Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Friday, December 23, 2011

Variations on a Holly Theme

          "Again at Christmas did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possessed the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas eve"


Many of you will recognize this holly motif from a coif at the V & A Museum. (acc no. T.25-1975).  It's been dated between 1590 to 1600; silk and silver-gilt embroidery on linen.  There are at least two coifs featuring this holly motif in a repeat fill pattern.  Unfortunately, I have photos of the 2nd coif, but didn't record where it came from.  

On the V&A coif, all 3 leaves are filled with a simple blackwork running stitch motif.  On the 2nd coif, the top center leaf has a heavy center vein worked in silk.  It doesn't appear to have a fill stitch and I can't make out what stitch comprises the vein, but it looks like Chain or Van Dyke.  I can't post a pic of it on my blog since I didn't take the photograph.  If anyone knows of another coif with this holly pattern, please let me know via a comment or email (

For the Holly Pocket Ornament shown at the top, I used Au Ver a Soie's (silk) 109 perle and 945 gobelin and #4 gilt smooth-passing wire on a sandy colored 40 ct. linen.  Stiches used are Outline, Blackwork fill and Reverse Chain.

On the Holly Mini-Pillow, above and left, I decided to try 50 ct. linen - I wanted to see how difficult it would be to stitch my delicate fill pattern on 50ct.  It's wicked-close and I don't think I would try it on a large piece, like a coif, unless I was only filling a few spot motifs with it. The same threads were used as the first ornament.

Here you see how I chose to fill the holly berries. I couldn't see how they were filled on the V&A coif, so I decided to fill them with reverse chain stitch.  I think it came out very nicely.

I made these in 2008.  Looking at the V&A coif again today, I realized the  goldwork stitch in between each holly motif looks like the cross variation of Guilloche stitch.  Anyone else care to comment?  I've ordered a hi-def pic of it so I can see it better.

Here's the third variation, actually my first attempt.  I used French knots to represent the upper holly berries.  I should have filled the area in more with berries, but, in "real life" it doesn't look as sparse in that area, probably because the branch looks longer on camera due to the curve in the linen.  I also used Fr. knots to fill in the 2 meduim holly berries below, with and outline stitch around them, which looks very nice - it makes them look raised.  Today I'd choose Spiral Trellis stitch.


  1. I agree - the V&A image is really hard to see, but it could very well be a guilloche stitch used. It seems to be slightly woven given it a 3-d dimensionality, maybe?

  2. I just received my hi-def copy of the v&a coif. The mystery goldwork stitch between the holly motifs is Four-sided Interlacing stitch, which we learned in Tricia's goldwork class. The high definition photo is quite clear and leaves no doubt as to what it is. I love the internet! And museums making these hi-def photos available!

  3. Hi Kimberly
    How do you order a high def picture on the V&A site?
    Are you referring to the downloads available for free?

  4. Hi Rose,
    Yes, I was referring to downloading the picture from V&A's site. I always click on enlarge first, and then click download. They've upgraded their website so it may be different now, but previously, if you didn't click enlarge first, you would get a picture that wasn't has high in resolution.
    If you haven't downloaded before and need help, you can email me directly at and I'll walk you thru it.

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