cornely machine

cornely 1 - sm

The Cornely A5 chainstitch embroidery machine hasn’t gotten much use in the past six years.

cornely 3 - sm

After learning how to work with natural dyes, I’ve finally accumulated a pretty good range of thread colours.

cornely 2 - sm

The machine itself is made in France. The rest was put together in New York City.

cornely 2a - sm

It might be from sometime in the 1960s or early 70s.

cornely 4 - sm

Making multi-colour images on a manual chainstitch machine is a very time-consuming process. It takes a lot of focus. It’s the sort of work that shuts everything else off.

400 year old colour

“The Bacton Altarcloth” was recently determined to likely be made from a dress that belonged to Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1600.

1 Screenshot

It’s on display at Hampton Palace, with The Rainbow Portait of the Virgin Queen.

https _historicroyalpalaces.picturepark.com_Go_ctrueOYG_V_44997_13 Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_Portrait

Inscribed non sine sole iris (no rainbow without the sun) it’s questionable whether the eyes and ears on her saffron yellow cloak actually existed beyond symbolizing her as all-seeing and knowing. The bodice embroidery, however, compares to that of the Bacton cloth.

4 er-bodice

The silver woven into the heavy silk base is also visible in the painting, with even more striking similarity to the Bacton cloth. Tudor law was, only the very highest levels of nobility and royalty could wear dress containing gold and silver.

Bacton altar cloth
“Remnants of a dress belonging to Queen Elizabeth I may have been found in a richly embroidered altar cloth in Bacton, Herefordshire. Historians believe the monarch could have gifted the garment to one of her most faithful servants, Blanche Parry.” Claire Collins/Historic Royal Palaces/PA Wire

The altarcloth embroidery is more varied, with insects and small animals scattered among flowers and foliage.5 Bacton_cloth_samples

Apparently some pigments were found to be from far-off places, like cochineal from Mexico and and indigo from India.

7 silk thread

I think the lighter blues could be woad, like the thread above that I dyed. Yellows could come from any number of native flowers, this one is tansy.  The pink is cochineal, and the green is yarrow, also locally abundant.


In this 1592 portrait, Elizabeth’s skirt shows bolder and more fantastical embroidery,  with sea creatures and botanicals.

harwick detail

Screenshot (1424)


fresh woad

I decided to see if there would be any colour in these woad leaves. They’ve been frozen a few times, which is definitely not according to textbook.

woad vat

No matter how much pigment is in the leaves, the vat, and the material soaked in it, are “indigo white”. The blue doesn’t show until the material is exposed to air.