Information and bibliography for this study and for the Rose in embroidery
Historical Study of British Embroidery: Elizabethan embroidery- Flowers
See the accompanying sheets for more information and illustration of embroidered flowers.
Why were embroideries made?
During the Elizabethan flower designs were used to decorate clothes, textiles, furnishings, and hangings in homes and public environment.
What is the design source? What is the main design structure?
Flowers were naturalistic. On some pieces they were without a border, others were enclosed either in strap work patterns or coiling foliage. Plants were grounded rather than the cut flower or bouquet common later. The designs and techniques can be seen in both in remaining costumes, domestic textiles such as cushions and bed hangings as well as portraits done during the period.
Where were the embroideries made? Who commissioned it?
Artisans were employed by lords and wealthy landowners to design and create work. Larger houses would employ embroiderers permanently to produce clothing and furnishings.
Who designed it? Who stitched it? Are there foreign influences?
Work was stitched by professional embroiderers or women of the household. Pattern books were available in France and Germany by 1550 and were distributed through Europe. Patterns were adapted from books such as Conrad Gesner’s “Catalogues Plantarum” published in 1542, and later from “Herbal or General History of Plants” by John Gerard originally published in 1597
What are the raw materials?
The fabric used depended on the intended use: for example heavier velvets, brocades and linens were used for cushions and hangings, and finer linen or silk for smocks. Threads were coloured silks, crewel wool, metallic silver and gold.
What methods or techniques were used?
Motifs may be worked on linen or canvas slips and applied to another ground fabric eg velvet. Finer fabrics were directly stitched onto. Stitches used include tent stitch, double running stitch, couching, detached buttonhole and satin stitch. Spangles, pearls and jewels were also used. Blackwork continued to be popular
Find evidence of animals, birds, insect forms, human figures, plant forms, climate
Areas were filled with embroideries or appliqués. Flowers include the rose, carnation, gilly flower, daisy, cornflower, pansy, iris. Animals, or birds, eg heron or kingfisher, and especially insects such as a bee, butterfly or moth were often stitched.
Bibliography for Elizabethan Embroidery and Roses study
V&A museum web site.
Lanto Synge 1989. Antique Needlework. Blandford Press, London
Jennifer Harris. 1993 (2010 edition) 5000 Years of Textiles. The British Museum Press, London
Hardwick Hall embroideries on the National Trust website
Sheila Paine. 2008. Embroidered textiles : A World Guide to Traditional Patterns. Thames and Hudson London
Thomasina Beck. 1997. Gardening with Silk and Gold. Readers Digest (Australia)
L Yefimova and R Belogorskaya. 1987. Russian Embroidery and Lace
I spent a long time looking at and in awe of these embroideries, but it was time to get stitching.