowe, su(e, shewe, schow, shoue, schaw. P.t. and p.p. sewit(t, s(c)hewit, etc., also seuit, sceuitt, seud, sowd, schowit, suyt, -ed, sew. [ME and e.m.E. seouwen (Ancr. R.), sowen (Chaucer), sawen (c1450), p.t. sowed (Chaucer), souwide (Wyclif), shwed (Caxton), p.p. seuwed (c1290), sewed (c1350), also sowen (1576), OE siwan, siowan (usu. siwian, siowian, seowian). Cf. ON sýja.]See S(c)hape v. 4 for some further examples.

1. tr. To sew, to complete (an artefact of cloth, leather, etc.) by stitching together its constituent parts or by giving it seams. Passing into: To ornament by stitching; to embroider. Also const. prep.(1) 1491 Treas. Acc. I 182.
Til a sowtar that sewyt halk hwdis to the king
1503 Treas. Acc. II 209.
To tua men that sewit the samyn goun
1593 Elgin Rec. II 32.
Convict of vorking on the Sabboth having treit a boot and sewit a heill
1597 Bk. Rates 8 b.
Perling sewit the dosane elnis
1600 Dunblane Test. III 25b.
Tua coveringis of ane bed the ane sewit the vther wovine
1609 Hilderstoun Silver Mines I 223.
Ane eln of wyre to be ane nedle to sew the hydes
1614 Soc. Ant. X 224.
For aucht punde of twyne to sew the saillis
(b) 1501 Treas. Acc. II 29.
For hemp to be threid to sow the samyn [tents]
1535 Stewart 33892.
Thair cot armour … Of lynnyng clayth … War sowt all and brodin with reid silk
(c) c1500 Makc. MS iv 25.
Cuttis for thi cot thai kest, that wes neuir suyt [Arundel MS sewit]
(d) 1566–7 Hay Fleming Q. Mary 506.
Tuyne to schew the quens curges
a1568 Sempill in Sat. P. xlviii 69.
For the lang lest, it wald be schewid fast
1586 Treas. Acc. MS 104b.
Colouris of silk to schew the saidis stockis and buit hois
1586 Treas. Acc. MS 105.
Twa vnce of silk to schew the saidis parsmentis
1618 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 88.
For pak threid to schew the … ten pair of sand pockis … four pack neidillis … to schew thame
1687 Bk. Old Edinb. C. XXVII 137.
I shewed some belts for my wast and knee
(e) 1603 Eglinton Papers (Hist. MSS Comm.) 31.
For small thrid to shoue my rufs 1 s.
(f) 1656 Fam. Innes 183.
Ther is not a bed sceuitt, tebill great or small, stoull [etc.]
intr. for passive 1641 Edinb. Test. LIX 286.
Gloves schaipine & presentlie schewing
(2) c1420 Wynt. v 5516.
In Saphat … Crystys kyrtill noucht sowyd wyth seme Wes fwndyn
1497 Treas. Acc. I 379.
For threid to sow the sales with
1501 Treas. Acc. II 110.
Giffin to the tailȝouris that sewing the chamir hingingis of scarlat and damas
1529 Antiq. Aberd. & B. IV 230.
Ane losin serk seuit with gold
1556–7 Edinb. Old Acc. II 72.
Rubbonis and freinȝeis of silk, ane unce and ½ to mak the knoppis and to sew thame with
1561 Inv. Wardrobe 150.
Ane bed of layn sewit with silk of divers cullouris
1568 Edinb. Test. I 169.
Ane basing claith sewit with blew threid
1578 Nugæ Derelictæ (1880) xii 4.
Twa collattis sewit of holene clayth
1578 Inv. Wardrobe 219.
A lang taillit gowne of layn sewit with silver
1579 Inv. Wardrobe 282.
Ten howis sewit with reid silk
1598 Black Bk. Taymouth 320.
Of mattis of greene sewit with incarnet silk
1598 Black Bk. Taymouth 329.
Of cuscheonis sewit with erishe werk
1616 Inv. Q. Mary cxxi n. 2.
The bed, described as vncomplete, sewit be his maiesties mother, of gold, silver and silk
1653 Soc. Ant. XXIII 302.
Two coverlids seud lynd with plaiding
(b) 1638 Elphinstone Mun. 26.
Ane cramasay … claithe sew witht ane gold pasment
(c) 1575 Edinb. Test. III 362.
Foure pair of gileboyis schewit with siluer & gold
1612 Paterson Ayr & Wigton III ii 411.
[Head sheets] schewit with black silk and perling
1634 Edinb. B. Rec. VII 146.
Ane peace of sayis schewed in reid buckrame
1635 Haddington Corr. 300.
Ane rid skarlett tablecloth shewed with bouk and slips
1641 Old Ross-shire I 125.
Twa codis with ther waires schewed with worset
1651 Edinb. Test. LXV 203b.
Twa watir cloathes schewed with laid wark
(d) 1632 14th Rep. Hist. MSS App. 235.
Ane approne … with sylver ribbin and sylver perline schowit with sylver
1700 Edinb. Gazette 8-11 April.
A muslen apron … all sued to a quarter with small flowers
(3) fig. ?1438 Alex. ii 3882.
‘Ȝe are sle, dame!' said the Bauderane, ‘And sewis it weill … But threid or nedill all subtelly'
1564 Cal. Sc. P. II 75.
I suspect scho sall tailye the croune to the Stewartis … Albeit this be schaipin, I fear it salbe evill sewit, for me lord of Argyll
1571 Sat. P. xxvi 59.
Quhat ȝe do schaip, the Lord himself dois sew

