Let every man be jolly,
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
George Wither 1660
The world has become more worldly. There is more of dissipation and less of enjoyment. Pleasure has expanded into a broader, but a shallower stream, and has forsaken many of those deep and quiet channels where it flowed sweetly through the calm bosom of domestic life.
Christmas stockings are my theme today - not an element of the Elizabethan's Christmas celebrations - and mine are admittedly very Dickensian. However, the embroidery on them is Elizabethan.
The main pattern on the first two stockings is taken from a portrait, circa 1540, titled Portrait of a Lady in White by Moretto da Breccia and housed at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. I have also seen this blackwork motif on an English sampler, dated 1661, included in Louisa Pesel's book Double Running or Back Stitch. At the time of publication, the sampler was in the private collection of Mrs. Clement Williams.
I worked the blackwork bands using one strand of Soie d'alger silk thread on 35 ct. linen. The motif is mirror imaged on the burgundy stocking, giving it a very different look from the gold.
After the embroidery was completed and I had selected rich fabrics to go with them, I drew a very elongated stocking pattern because I felt it would go with the Dickensian look of the velvet, cording and tassels.
The decorative rolled hem - the same used on some of my scarves - is the antique hem stitch from Therese deDilmon'ts book on Needlework. However, I added an additional pulled thread detail from the same book. No instructions were given on how to do it, but a clear photo of the technique 'in process', on page 465, is enough for the experienced embroiderer to work it out.
For the last stocking, I decided to use one of my samplers for its original purpose. The sampler is a reproduction available from the The Scarlet Letter. The original was worked circa 1625, and probably intended as a record of patterns. You can read about the dating and history of the sampler in the Sept / Oct 1993 issue of Piecework Magazine.
For the stocking, I used the same reversible stitches as the original sampler, with Soie d'alger threads on 35 ct. linen.
I simply took a section of the sampler and used it for the stocking band, adding the holly leaves, from another band, at both the top and bottom. These stockings, stitched over 15 years ago, were my first attempt at adapting old patterns for my own use.