Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Elizabethan Embroidered Elements for Christmas

Saint Francis, and Saint Benedight, 
Blesse this house from wicked wight, 
From the Night mare and the Goblin, 
That is hight good fellow Robin. 
Keep it from all evill Spirits, 
Fayries, weezels, Rats and Ferrets, 
     From Curfew time 
     To the next prime. 

William Cartwright ( c. 1635)

I simply adore Christmas.  My holiday traditions hark back to other eras - Victorian, Edwardian and Elizabethan.   Whilst I know that Elizabethans did not have Christmas trees or stockings, I simply can't do without Elizabethan touches in my Christmas decorating.  Over the years, I've embroidered Elizabethan borders for velvet Christmas stockings that I designed, and stitched many Elizabethan themed tree ornaments.  Each year, I try to embroider a new ornament for the tree.   (Ok, the truth is that the ornament is embroidered in time for Christmas, but I don't usually assemble it until well into the next year! Ah well, the fun part is done in time, anyway).   

This Christmas Season, I'd like to invite you in to my home to see my Elizabethan themed decorations.  I'll post a few times each week, featuring a different ornament or Christmas stocking.  Before we get started, for anyone who would like to read about how the Elizabethans actually kept Christmas, here's an erudite site that my Virginian friend, Sharon, passed on to me:  click here to go to  It's a great website and has given me some ideas for future decorations.  You'll have to visit my blog next Christmas to see them!  For now, on to my Dickensian-Elizabethan Christmas....

The photo shown above is of my tree, tucked in to a corner of my kitchen overlooking the back garden.  Several years ago I decided to down-size my Christmas tree, which allowed me to use only my Elizabethan inspired ornaments.  Many of my ornaments are mini-pillows.  Often the motif highlights a technique or design I'm experimenting with for a larger piece.  

The motif on the ornament shown here probably represents a pomegranate - my favorite motif.  It's a detail I took from a panel design included in The New Carolingian Modelbook - Counted Embroidery Patterns from Before 1600 by Kim Brody Salazer  According to Kim, the original panel design was published in 3 design model books:  the first printed in Italy circa 1530-1540 by Domenico da Sera, titled Convivio Delle Belle Donne.  He published it again in 1546.  The third book was published in Venice in 1561 by Giovanni Ostaus in La Vera Perfezione del Disegno.  All 3 books were printed using woodblocks.  I've looked through the online copy of La Vera Perfezione del Disegno and can't find the pattern.  Perhaps it's in another copy.  It's a great resource for period patterns, and the online copy is free.

For this ornament, I used an overdyed cranberry floss and worked it in Italian Cross Stitch so it would be reversible - a bit obsessive since you can't see the back!  This design would look fine done in cross stitch.  The fabric is 40 ct. Italian linen in a tawny gold color.  To assemble it, I backed it with a piece of cranberry cotton damask from my stash.  Next, I attached a beaded cord around the edge, simply looping it at the top to create an ornament hanger.


  1. It's gorgeous - looks very festive!

  2. Just beautiful! (I'm actually talking about the leather chair and the fireplace). And your Christmas tree!
    I have an aloe vera plant serving as a Christmas Tree this year *grin*. Very Ozzie.
    Beautiful pomengranate pattern!

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