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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen in silk and linen threads

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This coif was once worked in blackwork, a style of needlework popular in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, but also blue, green or red, on linen. Now only a few tiny shreds of the black silk embroidery thread remain. The use of iron in the dyeing process (to fix and enhance the black) and exposure to light have caused the threads to disintegrate.

The loss of thread has exposed the original embroidery design, hand-drawn in blue ink. The pattern consists of a variety of single motifs of flowers, birds and insects, very similar to those reproduced in embroidery pattern books of the early 17th century. These motifs were transferred to the linen by pricking the outline of the design on paper, pouncing (dusting with fine dark powder), then joining the dots left on the linen with a fine brush and ink.

Physical description

Coif panel of linen that was once hand-embroidered in black silk thread and cut to shape with sharply defined cheek-pieces and forehead peak. The edges are turned and hemmed, the neck hem being 0.5 inches deep to take the draw string. The outlines of the panel and the design are drawn in blue ink but the black embroidery silk has almost vanished.

Only stitch holes and the tiniest fragments of thread remain. The original embroidery design, drawn in blue ink, is now visible and consists of columbine, carnations, pansies, strawberries, roses, marigold, honeysuckle, lily and borage, with various birds and insects, and a squirrel. The cheek-pieces, widow's peak and top edge were once embroidered with black silk in buttonhole stitch. The bottom edge is turned and hemmed to form a casing and the top edge and crown gathers have been unpicked. The thread count is 90 x 90 threads per inch approximately. The coif is unlined.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1600-1630 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen in silk and linen threads


Width: 43.5 cm approx., Length: 24.1 cm approx., Width: 17.25 in, Length: 9.5 in

Descriptive line

Woman's coif, Great Britain, 1600-1630; linen with pattern of flowers, birds, insects and animals drawn in blue ink, no embroidery


Silk; Linen; Ink


Embroidering; Drawing

Subjects depicted

Carnation; Squirrel; Strawberry; Roses; Marigold; Honeysuckle; Columbine; Borage


Fashion; Women's clothes; Hats & headwear; Designs; Embroidery; Accessories


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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