[HNW] Linen for coifs

Sue Clemenger mooncat at in-tch.com
Tue Oct 21 06:43:04 PDT 2003

I lucked out many years ago, and acquired a small stash of evenweave
handkerchief linen (4th of July sale at a House of Fabrics).  It's about
60 count in both directions. I generally go over 2 threads for a stitch,
so my finished "count" is about 30 stitches to the inch.
I mention this, because when I was in England last year, absorbing all
the blackwork I could, I noticed that my stuff seemed to fall right into
the middle of the range of things I saw (mostly at the V&A and the
Costume Museum in Bath).
Some things were done on a coarser linen, and some, finer.  There was
also a variety of "scale" of the embroideries, but a lot was fairly
fine--i.e., the filling patterns for a coif, or some of the patterns on
the Bostocke sampler.
The V&A had a really neat Islamic exhibit at the time, that featured
several strips of embroidery that I took to be interlaced blackwork--the
interlace had large-ish open spaces in the design, and these had been
embellished with pulled- and drawn-thread embroidery. The fabric and
scale on these was nice, but not as fine as some of the stuff upstairs
in the Textile Rooms.
The fabric for the shift and shirt at the Costume Museum seemed to be
about the same weight as mine, perhaps slightly lighter and a little
more translucent (e.g., maybe my threads were a little thicker or
something?).  I recall, as well, a couple of items for outerwear
(jackets and such) that were made from a heavier linen, so I'd venture
to hazard a guess that the fabric weight was varying depending on
intended usage as much as anything.
My personal bias, I guess, would be to go with a garment-weight linen
(hankie linen, in this case), instead of the evenweave linens made for
samplers and such, because the weight of the fabric would be closer to
the historical piece (a coif), and it wouldn't be as "coarse."
IIRC, Lacemaker sells handkerchief linen (or at least, they used to).  I
think their website is something like:
(It'd be easy enough to google for them).  That linen is going to be
pretty fine, because it's intended for making hankies to put lace edges
on.  I recall it being pretty darned expensive, but if you were only
doing small projects like a coif (as opposed to a whole shift), it
wouldn't be so bad.
Hedgehog Handiworks may sell it as well, although I don't know for sure.
I do know that they sell silk gauze for counted thread work, though. 
Can't remember their website addy, but they're easy to google for, as
And there's also my favorite (evil) linen store, fabrics-store.com,
which sells an amazing assortment of linens in all kinds of colors and
weights, including something they call "hankie linen."  I can't speak of
the fineness of this, as I've ordered some for a couple of shifts but it
hasn't yet arrived, but their other linens I've purchased have all been
--sue, certified blackwork geek ;o)

sheree krasley wrote:
> I'm currently working on a blackwork coif and was wondering if anyone
> has any idea of the thread count of the linen that was used in the
> late 16th century? The linen I'm curently using is 52 by 48 count per
> inch. Not exactly an even weave but close enough that it doesn't seem
> to effect the pattern, that and since I'm doing it in speckle stitch
> and not the usual fill designs it's working well.
> I'm just curious as to how fine a linen was being used.

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