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Elizabethan Stitches

I want to try as many Elizabethan stitches as possible on my Historical Sampler. (I don’t know if I’ll end up being able to do them all, In fact, I very much doubt it! :-)

I thought I’d list out all the Elizabethan stitches I know of, and show links in my blog to where I’ve used them in my sampler.

I’ll add in a link to the appropriate blog post/s as I use each stitch.

RSS feeders will get an update each time I re-publish. I hope that’s not too annoying.

I could just list the stitches and tick them off as I go, but I thought pointing more directly to useful tidbits I’ve come across on each stitch would be helpful. This project is going to end up with an awful lot of entries, and I’m going to get lost in what I’ve written and forget what I’ve discovered.

My sources for the stitches are

  • “Elizabethan Embroidery” by George Wingfield Digby

(source :

  • “Guide to English Embroidery in the Victoria and Albert Museum” by Patricia Wardle

(source :

  • “The Art of Elizabethan Embroidery” by Jane Zimmerman
  • The Plimouth Embroiderer’s Diary

  • “Three Raised Stitches in Elizabethan Embroideries” by Sabrina de la Bere

  • “16th Century Samplers” by Carol Hanson/Caryl de Trecesson

  • “Embroidery Stitches found in Period” by Mistress Octavia Jenon de Treves, OP and added to by Mistress Catherine Lorraine, OL OP.

from which I’ve used

Table 1 : A Pictorial History of Embroidery by Marie Schuette & Sigrid Muller-Christensen

Table 6 – English Medieval Embroidery by A. G. I. Christie

Table 7 – Batsford Book of Canvas Work by Mary Rhodes

Tables 3 and 4 are repeats of the Digby and Wardle lists that appear in the Grimfells PDF with two exceptions. Two extra stitches are listed under Wardle in the Treves document. Their source is listed as Wardle (Treves).

The opposite situation occurs with another Wardle stitch between the two lists.


I’ve left out the

canvas stitches, blackwork, whitework, applique, beading, pattern darning, eyelets and cord stitch, hemming stitches,

from my list. (and my project)

I’ve linked to entries that provide some tidbit of information about a stitch, not all of the entries that mention the stitch in passing

Stitch Source Link
Back Dig, Ward, Zim, Hanson used as an outline wherever Trellis stitch is used
French Knots Dig, Ward, Zim, Hanson, Christie

Chain Dig, Ward, Zim, Hanson, Schuette et al, Rhodes

Reverse Chain (line) Zim,
generally used as an outline for any type of detached buttonhole work (as per Plimouth recommendation)

Reverse Chain (filling) Zim  
Twisted Chain Zim  
Heavy Chain Zim

Laced Chain Zim  
Double Chain (line) Zim  
Double Chain (filling) Zim

Square Double Chain Wardle (Treves),
Note : Square Chain is also known as Open Chain or Ladder Stitch (different to the Ceylon type Ladder Stitch)

ref :

but can’t find anything for Square DOUBLE Chain

Braid Ward, Zim, Hanson
Buttonhole Dig,Ward, Zim, Hanson

To be clear about this stitch, which has some debate about it’s name, I’m using which is referred to as the relevant diagram in the Surface Embroidery Stitch list at

Plaited Braid Dig, Ward, Zim, Plimouth, Hanson
Coral Dig, Zim, Hanson
Long and Short (Needlepainting) Dig, Ward (Grimfells), Schuette et al, Hanson

Stem (Crewel) Dig, Ward, Zim, Schuette et al, Christie, Hanson  
Split Schuette et al, Christie, Rhodes, Hanson
Speckling Dig, Ward, Hanson  
Satin Dig, Ward, Zim, Hanson, Schuette et al, Christie

