Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Threaded Adornment: Four Centuries of English Embroidery

I visited the above referenced embroidery exhibit at the Philly Art museum last week.  Here's the link to the exhibit:

 I was particularly interested in this 16th c. coif.  You can view it on the link, and zoom.  As is often the case in museum exhibits, I had to photograph from a couple feet away with a glass wall between, so please excuse the quality.   I've also included a description given in the exhibit.

As always when I view Elizabethan embroidery, I was struck with the delicacy of the stitches and motifs, which you don't get a feel for when viewing them online or in books.  Notice that the the butterfly is stitched in metallic threads, and the carnation (gillyflower) petals are spaced quite far apart.

Additionally, there was a casket, pictured below....

The following information is from the Phil Art Museum website, which Deborah kindly gave me the link to.  When the casket wasn't shown in their special exhibit info I didn't think to look in their collections.  Thanks Deborah!

Casket info:
Made in England
Elizabeth Nickholls, English
Wood; silk satin with silk embroidery in satin, laid, and couched stitches; silver gilt trim
10 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 10 inches (26.7 x 19.1 x 25.4 cm)


In the seventeenth century, a girl’s needlework education culminated in the production of an embroidered box called a “casket” or “cabinett,” typically worked in tent, raised, laid, and couched stitches. Images on the casket often depicted biblical tales. The panels on this example portray the religious story of Esther, a Jewish heroine who saved her people from a Persian assault. Her admirable behavior likely served as a model for the casket’s young maker. Caskets frequently held prized possessions, such as jewelry and writing equipment; as they were personally valuable, they were sometimes preserved in a professionally made oak box.


  1. Museum displays and catalogues are both much better than they used to be - maybe we've become spoilt!

  2. Here's the link to the casket (accession #1984-124-1) from collections search:|1

    If you zoom in to the right side, a king & courtier appear to be watching a hanging. Likely a bible story, but still an odd motif to embroider.

  3. Hi Deborah,

    Thanks so much for giving me the link to the casket info! I've included the info in my posting.

  4. Hi,
    how beautiful are old embroidery ! And the Crewel panel on the background is stunning...
    Thank you for sharing !

  5. Thank you for sharing! This is very interesting. I do wish the beautiful font was a bit easier to read (maybe I am getting old :(

    1. Hi Isabeaumonde,

      Can I ask what you are reading the posts on? I have a Mac so the font may look somewhat different on my computer. Maybe I need to look into how it looks on Windows computers... unless you're reading it on a phone, which I could see being a problem.

  6. It was on a windows desktop :). It seems fine now and I'm on my smartphone :). Sorry I didn't see this sooner!


Thank you for your interest in my blog. I'd love to hear from you...