Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sir Christopher Hatton's Shirt

Being the story of how Sir Christopher Hatton's shirt came to be in my closet.....
Long ago and far away, before the invention of the internet, I found a super bargain on Brooks Brothers' clearance rack- a very fine Irish Linen shirt.   I took the shirt home and carefully tucked it away.  I had plans for it, but it took 7 more years for events to take place making it possible for my plans to come to pass....

It had all started ( even further ago and longer away) with a book.  Blackwork by Mary Gostelow.  In this book is a very faded picture of a portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton, painted in 1589.   I've included a much clearer pic here, from the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Hatton is wearing a smock with pomegranates and flowers embroidered on the cuffs and collar.  I fell in love with the design but it was nearly impossible to get a feel for the entire design from the copy in Gostelow's book because it was so faded.
 I was also working under the misunderstanding that all linear blackwork is reversible and counted.  So I was trying to chart a reversible, counted version of the design, and failing miserably because it needed to be done in surface embroidery to get the smoothly curving lines.  In 2002 I took a class from Catherine Jordan that opened my eyes to the fact that all linear blackwork isn't necessarily counted or reversible.   

Then a few years later, the internet had progressed enough that museums began to include "zoomable" versions of portraits on the internet. 

At last  I had all the knowledge and tools I needed to create my shirt.

Embroidery worked in DMC 6 stranded cotton, using one strand.  Stitch used is Outline.


  1. Do you know Liadin? She's a Blackwork er, worker. Just finishing putting out a series of design. Very floral sort of blackwork (which I prefer to the more geometric sort). She's a lovely lady and would love to meet you and share images of your work.

  2. I hope this is the right venue to respond to your comments. I don't see a place under your comment titled "respond". Hopefully you'll see my comments...
    I don't know Liadin, but will check out her site. I also prefer the floral blackwork.

  3. This is a beautiful shirt, Kimberly! I love the sweeping floral blackwork -- and have had many an argument with some costumers about the fact that all blackwork does NOT have to be counted or reversible! :)

    Years ago, I was able to see a beautiful, apparently counted, blackwork sampler that Linn Skinner brought to a class. It not only wasn't counted, it was an experiment by her to see if she could reproduce the look using an embroidery machine. All the stitches hit the holes in the linen, and until you looked at the back it looked like someone had stitched it. (Scary for those of us who love to do the stitching!)

  4. Hi Romilly - you're right, Linn's sampler is scary! It might explain some counted-looking blackwork clothing I've seen out there, though. (Not by SCA people, this was inexpensive but looked stitched).

    I saw a piece at the MET museum in NYC that was 16th century counted and looked like it should have been reversible, but wasn't, so that was enough proof to me that the old pieces weren't always reversible.

    Thanks for your interest!

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