Ladder (line) Dig, Zim, Hanson  
Ladder (filling) Zim  
Herringbone (Plait) Stitch Dig, Schuette et al, Hanson  
Interlaced Herringbone Zim  
Fishbone Hanson  
Feather Schuette et al, Christie  
Outline Zim
Overcast Zim
Oriental (Romanian) Stitch Digby, Hanson  
Ceylon (line) Zim, Plimouth
Ceylon (filling) Zim  
Double Ceylon Zim  
Open Ceylon – Overcast Zim  
Open Ceylon – Woven Zim  
Open Ceylon – Threaded Zim  
Vandyke (line) Zim
Vandyke (filling) Zim  
Loop (line) Zim, Hanson  
Loop (filling) Zim  
Loop Variation 2 Zim  
Threaded Double Back (Threaded Dot Stitch) Zim  
Detached Buttonhole Dig, Zim, Plimouth, de la Bere, Hanson

Detached Buttonhole with Straight Return Zim, Plimouth, de la Bere

Detached Buttonhole on Metal Thread Foundation Zim  
Metal Thread Detached Buttonhole on Silk Thread Foundation Zim  
Knotted Detached Buttonhole Zim  
Up-and-Down Detached Buttonhole Zim  
Up-and-Down Detached Buttonhole with Straight Return Zim  
Up-and-Down Detached Buttonhole on Metal Thread Foundation Zim  
Metal Thread Up-and-Down Detached Buttonhole on Silk Thread Foundation Zim  
Double Detached Buttonhole Zim  
Double Detached Buttonhole with Straight Return Zim
Double Detached Buttonhole on Metal Thread Foundation Zim
Metal Thread Double Detached Buttonhole on Silk Thread Foundation Zim  
Raised Effects with Detached Buttonhole (worked on needlelace pad) Zim, de la Bere  
Semi Detached Detached Buttonhole with Straight Return (with buttonhole bar) Zim, Plimouth, de la Bere  
Trellis Stitch Zim, Plimouth, de la Bere  
Spiral Trellis Zim, Plimouth  
Woven Web Stitch Zim  
Surface Darning Stitch Dig, Zim
(called “Braid Stitch” in this entry)
Bullion Stitch Zim, Hanson  
Hollie Point de la Bere

(debated for use in the 17thC)

Arrowhead Stitch Hanson ref:
Wirework Hanson  
Sequins Hanson
Goldwork Hanson  
Raised work Hanson

Laid work    
Laid and Couched Work Wardle, Treves, Hanson,

Embroidered Book Cover – Base Cover, Take II

I ended up making the cover by a different method.

I cut two of the cover pattern from the paper copy – one in black velvet and one in burgundy velvet.
I then hemmed each of them, and sewed them wrong sides together.

I realised that I had to make holes for the strings, so I made scalloped button holes (from Dillmonte) in gold DMC. I did start off using a metallic gold thread but it was just impossible to use.

While testing the fit of the now double sided cover, I realised that I’d have to sew the edges and make sure that it fit tightly at the folded over edges at each end before I could sew on the embroidered panels. Any slackness, and who knew which way the panels would end up sitting.

I used Sally’s extra strong black thread to sew the ends, and now I had my fitted cover.

I’ve pinned down the front cover panel and now I’m ready to sew it on, as invisibly as possible, which will mean a lot of poking the needle around just underneath the panel.

You can just see the burgundy on the inside edge, as the cover is just a bare millimetre or so taller than the height of the book.

However the angled edges of the cover of the extended back flap (just above and below where the strings come out) are just slightly turned, so you can see some burgundy there. I’ll need to cover it with couched gold thread or some cord.

Interesting Things

History of the Grotesque

Giornale Nuovo’s blog has a wonderful entry about the history of Grotesque Art at

I’ve had hours of happiness following the many many links.
There is an additional entry with more images, and information about the Farnese Hours, which is referenced in the entry, at

I first encountered Mr Aitch’s (ie Giornale Nuovo’s) blog when I found the entry
last year.

