Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tudor Rose & Ladybug Pinwheel

I am designing a piece for a class I will be teaching at Hand Dyed Fibers in Williamstown, PA next year. Vikki Clayton (proprietor) has asked that I teach a class on making a lady bug like the one on my Elizabethan purse, shown right.  She's stitched using Spiral Trellis stitch making her three dimensional.  So now, what to put her on....

Recently, I came across the blog about Quaker pinballs and pinwheels made in the mid/late-1700s and 1800s ( .  I love the shape of the pinwheels and have been thinking about making one.  They're round, not spherical like the pinballs, about 2 to 3" in diameter.  They do have depth, about 3/8" to 1/2" typically, I'd imagine.  You match the depth to the ribbon you finish the wheel off with.  Ok, so now I know what I'll put my Ladybug on....

When I envision a pinwheel, I see it with an Elizabethan twist, of course.   I see a Tudor Rose in black threads as the backdrop, to make my LadyBug pop in all her Red, 3D Glory.

From what I've read the pinwheels were knitted. But, I want to stitch one.  I bought Erica Uten's book.  The book states that if you want to embroider the designs, you can make them into rectangular pillows which will be charming in their own way.  Apparently she thinks you can't make a pinwheel from a stitched piece.  Hmmm....  I imagine the linen would give you a problem when you wrap it around a cardboard disk.  It would have a tendency to bunch or gather at the edges that a knitted fabric wouldn't.   Mine must be embroidered, since it's for an embroidery class.  And because I've already envisioned it and creating it is the only way to get it out of my head!

So I tried a mock up using a scrap piece of the cambric weight linen I use for my scarves, see photo right.  (I didn't stitch the strawberry blossom for the mock up, it was an old test embroidery that I didn't care for).  It works!  The weave of the linen is a bit wonky, but I think if I starch the linen before wrapping it that will be enough to correct the "wonki-ness".  Also, I'll be more careful whilst mounting the finished product.

 Ok, now I have the fabric, but this throws a bit of a wrench in my plans.  I had planned to stitch a Tudor Rose using a different blackwork fill pattern for each petal.  Like the roses seen on the sleeves of women's smocks in Elizabethan portraits.  Cambric linen is 60 count so my class will probably not want to count threads!  I would love to see a Tudor Rose done in Speckling Technique.  Those curving petals would be perfect for shading!  Has it ever been done?

In researching, I found a coif at the V&A that includes a Tudor Rose stitched in Speckling Technique.  So now I have historical authentication.  (The Accession # is 21-1946 if you'd like to look it up in V&A collections.)  By the way, under the details for this coif on the Victoria & Albert Museum site, it states that the pattern had been block printed right on the linen and then embroidered.  The coif was made in early 1600s.   That's the first I've read about patterns being printed onto the linen, as opposed to hand drawn, in the early 1600s.  I found this on another early 17th century embroidered piece in the V& A:

"By the early 17th century, simplified patterns and outlines for embroidery were being provided by print sellers. Many of these designs were inspired by the illustration of birds, animals, insects and plants found in illustrated natural history and botanical books, which were very popular at the time.

This was a commercial provision for the needs of the amateur embroiderer; the print sellers not only provided books and separate sheets of embroidery designs but also patterns printed directly on cloth as seen here. The use by amateur embroiderers of prepared designs was known from at least the 16th century. Mary Queen of Scots, while imprisoned in Lochleven Castle in 1568, petitioned for 'an imbroderer to drawe forthe such worke as she would be occupied about'."
 I should address why I need authentication for the embroidery when I'm about to put an Elizabethan design on an18th/19th century pinwheel.  I'm not a re-enactor, nor am I reproducing Elizabethan pieces.  I want to embroider as authentically as possible because I love Elizabethan embroidery techniques.  But, I don't live in Elizabethan times, so I like to give them a twist that updates them to my time and makes them mine.

So now I have the embroidery stitches, the colors, and the finished project in mind.  Off to the drawing board to work it out in detail.   More later.....


  1. It's interesting, isn't it, how sometimes we can find ourselves backing ourselves into a corner by concentrating on unnecessary and inappropriate authenticity. I nearly did the same with one of my early projects...

  2. No words to say how much I like your works !
    I've been looking for a site about Elizabethan embroidery and finally I've found you ! Thank you for sharing all this...I would like to try to do a Sweet bag but I'm still a bit afraid.

  3. Hi Rachel,
    I'm an "outside the box" kind of person, so I don't find that I've painted myself into corners. However, this piece is for a class on Elizabethan embroidery, so I need to be sure that it's authentic. Usually I don't concern myself with that, except that I always like to be informed whether or not my technique is historically accurate. And I make that clear in my classes.


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