Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rich Red Embroidery Accoutrements for Autumn and Winter

‘Now, when she had dined, then she might go seek out her examplers, and to peruse which work would do beste in a ruffe, whiche in a gorget, whiche in a sleeve, whiche in a quaife, whiche in a caule and whiche in a handcarcheif…’

Barnabe Riche…Phylotus and Emilia

As a life long hiker living in Pennsylvania, I know that signs of Autumn are visible in the woods by early August.  A smattering of yellow leaves dot the trails and the deepest brush has begun to die off.

Although the days are still long, I find that I begin to want candle light burning in my fireplace in the evenings.   More telling, I desire a more Autumnal palette.  Each Spring, I set my breakfast table with creamware plates and pink glassware.  Come August, out come the brown transferware plates accompanied by deep gold glassware.  I change out the cushions on my back porch wicker from a pink/ green calico print to a rich, deep red calico.

Of course, my embroidery accoutrements change as well.  I made this sweet bag and needlebook several years ago ( I'm adding them to my blog to document how I made the sweet bag. )  Later, I was tickled to come across the zippered tapestry bag that matches them so well.  I had already made a cover for my slate frame using this same tapestry fabric.

The needlebook design isn't mine - It's by Catherine Strickler of Indigo Rose.  I changed the colors from navy thread on white linen to rich red silk thread on a gorgeous gold 28 ct linen.  The red beads accenting it are from Mill Hill.  My favorite needlebook!

My first attempt at designing a sweet bag.  This isn't meant to be a reproduction Elizabethan sweet bag.  Arabesque designs are my favorite and I decided that if I'd lived in the early 16th century my needlework sweet bag would have featured an arabesque design much like this one.  This arabasque design comes from a detail of an early 16th century design (shown below).  I modified it slightly to make it "free-standing".  I found the design in a book titled: Patterns - Embroidery Early 16th c by Claude Nourry.  It's available through Lacis:

Threads used:
945 red Gobelin from Au Ver a Soie
968 gold by Mulberry Silks in England

Linen: 40 ct creme colored Italian linen

Mulberry Silks also provided matching gold silk to line the bag. 

The 16th century embroidery technique I chose is called Voided work because your design is "voided" meaning not filled in with stitches.  Typically the design is outlined in double-running stitch or back stitch.  However, because I wanted nicely curvilinear lines for my arabesque, I outlined the design using Outline stitch.  I covered the background using Long Arm Cross stitch, which is historically accurate.  If you want to learn more about the historically accurate method for Voided work, there's a wonderful article written for the SCA's (Society for Creative Anachronism) West Kingdom Needlework Guild:

I no longer have the dexterity to make a 5 loop finger braid for the cord so I used twisted cord.

The small bead tassels (all 3 at the bottom of bag) are first covered with gold silk run lengthwise, then a loosely worked Detached Buttonhole stitch covering in red thread is added overtop, being careful not to pierce the gold thread as you work it.

The wooden forms used for the large bead tassels were extremely difficult to find.  In the end, I purchased an entire bag of wooden shapes just to get them.  Even then the holes drilled through the centers were barely large enough to cover the form with silk.  The cording doesn't really run thru the wood form and knot off at the end as it should (because there wasn't room to run it through).  I just made it look that way.  Hopefully, with so many people making sweet bag reproductions today wood tassel forms are more readily available.  If anyone knows of a supply for the wood forms, please be so kind to add a comment with link to this post.  I plan to make a true reproduction sweet bag some day.

Here is a link to a wonderful bibliography of period embroidery design books, called modelbuchs, written by Mathilde Eschenbach, of the SCA.  Section B includes books that are available online for free.  By pure serendipity I met Mathilde one day when she signed up to attend an embroidery research trip my EGA chapter hosted at the Metropolitan Museum's textile center.  I had advertised extra seats available on an SCA web site and she signed up.  At the textile center, she was the only other attendee using their computer database to look up extant embroideries.  I mentioned to her that I had found this bibliography written by a Mathilde Eschenbach only to find out I was talking to her!  It's a small embroidery world!
The link:


  1. I hadn't thought of changing everything right down to needlework accessories as the seasons change. An intriguing idea!

  2. A delicious idea, isn't it? It gives one an excuse to buy or make more pinkeeps/ needlebooks, scissor fobs and sweete bags! Naturally, one should have a new pair of embroidery scissors to match each set!

  3. LOVE the purse! It's coming up as maroon, cream and russet on my screen. And the bead tassels.
    Do you know Gina of - she's a professional pastissmerie (sp) maker. Lots of tassels and buttons. She might know of a good supplier! Lovely lady.

    I've hiked 4 of the 5 highest mountains here in Victoria (my state).It's one of the things I miss the most - walking up above the snow line, and seeing the changes in vegetation, the weather, and the campfire at night.....

  4. Elmsley Rose - Thank you for giving me Gina's website - I'm beginning to think you know everyone in the needlearts world : ) I will contact her about the tassel forms. I love the ecru colored buttons on her 8/11 posting (they're featured on a black fabric). Lovely!

  5. new to your blog and i love it. your photo's are wonderful. i love the rich colors your stitch with. thanks for sharing all your ideas. you inspire me!

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    1. Very beautiful embroidery bag. simple and attractive. Your blog is great source of inspiration for embroidery digitizing lovers. thank you very much.

  8. Great work of embroidery digitizing accouterments for Autumn and Winter... just love it dear.. You have great embroidery skills and artistic mind. Keep up the good work. Thank you very much...!


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