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Elizabethan embroidery is characterised by the use of flora and fauna stitched in brightly coloured silks amongst curving stems (known as rinceaux) made from gold and silver threads.  Motifs include flowers, plants, animals, insects and birds; the silks were in vibrant colours such as red, rose pink, mid greens and blues.  The embroidery demonstrates different textures: motifs are often worked in needlelace stitches; the stems in braided ones and isolated spangles embellish the ground fabric.

Embroidery in this style was used to embellish clothing such as waistcoats, gloves, forehead cloths, coifs and sweet bags, and household items such as bookbindings and decorative panels.

N.B. The Elizabethan era covered the second half of the 17th century, but we are using the term to include any embroidery from the 17th or 18th centuries which is stylistically similar.

For Elizabethan embroidery worked predominantly in black thread, see Blackwork.

Image courtesy of

Elizabethan Stitches