This gorgeous embroidered casket in Worcester City Museum’s collection is about 350 years old. Plain sewing on linen was often the first skill taught to young girls, followed by embroidered cross-stitch samplers. The final skills for a girl to learn were lace stitches and raised work using gold and silver thread combined with coloured silks as seen on this box.
The decoration on this box is mainly silk thread in a variety of embroidery stitches but the maker has also included a small piece of crystal to represent a mirror. The lady’s necklace is made from seed pearls. The maker had probably never seen many of the animals she pictured, which explains how charmingly odd they look: on the lower panel, a lion and leopard, emblematic of courage and fidelity, are seated beneath an oak tree in the English country landscape.
The fashion for small needlework pictures like this lasted only a few decades in the seventeenth century. They first became popular in the reign of Charles I, then flourished during the English Civil War and the restoration of Charles II. By the end of the seventeenth century, they were no longer made.