Monday, June 4, 2012

Elizabethan Embroidery

Primrose worked in detached buttonhole
I'm still plugging away at the giant brick stitch book cushion, but in the mean time I decided to start a smaller embroidery project so I can get some sense of completion.  Normally I have a big project and several smaller projects going, it keeps me focused and I actually get more done this way.  If I don't, I get board and frustrated with the big thing after a while.  The elaborate and colorful detached style of embroidery seen on Elizabethan coifs, nightcaps, and other smallish items has always fascinated me so I decided to make some needle books as practice.  Eventually I want to do a whole coif, so this has been good practice.  Plus I am using up my old stash of DMC cotton and making some pretty cool little things I can use as tokens or gifts.

Pomegranate worked in trellis stitch
I'm using the books by Dorothy Clark as inspiration and for stitch instructions.  The diagrams are very clear and everything is well explained (though I'm sure it helps that I've been dong hand sewing and embroidery since I was 5).  In the first volume, Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery (Elizabethan needlework) , she instructs you to pad the stitching with fiberfill, which does not work well at all and I can't find any documentation for this having been done in period.  It works much better if you take a small bit of felt and work the stitches over it (which is what she tells you to do in Elizabethan Needlework Accessories , go figure)  .  As far as I know this is what would have been done in period too (that's how I was taught to do raised work with metal threads anyway).  I can't tell if the embroidery on the coifs is raised, I can think of arguments both for and against doing a lot of padded work on a coif.  Hopefully I will be able to find some good detailed coif pictures that will point me one way or the other.


  1. snap - _'ve been toying with the idea of doing a coif as one of my smaller projects too! I was planning on using some vegdyed silk I did last year

    these look very pretty

    1. Thank you! It's a really addictive style of embroidery, some of the fill stitches are really time consuming but you have to do so little that it's not so annoying. Seeing how the different flowers turn out is a lot of fun. Using your own silks would be even more fun! I've got some major silk supply problems in my area, all I can find is dull mat spun silk. This really wants an actual filament and perl.

  2. Those are beautiful. I like the idea of simultaneously getting practice in a technique, making useful objects/gifts and using up the cotton embroidery thread in a useful way.

    And I have to say, I do that with the small projects + one big project. It's funny how it makes you more productive on the large project to *not* do it all the time.