This gallery shows my embroidery projects. Some are discussed more fully on the Reproductionspage.
Newest projects are on top.
This is a reproduction of a needlecase in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that I completed in March of 2008. It is done in silk needle lace, and the legs are wired to keep their shape.
The total sewing time was 81 hours - you can read more on the process in Reproductions.
This is a sweet bag I finished in August 2007. Now, there's no evidence I can find that sweet bags were blackworked (rather than stitched in other ways), so don't go using me as documentation, because I'm not going to back you up on it. I did this one this way because I wanted to.
This is important - I've searched a bunch, and there's no evidence I can find that sweet bags and/or purses were ever blackworked. The usual styles are polychrome and gilt threads tent stitched or worked using a number of stitches including raised and detatched stitches.
(Feel free to e-mail me if you have evidence of blackworked bags. I'll send you cookies, or something.)
The tassel design and the way everything is attached is period; it's just the embroidery that has no backup as far as extant examples (that I've been able to find) go. I keep a notebook with pictures of extant purses (I keep notebooks for all sorts of things, like gloves, clothes, nightcaps, coifs, etc. - it makes for easy reference), and refer to it a lot as I work.
The bag is black silk thread in two sizes on a linen ground, the lining is orange silk, the cord is orange and black silk, the spangles are composition metal. The pincushion is stuffed with wool, and the tassel bases are... plastic pony beads. They just don't make wooden beads small enough. The design is from a pretty well-known sweet bag/pincushion set in the V&A.
Both sides of the bag are embroidered, and one side of the pincushion - the back is orange silk, and is so the pins don't destroy the embroidery (yes, I plan to wear and use it for its intended purpose). I spangled the pincushion a bit, but there are only a few on the bag, since they didn't really fit well. The style is a modified version of voided work, where the background is filled in and the design left open, but I like doing little delicate lines and fills, so I did a bunch of detail work on top. It's taken me about a year and a half to getting around to finishing it, but I'd say the actual hours spent were about 350 or so (I didn't track it, since it was such an on-again, off-again project, I wasn't sure I'd ever finish it).
The tassel bobble on the cord end of the pincushion was done by slipping the cord through the bead base, attaching it to the pincushion (and closing the pincushion at the same time), then wrapping the bead. All the tassels are done in silk. The pincushion is stuffed with shredded wool; I spent part of an evening shredding wool yarn (wool fabric works as well) and combing out the twists of yarn until they were fluffy.
I went through my entire notebook and several of my historical embroidery books to check on how the lacing was done, and it really does go right through the upper part of the embroidery. I couldn't discern any kind of stitching around the lace holes, so I created holes with an awl and threaded through those. They work amazingly well. The other thing I realized (in the way one does when actually looking at the object rather than going by memory) is that the laces overlap each other in the holes rather than being opposite, and so the tie ends are slightly offset to the seams of the bag. This doesn't seem to make the bag hang funny, so I'm satisfied - and it looks better.
The tassels are based on ones I found - whether the originals had tufts or not is hard to tell, but there are other bags with bobbles instead of tufts, so I'm sanguine about this design. The beads are threaded onto the cord, wrapped, then the second bead is buttonhole-stitched to the first. They anchored very well onto both the bag and the cord ends. The cord is twelve-strand silk, doubled into six lines, which are braided. This kind of braid is a pain, but looks lovely. The bag is lined with the same orange silk as the pincushion, and those of you who have been with me for a while will recognise it as the leftover orange silk from the skirt I made to go with my embroidered jacket.
I'm very happy with this one; whether blackworked purses were ever done is completely unknown to me (having not found one yet), but the design and overall look are pretty Elizabethan, and it's definitely the look I was going for.
This is a coif I made in2005 for a friend in return for a really bitchin' orange wool knitted flat cap for my husband. The original is one of the few 16th century embroidered pieces that is clearly identifiable as amateur - it's awful. I actually had to re-draw the design so that it wasn't as off-kilter and crude as the original. Perhaps it was the first coif the person ever made, perhaps they were just not terribly talented at the whole embroidery thing, but they made up for it by filling all the vinework with spangles - hundreds of them.
