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Blackwork Embroidered Coif by silverstah Blackwork Embroidered Coif by silverstah
The Pattern: Embroidered coifs were popular in England in the 16th and early 17th centuries – and it was common for women to purchase patterns or have a pattern traced out for them, so they could do their own embroidery. Keeping with this tradition, I purchased the ‘Frances’ coif pattern from Reconstructing History. These patterns were meticulously researched and drafted by Laura Mellin of Extreme Costuming.

The Materials: The body of the coif is fine 3.5 oz linen from The lining of the coif is also white linen from – but a slightly heavier weight. The embroidery is done in Rainbow Gallery’s ‘Splendor’ silk embroidery thread, purchased from Reconstructing History. The coif is hemmed with Gutterman silk sewing thread, and the lining is slip-stitched to the coif with Gutterman silk. In these photos, I just have a piece of cotton twill tape as the drawstring at the base of the neck – this will be replaced with lucet cord or fingerloop braid at some point.

The Techniques: This was my first major embroidery project, so there was a LOT to learn! I traced the pattern out onto the linen using a light table and a fine-point sharpie.
The outlining is done in stem stitch, which was a common stitch for Elizabethan embroidery. The majority of the fillwork is basic speckle stitch. After I finished about half of the fill stitches, I purchased a copy of the Royal School of Needlework’s Blackwork guide, which has some great information about fill stitches in general, and a lot of detail on speckle stitch. Since this was my first major embroidery project, I’m pleased with how it came out – but I hope that the next project will be even nicer, with that book to guide me! I did attempt some non-speckle fill stitches, but they came out so messy looking that I pretty much gave up. I’ll have to practice on some samplers before I incorporate any complicated fillwork into a major project.

Once the embroidery was complete, I cut the coif out with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance. I turned a very narrow hem, using a slip stitch. Although extant coifs are not lined, I chose to line my coif to protect the interior from dirt and body oils. The lining is slip-stitched to the coif, and then the edges are bound with a blanket stitch. I whip-stitched the center seam together, and gathered the remainder.
Reflections: Overall, I am very pleased with this project. I loved having something small and portable that I could bring with me to events. It’s nice to have something that I could put down for months – literally – and pick up right where I left off without having to think about it. Although I’m glad that it’s finished (so I can wear it!), I think there will be more embroidery projects in my future.
gothanatrix Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2015
I love the embroidered coif so pretty... :)
createthemooduk Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
This is such a nice coif. Why did you decide to use blanket stitch along the edge though? Don't you think that it is a bit coarse in comparison to your more delicate blackwork embroidery. How about some cotton lace instead, like the Tudors did?
silverstah Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I used the Extreme Costuming coif pattern for this - and, based on her research, this is one of the methods used to edge the coif. It's a fairly quick and easy stitch, meaning that I can remove the lining on a regular basis to wash that, without worrying about washing the entire coif. Some coifs were edged in lace, but many other extant coifs have a whip stitch or blanket stitch edging. Since I have a lower to middle class persona, this seemed more appropriate.

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Submitted on
January 4, 2013
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Date Taken
Apr 22, 2012, 3:51:39 PM
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