Colors are fashionable -- meaning, that they are impacted by the fashion of a moment. We see that from our own time and we see it historically. During the 1970’s in the United States, you could buy a kitchen appliance in Avocado Green or Harvest Gold and that was about it.
It wasn’t that refrigerators couldn't be made in other colors (they were made in very different colors in the 50's and 60s) it's just those were the popular colors then. Then came the 80s and out when Avocado Green and Harvest Gold (thank goodness!) and in came Almond Beige and White. It was simply the fashion for each of these color families to come in and out of popularity.
Same thing for Elizabethan and also Jacobean color families: there were distinct color palettes during those time periods (and before and after). During the Elizabethan time period, a deep juniper green, poppy and salmon pinks, and blood red were all very fashionable in both clothing and embroidery.
And while fashion didn’t change dramatically from the Elizabethan to the Jacobean era, we do see changes: more blues and greens coming with lovely crewel work in the 17th century.
As historians, we spend a lot of time paying close attention to colors in time period and textile context. Color can be very tricky and subjective (see our blog post on the Pantone color matching system) but it can be a key component when researching or recreating period textiles. We are also practitioners and are often pulling together groups of silks or crewel wools for our own projects -- which is why we put together our own color “palette” sets of silk and crewel threads and offer them in our Etsy store.
These sets are a convenient short-cut to work in an Elizabethan or Jacobean color family that we regularly reach for in our own projects and can be a good starting point for your own embroidery projects.
Next blog we will go into more depth about a complete Elizabethan palette and talk about period examples of color cards and names like "dead Spaniard" and "gooseturd." Watch for it!