In the interest of my sanity, and out of a desire to create something a whole heck of a lot more tasteful (and to make a more middle-class style coif), I did a simple edging stitch for the vines instead.
This was a relatively simple coif to make - about 120 hours or so.
And this is a nightcap I made in 2004 for a really bitchin' turned triangle stool. The motif on the nightcap is from two coifs in the Victoria & Albert Museum, enlarged slightly and spaced to fill the nightcap pattern. It is made of linen with black silk thread and gold spangles.
The spangles really do sparkle in candlelight; at a period evening lit only by lanterns and candles, the spangles glittered so beautifully every time he moved that it was easy to see why the Elizabethans loved metal adornment on their embroidery.
The entire cap took about 200 hours.
This is a coif I completed in 2004 - it is a partial replica of a coif in the V&A Museum, London, with some changes to the fill-stitching. The original is not shaded in quite the same way, but I wanted to experiment with the technique of using tiny speckle stitching to create "shading" in the design.
This took about 200 hours over a period of about 6 months. It's the same dimensions as the one in the V&A, and fits closer than other coifs I've made. It's linen, black silk thread, and metal spangles. The coif is lined - the embroidered coifs that survive mostly have linings, and it makes sense that something fragile and valuable would be protected from greasy hair by a lining. The construction stitches are also tiny, but the original clearly shows that the coif and lining are individually hemmed, then top-stitched into place. This creates a much more stable coif, but also one that can have the lining replaced when needed without worrying about the embroidered side fraying when the lining and coif are unpicked.
A more detailed discussion of the coif can be found here.
I made this coif for a friend in return for some clothes for Bob. The pattern is copied from a shift in the V&A Museum that was also embroidered in pink. I added silver spangles (now a little tarnished) for effect.
While I am very happy with how the embroidery turned out, I made this coif rather large - my friend had very long thick hair at the time, and I think I overcompensated for that a little. She's now got shorter hair, and the coif is far too big.
I made drawstring loops rather than a channel for this one. Below are thumbnails showing the drawstring loops and the embroidery in more detail.
This is a nightcap I made in 1999 in exchange for a pair of shoes for my husband. It was designed from a pattern book rather than a period pattern, and was ultra-simple to make. It's burgundy and black silk on white linen, using the same edging technique I used for my husband's nightcap, which was taken from the Carew-Pole nightcap.
I'm really kind of "eh" about the design - it's a little too geometric for my taste, but the recipient loved it. I made the silk tassel, but I also included an outrageous burgundy chenille tassel as well. From later accounts, the chenille tassel is the favoured one.
...A detail of the design and stitching. The fill stitch is my favoured one - again, I simply don't care for geometric designs that much, and prefer the simple over-2-under-2 counted speckle.
The problem I've found with pattern books is that they tend towards the geometric. There are advantages to this - it's easier to follow, easier to enlarge and/or fill more space with - but I prefer the English style of twisting vines and very hand-drawn looking designs. I'm currently working on a line of coif patterns with the embroidery drawn out for easy reproduction, but it's still in the test phase.
This is the first nightcap I made for my husband - it's a (mostly) direct copy of the unfinished green silk nightcap in the Carew-Pole collection, and I drafted the pattern and the embroidery design from the picture in Gostelow's "Blackwork" in 1999, and completed it sometime in 2000.
The nightcap is linen, the embroidery is green silk, and accented with gold spangles. A more detailed discussion of the nightcap can be found here.
This is the first coif I ever made - I still wear this one if I'm going to be out in hot weather or using a hat pin, because it's made of cotton and DMC embroidery thread, so completely machine washable, and I don't care if it gets pin holes in it. It took me probably 200 hours to complete.
I made so many mistakes with this first one - the design was way too small, the materials were completely wrong, and I cut out the pattern shape before I embroidered it - but I still love it, and still wear it. The more observant among you will recognize (or will as soon as you see it) the embroidery pattern as the same one I used for my Elizabethan jacket. I've loved that design for many years.
Someone once asked me if I had machine embroidered this coif. I laughed.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.