The drolleries contains pictures of some lovely drolleries from The Croy Hours from the Ghent-Bruges school (which I’ve found that you can’t get, unless you buy a facsimile from Finn’s Fine Books at It doesn’t seem to list the price, but at limited copies, I just hate to think!

Those drolleries are the tiny ones that appear on the bottom of the pages of Codices Illustres. Mr Aitch has been kind enough to blow some of them up.

One day I will research the grotesque, from the perspective of marginalia of Gothic illuminated manuscripts, more thoroughly.

  • “Image on the Edge – The Margins of Medieval Art”, by Michael Camille, (Reaktion Books, 1992) of which I possess a copy (a great book!)
  • “Images in the Margins of Gothic Manuscripts” by Lillian Randall (Berkeley and LA, U of California Press, 1966), if I can get my hands on a copy,

will be my starting points.
is a fun site. It’s far more general than my particular interest – addressing the grotesque in general. It has an encyclopedia and a small collection of images. Even if it does describe Amazons as being “Lesbian warriors – this entry to be developed” it does tell you that an ancephalous creature is one “having no part of the body specifically organized as the head” – and references to the primary sources of the information provided.
(According to the information in my own head, the Amazons actually had annual festivals when they procreated with the males of local tribes and I’m really not getting into which gender they preferred recreationally here, if anybody knows. It just seems a strange initial entry for them.).

Another mss that I know of that is famous for it’s drolleries is the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, described at

Script Analysis – The new measurements

Now, if I did stay with a nib width of 2mm, what I’d get is a more cramped, chunkier version of the Bedford Psalter script. And many of the letters would distort because so many of them are built with diamonds whose sides measure the width of the pen nib. There would be less ‘vertical’ line to be seen in a letter as they are covered by the relatively big diamonds.

I’ve already re-sized the page from Backhouse’s Illuminated Manuscript, at exactly the size it says the pages are (with the illumination cropped from the edges so the resultant script in the middle would print on one page on the printer), and the nib width there is 1.5-ish mm. It varies a bit, depending on which line you measure, but I’ve heard that you go with the O’s. They vary too, of course. Oh! This handwritten stuff!

Now I’m working with a page of the script that has been re-sized both to fit the page size specifications, and has nib widths of what I’d expect, I can simply make measurements directly from the page. Instead of what I did before, which was measure the nib width shown on the size (whatever it was) of each page, and then adjust my measurements by a factor of 2 or whatever.

It’s just too dangerous to do it that way – the measurements are so small, there is so much variation. I really need to re-size the images using the page measurements stated in the originating books, not use the nib size shown on the page and then adjusting measurements according to what I’ve measured that nib size to be. The error magnifies too much. I should have noticed there was a problem with the pen nib width before now, but I hadn’t.

So, anyway, I’ve checked all those letters that start or finish at funny heights – d (all three versions),g, t, h (!), y (!), the funny machinations of the z, and worked out the ascender/descender heights for the more normal ascending/descending letters (b,f, l, long s etc). And calculated a new set of guideline measurements to match the page format.

I say “worked out the a/d height’ and ‘calculate the guidelines’ because the x-height, ascender and descender heights varied as I measured down any one of the pages, including the Illuminated Manuscript page that I’m currently using – so it’s a matter of finding the average of each whilst aiming to fit the standard 18 lines on each page onto the given page length.

I’ve decided not to go thought the other images (like I did in the 2 Script Analysis – Float, Ascender and Descender Height entries) – from Codices Illustres and the 2 from the British Library where I went through and noted all the variances (like on one page, the cross bar of the t is 1 mm below the waistline and on another the crossbar is 0.5 mm below the waistline). I’ve commented before that it looks like there were different scribes writing the different pages because of these sorts of small but consistent differences (and there are a lot of them). I like the version of the script on the Illuminated Manuscript page the best so I’m just going with that one.

I just need to type all this up with the actual measurements and rule up a new guidesheet.