Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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17th Century Embroidered Costume – Burrell Collection


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There’s nothing quite so fascinating in the historical clothing line as the elaborately embroidered costumes of wealthy women of the 17th century!

It’s no wonder, then, that the folks at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow are currently recreating this 17th century embroidered waistcoat.

Here’s a Monday morning treat for you – a glimpse, via video, of the embroidered 17th century garments at the Burrell Collection.

17th century embroidered jacket detail - Burrell Collection, Glasgow

The waistcoat is a fabulous example of 17th century embroidery in silk and gilt threads.

But even more delectable is this: along with the embroidered waistcoat, the collection houses a rare and breathtaking example of a whole embroidered petticoat of red silk satin that is just stunning. Flat stitches in vibrant silks make up most of the embroidery.

And to bring this all to you, so you can see the pieces up close and get an idea of what they’re doing with 17th century costume at the Burrell Collection, they’ve put together a wonderful video.

Newsletter recipients, you’ll have to watch “Gilt & Silk: Early 17th Century Costume” on the website.

Hand Embroidery Stitches for 17th Century Costume

The stitches used on the waistcoat and discussed in the video are the detached buttonhole stitch and the plaited braid stitch. If you’re keen to try those stitches yourself, you’ll find instructional videos for both stitches here on Needle ‘n Thread:

How to Work the Detached Buttonhole – Video
How to Work the Plaited Braid Stitch – Video

Because the plaited braid stitch is often considered a little tricky (and wow! it’s a thread hog!), I put together this Plaited Braid Stitch printable tutorial that takes you through the stitch step-by-step, with photos, for both right and left-handed stitchers. The printable also includes detailed instructions on starting and ending threads, working intersections, working wavy lines and curves, and tips on stitch size, thread types, and line width. And to top it all off, there are four practice exercises in the printable, to help you master the plaited braid stitch.

Take a Tour of the Burrell Collection!

It’s definitely worth taking some time to browse around the Burrell Collection website.

While you’re there, they have a really neat digital tour of the museum that’s a lot of fun to explore! If you click the inset map on the lower right of the tour image, you can hover over the red dots that show up on the map to see what part of the museum is what. If you click on a red dot, the image will whisk you off to that room, where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the room and even zoom in on the various items within.

If you can’t get there any other way, it’s a nice way to have a look!

Now, if that doesn’t get the week off to a good start, I don’t know what will!

Have a marvelous Monday!


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(28) Comments

  1. Mary,

    Thank you so much for posting this! This is a great way to start a Monday. The red petticoat is absolutely beautiful. I would love to see more historical embroideries like this!

    Have a wonderful day,

  2. Mary, thanks so much for this video. It was amazing to see the wonderful embroidery and to get a glimpse into the lives of the women who made and wore these garments.

  3. I was SO fortunate to see this exhibit in Scotland last Spring — It was WONDERFUL!! Our hosts were taking us to so many museums (and I had never been to Scotland before), that I began to lose track. When I ran into THIS exhibit, I had to ask: “Which museum is this?” The Burrell!! I course!! I have BOOKS on the exhibits in this place. I was a Very Happy Camper! Thanks for sending me back there with your blog!!

  4. Dear Mary

    I’ve just had a look at the website and what a Great collection, I love the digital tour the tapestries and the stained glass windows are really interesting as is the museum. The waistcoat is just beautiful it’s a lovely idea to recreate the waistcoat, the embroidered red silk skirt is really exquisite. I have your ebook on the Plaited Braid Stitch which I love and I will have to get down and practice the stitch. Thanks so much for sharing with us this information on the 17th Century Burrell Collection a great view.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  5. What a great way to begin the morning! Thank you for taking us into the world of 17th century embroidery. The video is awesome.

  6. Hi Mary
    Thanks for writing up the Burrell Collection experiments with costume. Really inspiring work!
    Thought I should say I love your newsletter – I always look forward to it, and if I can’t read it straight away, I ‘save it for later’, like a nice treat.
    Quick question – a year ago you said you were applying for some business funds, and we’re seeking support through ‘likes’ on Facebook. Did you have any success with your application?
    Kind regards, Di
    New Zealand

    1. Hi, Di – no, no luck with that. C’est la vie! It would have been nice to be able to afford some help and a separate local teaching venue. Ah well – it’s a goal to work towards!

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! I am working on just such a garment. It is nice to see how they are recreating it!
    Thank you again!

