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Elizabethan Flower Color

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2 August 2008

Elizabethan Flower Color

This is a partial list of colours used to embroider flowers by the Elizabethans, compiled with the assistance from Baroness Eowyn Amberdrake (Melinda Sherbring)

They used natural colours in their embroidering. It is to be remembered that not all flower colours available today were available then.

  • Roses - Red, pink, cream.
  • Strawberries - Red, pink, cream (unripe), very light orange-red (unripe). Red, pink, white, gold, black Seeds
  • Daffodil - yellow, orange, parts in cream
  • Marigold - yellow, orange shaded down to a 'burnt' orange
  • Honeysuckle - Yellow, pink, cream, red (cream is unusual)
  • Borage - only ever shades of blue (I’ve found one exception, but that was probably just the embroiderer getting confused)
  • Carnation – mostly in pinks. Also bits of cream, red, yellow, ecru
  • Thistle - white, purple, red
  • Sweet Pea Flower - pink, white
  • Primrose - yellow
  • Cornflower – only ever shades of blue
  • Pomengranate – orange, red
  • Pansies – every colour
  • Grapes – every colour

I will look at foxgloves and strawberry flower colours as well. I also want to re-check the sweet pea colours. Thankyou to Kathryn Newell for questioning these entries.

With shades of beige/ecru/cream, it’s a good idea to look at the rest of the embroidery. Has the rest faded? Is so, the beige/ecru/cream may be the ground showing through, or faded threads.

The embroiderers then were human too, and occasionally confused colours for flowers (such as the pink and ecru borage that I found)

Drat, because my embroidered book cover has a *pink* cornflower on it, and now it's always going to bother me.

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