Elizabethan embroidery

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During the Elizabethan period, there are several styles of embroidery that became popular:

  • Blackwork continued to be used mainly on clothing, however, while the earlier, reversable form remained in use (on collars and cuffs), new forms began to be used. These included a informal, freeform often floral all-over work used on foreparts and sleeves.
  • Tent Stitch was used to produced a variety of household items, including table carpets, bed dressings and cushions. It was also used to make sweete bags. Tent stitch was also used to produce slips which were small motifs stitched on linen and then applied to more expensive fabris.

Materials Used

Stitches and Techniques


Designs were inspired by a variety of sources in the Elizabethan period. These included modelbuchs or pattern books. There were published and aimed at both the domestic and professional embroiderer. Needleworkers also used herbals, emblem books and beastiary books to find patterns and designs.

In general, the needlework of the Elizabethans reflects their love for nature. Plants, flowers, birds, animals and inserts are all common motifs found in Elizabethan embroidery including that produced on clothing.

Extant Pieces


Sources for Further Information

  • Thomasina Beck, The Embroiderer's Story: Needlework from the Renaissance to the Present Day, Devon: David & Charles, 1995 (ISBN 0715309625)
  • George Winfield Digby, Elizabethan Embroidery, New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1963 (ISBN 0571056466)
  • Donald King and Santina Levey, The Victoria & Albert Museum's Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1759, New York: 1993 (ISBN 1558596526)
  • John L. Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, London, 1938
  • Barbara Snook, English Embroidery, London: Mills & Boon, 1974 (ISBN 0263055795)
  • Margaret Swain, The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots, Carlton: Ruth Bean Publishers, 1986 (ISBN 0896762483)
  • Pamela Wardle, Guide to English Embroidery, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1970 (ISBN 0112900305)