16th and 17th Century Coifs

The coifs pictured below display a cross-section of the wide variety of embroidery techniques popular at the end of the 16th century. Blackwork embroidery, or monochrome embroidery using one color of thread (black and red being the two most popular colours for this technique) was often used on coifs. Two coifs kept by the Embroiderer's Guild are embroidered with whitework (white linen thread on a white background) and use needlelace and cutwork as additional forms of decoration. There are even some coifs embroidered in multi-coloured silks and metallic threads to create beautiful, almost three-dimensional tapestries of curling plants, animals, and other symbolic objects. Metal Spangles, or sequins, are also pictured on one of the coifs below. Click on the pictures for larger close-ups.

The pictures and accompanying descriptions below were scanned and typed in by Karen Harris (Karen@agent.infodata.com) and are mostly taken from the book TREASURES FROM THE EMBROIDERER'S GUILD COLLECTION and EMBROIDERY 1600-1700: AT THE BURRELL COLLECTION

Coif, early 17th century

Linen worked with silk threads. The colors are unusually vivid and in places two different colored threads have been twisted together to give an intermediate shade. Various animals, including snakes, are included among the flowers. 25cm x 45cm.

Coif with forehead cloth, early 17th century.

Embroidered with flowers and fruits, including strawberries and borage which were often depicted together as it was known that they grow better in company with each other.

Coif, c. 1600-1630.

Worked in black silk threads and spangles, many of which are missing. The small size suggests that this may have been worn by a girl. 22.5cm x 31cm.

Detail of coif, c. 1600-1640

Linen with cut-work, silk threads, and silver and silver-gilt threads in chain stitch in a delicate design of flowers and birds, edged with silver lace. 21.5cm x 43cm.

Panel, possibly from a coif

English, early seventeenth century. Linen embroidered with a scrolling pattern in silver-gilt thread, the flowers, animals and birds in varied techniques including plaited braid, chain and detatched needlelace stitches in silk with metal strip and spangles. The embroidery is highly textural, the top layer of the peapod peels back to reveal golden peas, and some of the flowers are worked over padding whilst others, and the bees wings, are detatched.

--TREASURES FROM THE EMBROIDERERS' GUILD COLLECTION, "From Tudor Coifs to the Twentieth Century," by Lynn Szygenda.

English coif, early seventeenth century

Linen ground fabric embroidered with silk and silver-gilt threads, silver strips and a few spangles. The stems are worked in plaited chain, whilst the flowers are embroidered in detatched lacework. The coif has been opened out to show the complete embroidery design.

--TREASURES FROM THE EMBROIDERERS' GUILD COLLECTION, "From Tudor Coifs to the Twentieth Century," by Lynn Szygenda.

Triangular forehead cloth

Linen embroidered with black silk. English, early 17th century.
--Photograph from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Woman's coif, late 16th century

Linen embroidered with white linen thread in chain and darning stitches with cutwork and needlepoint fillings. Border of bobbin lace.
--photograph from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Woman's coif, late 16th century

--photograph from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A coif, early 17th c., worked in black silk and gilt thread in a variety of stitches. A thread would be passed through the loops at the bottom of the neck to gather the coif at the base of the neck.

English coif, c. 1600. Black silk on linen. The design contains motifs worked in counted thread connected by spiraling vines. Worked in stem-stitch, chain stitch and double running stitch. The front edge is trimmed with fine lace.

English coif, early 17th century. A pattern of holly leaves in black silk and gilt on linen, with buttonhole stitching around the front edge. It's very similar to a coif listed below.

English coif, early 17th century. This coif was printed with a pattern, possibly copperplate printed. Some of the lines have been embellished with silver gilt thread, couched down. The pattern on this coif is very complex and sophisticated.

c. 1600 coif at the V&A Museum. Black silk and couched gilt thread embroidered in a design of holly berries on a linen background, with buttonhole stitching around the front edge.

Late 16th Century Coif at the V&A Museum. Gilt thread and black silk in plaited braid, back, chain and double running stitch on fine white linen. Museum No T.11-1948

Late 16th century coif at the V&A. Black silk and gold metal thread on white linen. Backstitch, chain stitch, buttonhole stitch and plaited stitch used, along with speckling.

An English coif, c. 1600, made from a rectangular panel of embroidery. Gilt thread and black silk in back, buttonhole and interlacing stitch on linen.

A polychrome, silk-embroidered coif made of linen with gilt spangles. Currently on display at the Platt Museum in Manchester.

A blackwork coif with silver gilt embroidery, currently at the Platt Museum in Manchester.