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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1640s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wool, linen, wool thread, linen thread; hand-woven, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A mythical bird is just one of the fanciful creatures that populate this embroidered waistcoat of the 1640s. Worked in red wool on a thick twill of linen warp and wool weft, the coarseness of the thread and heaviness of the ground lack the delicacy of similar garments embroidered in silk on finer linen, but overall the work has a certain enchanting vitality. The design shows a development in later Jacobean needlework – the scrolling vines seen on jackets of the first two decades of the 17th century have disappeared. Each motif is worked separately, while retaining the curvilinear dynamism typical of Jacobean embroidery. During the later 17th century, this type of needlework, known as crewel work, grew in popularity. It became an important method of decorating household furnishings, particularly bed curtains and valances.

Physical description

The waistcoat is made of linsey wolsey (linen warp, wool weft) twill and unlined. It opens down the front and the neckline is V-shaped and bound on the inside with striped linen tape. The sleeves are slightly full, three-quarter length and bound with red wool ribbon at the wrist. Gussets below the waist add fullness. A fringe of linen thread edges the hem. The linen is embroidered with red wool thread. The outlines are worked in stem stitch, infills in long and short and coral stitches and French knots. The embroidery design consists of individual sprigs with flowers and fruit, animals and birds, real and imaginary, and butterflies.

The waistcoat has been much altered. It may have originally laced down the front with the nine lacing holes on either side, over an embroidered stomacher. The latter appears to have been cut in half and sewn to each side of the front, and linen ties added.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1640s (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wool, linen, wool thread, linen thread; hand-woven, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn


Length: 56 cm shoulder to bottom of fringe approx, Circumference: 76.0 cm Bust under armholes approx

Descriptive line

A woman's waistcoat, 1640s, English; Linen/wool embroidered in red wool crewelwork, with flowers, animals, birds, insects

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hart & North, 'Historic Dress in Detail' (V&A: V&A Publications, 1998), p.150.


Linen; Cotton; Linsey-wolsey; Material; Wool yarn; Linen thread; Linen tape


Twill; Hand embroidery; Crewel; Hand weaving; Hand sewing

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Butterflies; Birds; Fruit


Fashion; Clothing; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type



Textiles and Fashion Collection

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