HNW - Elizabethan Needlework [longish]

Sarah Randles s-randles at
Wed Jul 7 00:55:16 PDT 1999

Andrew Reid wrote:

>I'm a recent convert to silks, I just started using them for my first
>attempt to do Elizabethan slips.  The effect is so much nicer, well worth
>the cost differential.  To get subtle gradations in colour, could you
>possibly add in one strand of a slightly darker or lighter shade when you
>are using multiple strands?

I don't know, but it's probably worth a try on the 'suck it and see' basis.
I wonder, though whether it might give too regular an effect.  Let me know
if you try it what you think of the results.

  I have a friend here who owns a copy of the
>hellishly expensive "Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd" by Janet Arnold
>(US$180- yikes!), and there are many many B&W close up pictures of
>embroidery in it.  *sigh*  Each page a revelation!

Try also Jane Ashelford's book on Elizabethan Costume.  It also has some v.
nice broidery, and is much cheaper than QEWU.  I don't know if it's still
in print, but you ought to be able to find someone local with a copy.

>"So, how about I set Elizabethan embroidery for a Worshipful Company of
>Broderers (Lochac/Australia) comp for some time next year?"
>Oh yes please!!


Re twisted versus stranded - I don't really know, but my guess, based on
medieval practice is that it's more likely to be stranded.  Medieval silks
for embroidery were most often reeled, i.e. pulled off the silk cocoons and
wound on to bobbins.  For other purposes (i.e. weaving) they were plied
together to form stronger threads, which will give a twisted effect.  I
know I read this somewhere but I can't remember where, and don't have time
to go searching for it.  If anyone knows the source, please tell me.  I
also don't know whether this practice would have continued into the
Elizabethan era, but it would be interesting to have a good look at some
extant pieces to see if it can be worked out.

The $100 silk offer sounds pretty good if you can get 5+ people together.

Sarah (who is at work way too late translating a German book on medieval
Tristan embroideries with the help of the Alta Vista Translation Page!)

Sarah Randles                                    email: s-randles at
School of English                              phone: 02 6268 8842
University College ADFA                 fax:   02 6268 8899
Canberra ACT 2601

Note: on Mondays and Tuesdays I work at the Australian National Dictionary
Centre - phone: (02) 6249 0476.

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