Item a pocket of linen and velvet, broidered in silk & spangles of gold

In 2011, friend and costumer extraordinaire Jenn from Centuries Sewing made a magnificent anniversary gift for Milord’s and my 15th wedding anniversary—painted miniatures of us in our garb! In return, she requested payment in kind: Some embroidery; maybe some blackwork, or a tie-on pocket? She got both.


Because Jenn is amazing, I knew I had to bring my best needlework game—historical accuracy, the finest materials I had access to, nothing but the best. Although I cannot document the use of blackwork on tie-on pockets during the 16th century, both were contemporaneous (we know, for example, that Spain had tie-on pockets, and they embroidered them, and they also had blackwork), and I felt that such a project was at least possible, if not probable.

The “chain” motif is reproduced from Jane Bostocke’s 1598 sampler (faithfully charted by Lesley Wilkins in her book Traditional Blackwork Samplers). This is the oldest surviving English sampler dated by its stitcher, and this treasure of period needlework is safeguarded in the collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London:

Jane Bostocke

Detail of the motif:

Bostocke Detail

The teardrop shape of Jenn’s pocket is characteristic of Italian pockets (saccocccia) of the period, like the one shown in Alessandro Allori’s Woman at her Toilet (1575):Allori Woman at her Toilet 1575

Like Jane Bostocke’s original work, mine is stitched with hand-dyed polychrome silks on linen (in this case, 34-count Legacy Linen), and I used a combination of back and straight stitches for the embroidery. The gilt spangles are are from Hedgehog Handworks and were made by period construction. After completing the embroidery, I dithered on the spangles (I tried two sizes and felt the original, larger ones were too big), but upon consultation Jenn replied, “Yay spangles!” so the decision was made. 🙂  The monogram is adapted from a 19th Century French alphabet. Click the photo below for a zoomable closeup of the work, where you can see the stitches more clearly.


For the backing and binding, I used some peacock blue velveteen, scraps from my first gown ever that I’ve been hoarding for about ten years. The waist ties are matching hand-dyed gold silk ribbon (the silk vendor did not have ribbon to match the blue) attached to the back of the pocket and concealed beneath the top binding. They flutter beautifully in the breeze!

My original design centered the complete motifs within the body of the pocket, as was typical for period blackwork, but I decided it would look better if the design extended all the way to the edges. You can see a WIP picture here.

Embroidered tie-on pockets would reach their heyday in the 18th century, and two extent pieces provided further inspiration on the design:

4x5 original

This unusual-for-the-period teardrop-shaped pocket at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and this set from Colonial Williamsburg, which helped confirm that filling in the entire surface would look better: