Friday, September 20, 2013

Monochrome Embroidery used for Elizabethan Coifs

While at Pennsic I had took a class from Mistress Amy Webb of the East Kingdom. She used a term I had not heard before - English monochrome embroidery. Mistress Amy went on to explain that this embroidery has a few characteristics:

  • Stitches are worked in a single color of silk thread. Sometimes gold threads are used to create interest.
  • Stitches used are varied including stem stitch, satin stitch, and double running stitch 
  • Images were taken from English country gardens
  • Stitches are not consistently reversible or counted
We have several extant examples of women's coifs embellished with English monochrome embroidery in museums around the world, but very few are seen in the portraiture of the time. If you think about it critically, coifs are more personal (intimate) articles of clothing. Unless the sitter was being painted in a birthing bed, or another intimate setting, there probably wont be a painting of them wearing an elaborately embellished coif. Portraits were usually done with their best clothing, not informal clothing. Modernly it would be the like a senator's wife wearing sweat pants and flip-flops for a bridal portrait. As time goes on coifs become more popular and worn more publicly.
Mrs George Evelyn 1580's

Extent Monochrome Coifs