  8. What a great video. Thank you for sharing it with us. The amount of work that went into clothing back then amazes me. Wouldn’t want to dribble my coffee on that!

    I love the plated braid stitch and have your printable tutorial. I’ve done several projects with it using perle cotton and it’s so complicated I still have to refer back to it when starting.

    Thanks again Mary.

  9. Wow! I always read your newsletter as I’m drinking my morning coffee, but it went cold while watching the video on the Burrlell collection. The needlework on the waistcoat and skirt are stunning, and seeing them gave a great start to my day. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Hi, Paula! It sounds cozy, your snowy morning. It’s spreading our way tonight – we’re at 75 degrees and sunny right now, but we’re expecting temperatures below freezing tonight, and a bit of freezing rain in the morning. I’d love to have a beautiful snowfall!

  10. Hi, Mary. I really enjoyed your blog today. I enjoy it every day, of course, but today was chock full o’ fun! Thanks for the printable tutorial, as well. You are a gem!

  11. lol did they not bother to ask any re-enactors about the jacket. Those things are very comfortable. I wore one ages ago when doing ECW. As soon as Janet Arnold’s book came out they were everywhere. And Rightly so. Perfect for non formal wear.

  12. Gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing. Wouldn’t we all love to have been one of the ‘one percent’ in the 17th century, so that we could wear beautiful clothes like this…… but then again, I’m not so sure I’d have liked having my arms forced into a ladylike position due to the cut of my blouse!

  13. Lovely article! If you ever have a chance to visit, it is worth the time. We were very fortunate to have a behind the scenes tour on one of our Madeira trips. We studied white work and broderie anglaise garments – beautiful baby garments, christening gowns, etc. Wonderful, wonderful day!

  14. The work they are doing is amazing, reproducing these pieces. And what a wonder that there are intact pieces at all! We are talking 400 years, and those pieces were worn too, they weren’t preserved somewhere safe and sound for us to marvel at today!

  15. Hi Mary,

    Thank you for this article. I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish next year. I stitched the Tudor Flowers Purse designed by Nostalgic Needle and gave it to my daughter. Then I purchased Jacqui Carey’s book Sweet Bags. Have wanted to recreate one of these sweet bags for a while. It is going to be my first project for 2015.

    Barbara La Belle

  16. Fantastic video. Thank you. I love this sort of history and research. One of the greatest disadvantages of being Australian is that we are so far away from Europe and North America that visiting such exhibitions etc is impossible. This is as close as I will ever come, so thank you again … and again.

  17. Hi Mary,

    I have Jacqui Carey’s book Sweet Bags. I also saw and read your review on Elizabethan Stitches. Many of the photos look like a repeat to me. Can you tell me if there is enough new material in this book for me to purchase it? I don’t mind spending the money if it is newer material. Thank you,
    Barbara La Belle

    1. Well, in the “stitches” book, she goes more in-depth with the stitches and offers a broader range of types and techniques. If you want in-depth analysis of stitches, then you might be interested in the “stitches” book.

  18. Hi Mary and the others! I wonder if you or any of your readers would be familiar with Rebecca Quinton’s book “Glasgow Museums Seventeenth-Century Costume”? I cannot find any preview for it. The publisher says “it features new photography and the fruits of recent research, revealing the intricate details of exquisite embroidery”.

    1. Hi Florentine,

      I have just ordered this book from Rebecca Quinton and will be picking it up today. I will be glad to let you know what I find.

      Barbara La Belle

    2. Hi Florentine,
      Here is my review of Rebecca Quinton’s book “Glasgow Museums Seventeenth-Century Costume. She begins with an overview of the Glasgow textile collection with who & why they were acquired. The next section deals with clothing of the 17th century historically, economically & socially. There are a lot of color photos of historic oil paintings to visually connect the written documentation. The middle section of the book is divided into twelve headings focusing on individual textiles.
      Nightcaps, Blackwork, bags, waistcoats etc. All have colored photos of the pieces along with macro images to see stitches, threads, colors and design elements. These photos enhance the detailed written information on each piece. The last section includes biographies of collectors & dealers. There is a catalogue listing of each piece reviewed. There is an extensive listing of Bibliographies which I find very helpful too.

      I am very glad I purchased this book. It gave me historical insights I did not previously have as well as answering my technical questions on how to proceed with my Elizabethan Sweet Bag project.

      Hope this helps you.

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