Friday, February 24, 2012

Red Monochrome Elizabethan Coif

Today's post is about a monochrome Elizabethan coif I made in 2010.  The main inspiration for the piece came from the following extant linen, silk and metal thread example shown in Janet Arnold's 'Patterns of Fashion 4' (below).

I used the same sort of scrolling stem design, but added different motifs. I pored over Patterns of Fashion, Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked, and all my reproduction sixteenth century pattern books with Elizabethan-style motifs, and picked a variety of motifs that I thought went well together. I kept a reference as I drew up the pattern so that I would have a record of where the motifs were sourced from.

I traced the design out in water soluble ink. For this project, I remembered to keep a record of how long the stitching took. The picture above shows approximately fifty hours of stitching (not including pattern design, tracing out etc.)

The stitching was done predominantly in double running stitch because I need practice in that stitch.

When the embroidery was done, I washed the coif in a gentle wool wash, rinsed, and gently blocked the fabric on a clean towel.

Here is the piece ready for metallic threads and spangling

The ground fabric is a lovely mid-weight linen, and the stitching was done in red DMC cotton floss and silver metallic thread. The spangles are a silver gilt metal and were sewn on with three stitches.

The back of the piece showing knotted and woven threads

In previous posts, I have gone into a great deal of detail about construction and design of coifs in Elizabethan times. Please refer to the post on my red striped coif for more information.

As you can see, I knotted AND wove the thread ends in on the back of the piece. I was not sure how the recipient would choose to launder the coif, and I wanted it to be durable.

There are small areas of other stitches, such as seeding, speckling, satin, stem and running stitch.

The piece after metal spangles were added
Below are some close up shots of the stitching. You can see that the metallic silver thread was added in a single running stitch in the centre of the stems.

The images below are scanned from 'Patterns of Fashion 4' and show extant sixteenth and early seventeenth century English coifs.
The centre top seam is sewn and then gathered  for about a third of the distance to allow for a bun or hair taping

This picture shows the gathering stitches at the crown of one of the coifs

This image shows tapes tying the coif in place in front of the bun or hair taping
I added a lining to the coif to protect against hair oils. The lucet cord ties were hand made by Heather.

I will post more pictures of the finished article next time!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blue Scholehouse chemise panels

Today's post relates to one of my earlier chemise projects. I saw the image (below) of the goddess with an embroidered chemise, and decided that I wanted one.

Queen Elizabeth I with Three Goddesses by Hans Eworth -
I decided upon a motif from Shorleyker's 1632 Pattern book 'A Scholehouse for the Needle' -

Image can be found at

The motifs were embroidered in stem stitch in a blue DMC cotton floss. In the image below, the fabric is draped over my ironing board, which makes the ground fabric look slightly checked. It actually isn't checked; the ironing board cover is showing through the fabric.

Although both sleeve panels are complete, I never made this chemise up because the ground fabric seems to be a poly-cotton blend. I find that poly-cotton doesn't wear well, doesn't last as long as natural fabrics, and is a bit of a fire risk with candles and other flames. When I started this project, I was on a ridiculously tight budget. Now, although I am still on a tight budget, I will pay the extra for natural fibre fabrics. I have learnt the hard way that it is false economy not to.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Child's Tunic

Here is a hooded wool tunic that I made for a baby back in 2008. It is the first child's clothing I ever attempted. I guessed at the pattern. It is machine and hand sewn, with embroidery around the hood and hem. And since I don't have any children, I had to model it on a teddy bear!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Collarless Partlet with Gold Embroidery

Today's pictures are of a cotton collarless partlet that I made. It was inspired by this portrait of 'A Woman with a Heron' by the Veronese School.

Circle of Veronese Portrait of a Woman with a Heron

The pattern is an adaptation of one of my favourite scrolling floral designs and is worked in DMC cotton floss. You will find variations of this design in most sixteenth century pattern books including Modelbuch Aller Art.

