Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Speckled Holly Leaf Coif

Today's post is on a coif that I started a really long time ago and only finished in about 2010. I had grown disenchanted with the project because the pattern was not cut in an accurate way. For a long time I debated about whether I should continue the embroidery or whether it was a waste of time to finish the garment if it was not accurate.

The finished coif

In the end, I modified the pattern to make it more accurate for the sixteenth century and decided to finish the garment. The piece was good practice in speckling stitch, which was popular with Elizabethan embroiderers for adding depth and texture to monochrome embroidery. I found it quite a tedious and time consuming stitch also, but I liked the end result.

Here you can see the original coif pattern modified to make it more accurate for a sixteenth century English style coif. Note the join down the middle of the garment. I have never seen an extant coif with a join, but that was the only way to modify this coif from it's original 'Jorvik hood' style shape into a more appropriate shape.

There are many examples of floreate patterns in extant English monchrome and ploychrome embroidery from the sixteenth century - the Elizabethans loved them! I particularly wanted a holly pattern and was inspired by patterns from 'A Scholehouse for the Needle' and the images below.

The spiky leaves from this Elizabethan man's nightcap in the V&A Museum (c1600-1629/Museum # 814-1891) reminded me of holly leaves  although I suspect they are supposed to be thistle leaves.

A really excellent collection of images of extant coifs can be found at the Blackwork Guild 'Blackwork Headwear' page - http://www.theblackworkguild.com/COSTUMES-MEMBERS%202.html

Stylised holly design in silk and gilt from a sixteenth century English coif in the V&A Museum collection

The finished coif worn by a model with very short hair. It does fit better over a bun or hair taping.

Spangles were attached with three stitches, and the centre seam was decorated with chain stitch. All the embroidery was done in DMC cotton thread with two strands of black. Cotton floss and fabric were used for this project instead of silk and linen to save money. The spangles are silver metal. 

Centre top seam decorated with chain stitch.

The centre top seam was decorated with chain stitch and the edges with a slanting whip stitch. In period, an Elizabethan braid stitch would most likely have been chosen for the top centre seam, but when I tried it, it just didn't fit with the embroidery. If I started this project again, I would make the embroidery design more crowded and full. When I drew this design out, I was less familiar with Elizabethan style than I am now, and I think I was looking at the design with a modern eye. It needs a lot more spangles and have less bare areas.

I gathered the central seam in an approximation of the same technique that I used on the Red Stripey Coif (posted previously). It doesn't look quite right due to the adjusted shape of the coif. The main embroidery stitches used were stem and speckling stitches, and a funny little knot I use in lieu of french knots. (It is close to a colonial knot.)

The finished coif is lined with a light cotton lining to protect the embroidery from hair oils etc. The lucet cords were hand made by Heather - thank you Heather! Also thanks to Alisondre who helped with some of the speckling stitches.

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