b. In extended sense: To fasten or join pieces of cloth by knitting them together with a twig or stick. 1513 Doug. iii ix 13.
Hys tawbart and array sewyt with breris

c. To furnish with points by stitching them to a base. a1586 Lindsay MS 10.
Ane harnes of jampes couerit with ledder sowit with pointis … and tua attaiches lairge for to atteiche thame into his brayer

2. To fasten or attach (one thing, usu. of cloth or leather) on (upoun), to, in or about another thing by stitching, sewing or some other means.Also, to sow-to. Cf. Sewin(g vbl. n.1 1 c.(a) a1500 Henr. Fab. 2481.
Fla his skyn off swyth; Syne sew it on me
a1500 Henr. Fab. 2494.
With that … the doggis skyn off he flew, And on the scheip rycht softlie couth it sew
1529 Treas. Acc. V 370.
Ane pair of ledderis sowit in armyn irnis
15.. Sym & Bruder 22.
Thay comptit nocht quhat thair clowtis weis Wes sewit thairon incertane
1570 Leslie 119.
Ane quhyt crose sewit upoun thair umast clayth
1584 Gowrie P. 36.
[His head] was … sowed to his showlders before he was buried
1585 Edinb. B. Rec. IV 419.
Ane jowpe of blak with a [ … ] of quhyte clayth sewit about the sam
1634 Rutherford Lett. (1675) 451.
Be content … to be adding and sowing-to a pasment to your wedding garment
(b) a1605 Montg. Flyt. 432 (T).
And of deid menis memberis, weill schewit in ane schoe [H. sowed to a shoo]
1610 Tailor's Acc. Bk. A 83.
Silk … to mak the hoilis and shew on the pasments
1630-1651 Gordon Geneal. Hist. 406.
Their wes a note found shewed within his hatt
1679 Lauder Jrnl. 290.
I … wrot them upon 4 or 5 sydes of paper and shewed it in at the end of my inventar
1699 Edinb. Gazette 11-14 Dec.
A large blanket, three pictures shew'd in every corner

b. With adverbial complement.To sowe pilloues under the arme-hoilles, see Pillow n. a. 1603 Crim. Trials II 408.
Mowbray assayed to come down the wall of the castle upon peeces of the blanketts of his bed, sewed together
1669 Jus Populi 21.
Sure he must have some needle head that can sowe these two together
1681 Lauder Observes 43.
The wound was shewed up
fig. 16.. Herries Mem. 82.
Those breaches betwixt man and wyffe … might be sewed up

3. To enclose (something) in a receptacle or covering by stitching around it. 1591 Crim. Trials I ii 253.
Ane pictour of clay and ane portrat of Elizabeth Home … sewitt in ane windeine scheit
1603 Inverness Rec. II 20.
Thair wes gottin within the coller of thai coit, seuit thairin certain coniurit herbes [etc.]
1611 Scrymgeour Invent. 50.
The copie of certane charteris … quhilkis ar all sewit at utheris endis in paper
1688 Soc. Ant. II 455.
Cloath of gold of Arras work having a vail covering the middle part, wherein were sued severall superstitious pictures

4. intr. To engage in sewing; to practise the art of needlework. a1500 Bk. Chess 642.
To schaipe and sew to spyn & weif
1540 Perth Hammermen 42.
Quhat saidlair … ressavis ane sowter in his buith … to work ony labour, othir to schew or cunnour, he sall pay [etc.]
1568 Lyndesay Pref. (STS) 398.
Quhairto wald thow be my tailȝeour? Thow can nouther schaip nor sew
c1575 Balfour Pract. 582.
Challenge of tailȝeouris … That thay sew with false threid and graith
a1586 Lindsay MS 64.
As ane man will leir to schaw for to be ane tailȝeour or ane carpentar him behuffit that he haue ane maister that [MS than] can schaw him to schew or hewe
a1598 Ferg. Prov. No. 719.
Quhen taylours are true, there little good to shew
1647 S. Leith Rec. 78.
A scool for teaching of young children to read and to shewe
?c1669 J. M. Beale Fife Schools 223.
A woman's school to teach lasses to sue
1697 Glasg. Univ. Mun. I 458.
That black Bettie be learned to … shew with the needle well

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"Sew v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Feb 2024 <>



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