The design is worked mainly in stem stitch, with some seeding stitches and knots. All visible seams are handsewn, as is the purchased lace trim.

Collarless partlets and partlets with a very small collar at the back can be seen in many sixteenth century Italian portraits:
Bernardino Licinio Portrait of a Family
Portrait of a Family by Licinio

File:Bernardino Licinio - Portrait of Arrigo Licinio and His Family - WGA12984.jpg
Portrait of Arrigo Licinio and his Family by Bernardino Licinio

Portrait of a Lady in White - Titian
Portrait of a Lady in White by Titian (1555)

Portrait of a Woman by Veronese (1560s)

Titian - Portrait of Titian's Daughter Lavinia - Renaissance (High Italian, "Cinquecento") - Oil on canvas - Portrait - Alte Meister Galerie - Der Zwinger - Dresden, Germany
Portrait of Titian's daughter Lavinia by Titian Portrait of a Venetian Woman by Paolo Veronese 

File:Veneto, Bartolomeo - Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress - 1530.jpg

The partlet pattern was adapted from one made many years ago at a partlet workshop held by THL Katerina da Brescia. You can see her research here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Conquers All

In honour of St Valentine's Day!

Interlaced Foliage Partlet

This is a partlet that I made for a prize auction tourney in 2010. The embroidery was done in double running stitch with black linen thread. The ground fabric was also linen.

The interlaced design is taken from one of my reproduction sixteenth century modelbooks.(I love looking through my collection of modelbooks in the initial stages of a project!) I did not alter the pattern. In the sixteenth century, the embroiderer would probably have traced or drawn the design onto the base fabric with ink. I taped the linen to a window and traced the design on in water soluble pen. I find that water soluble ink is much more forgiving of any errors! I did a tacking stitch to mark out the edges of where the partlet collar piece should be cut.

The linen was stiff enough that I did not need to add interlining. The interior shoulder seams are machine sewn, but everything else was sewn by hand. Extant examples of sixteenth century clothing suggests that edges were often whip stitched, treated with sizing or wax, or left untreated. I have tested the wax and whip methods, but have found that a small machine zigzag stitch around the edges of finished garment pieces is more effective. I tend to machine-launder most of my embroidered pieces, so they need to be very durable.

The under arm seams were not joined. Images such as those found on the roof of the Pitti Palace in Italy suggest that partlet pieces were not joined under the armpits (Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 4).This would allow for fluctuations in weight. For my own personal use, I have some that are, and some that are not. Since I often have no-one to help me dress, I find that the joined ones suit my needs better. However, I chose a more accurate representation for this project.

I included lucet cords made by Heather with this piece, in case the recipient wanted ties to close the partlet. I also altered some jewellery making findings into decorative pins, in case the recipient of the partlet wished to pin it closed.

During the embroidery, I often felt that I would go cross eyed! One of the disadvantages with some of the water soluble pens is that the ink has a tendency to bleed and blur the lines of the design. Once I washed the collar piece out and ironed it, I felt that the effort had been worth it, and I was very pleased with how the project turned out.

This website has some great pictures and interesting research on partlet construction-

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shaped Lilac Coif

Here is another one of my early attempts at an Elizabethan shaped coif. It is embroidered in DMC cotton floss on a cotton base fabric. The embroidery is predominantly stem stitch. The spangles are silver gilt, attached with four threads. Sewing spangles on with three stitches is more common, but there are extant examples of Elizabethan embroiderers securing spangles with four stitches. I suppose that, like me, they wanted their work to stand up to lots of washing and use.

The design is my own, but the motifs are all taken from period model books and extant embroidery examples from the sixteenth century. There is a line of commercially made cotton bobbin lace around the front of the coif, ornamented by small pearls. The coif is lined to prevent hair oils from affecting the embroidery.

More detailed information about Elizabethan coifs can be found in my earlier post on the red striped coif.

Thank you to Heather for the lucet cords.