Archive for the Category » Embroidery Book Review «

“Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving, and About Slips”

I published this post awhile ago, but there were a lot of formatting problems because I copied the headings and links from my Word documents.

Having discovered Windows Live Writer, I can re-write this post, properly formatted (it was annoying me *grin*)…..


I’m picking the eyes out of “Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving” by Grace Christie (aka Mrs Archibald Christie

“The drawings illustrating design and the practical application of stitches have been taken almost without exception from actual Embroidery or Tapestry; the exceptions, where it has been impossible to consult originals, from photographic representations obtained from various sources, among which the collection of M. Louis de Farcy should be mentioned.”
and the embroideries and tapestries she was looking at are almost 14-17th Century.

It’s at

Mary of reviews the book at

There are a couple of links to the Gutenburg project – I’ve found the one given above the best for on-line perusal.

Mrs Christie goes through a great variety of stitches and for many, she provides construction details and (black and white drawn) pictures of various flowers and leaves using that particular stitch, that she’s taken from those old embroideries.

I intend to use some of these in my sampler project, so I’m gathering them together.

I just found a really good paragraph of information on Slips, in her Applique Work section.

” To return to the discussion of applied embroidery—let us suppose the embroidered piece to be just completed on its linen ground, still stretched in the frame in which it was worked.

In another frame, stretch the background material and trace upon it the exact outline of the piece to be applied.

Cut out the embroidered piece carefully round the edge, allowing about one-sixteenth of an inch margin outside the worked part, leaving, if necessary, little connecting ties of material here and there for temporary support.

With fine steel pins or needles fix the cut-out work exactly over the tracing already made on the ground material, then make it secure round the edge with rather close stitches of silk placed at right-angles to the outline; with fine materials the raw edge of the applied part can be neatly tucked under and fixed in place by this overcast stitch.

A cord is next sewn on to hide the fixing and give a finish to the edge.

The colour of this cord is important, since its colour may increase the expanse of either the applied part or the ground.

Sometimes a double cord is put round, and in this case the inner one is attached to the embroidery before it is cut out of the frame, and the second attached afterwards.

The inner one is often of a colour predominating in the embroidery, and the outer one of the colour of the ground.

Gold cord is very usual; if a coloured silk one is used it must be a perfect match.

The ordinary twisted cord looks best attached invisibly; to do this, slightly untwist it whilst stitching, and insert the needle in the opening thus formed.

Some kinds of flat braids look well with the  fixing stitches taken deliberately over them and forming part of the ornamentation (see fig. 91).

Bunches of silk are sometimes couched round with a buttonhole or other stitch, but whatever the outline may consist of, it should be a firm bold line.

Even more than simpler work applied embroidery needs the finish of some light work upon the ground. Gold threads and spangles, arranged in fashion similar to the sprays in fig. 112, are very often used. Sometimes, instead of this, some small pattern in outline is run all over the ground in order to enrich it.”

There is more to be read in the section, including the fact that the slips were sometimes slightly stuffed, to give them a rise.

I want to do a slip in my sampler, hence my interest. I haven’t read this particular information about slips before.

My collection of slips links are :

Project : A Small Panel of Slips

by Lady Kateryn Rous

see for notes on more information on Elizabethan canvaswork.


Late 16th / Early 17th Century Embroidery “Slips”
Elizabethan and Stuart Embroidery

by Meg Andrews

Part II – Late 16th / Early 17th Century Embroidery “Slips”
Elizabethan and Stuart Embroidery II

by Meg Andrews

Elizabethan Slips

by Jane Stockton

Some Additional Useful Notes

Flickr of Slips Progression

of Jane Stockton’s Work with Slips

"The Art of Elizabethan Embroidery" by Jane D Zimmerman

I’m in love.
This is the book I’ve been looking for.

I’ve been told that the Elizabethan design series (Exploring Elizabethan Design, Festive Elizabethan Design and 2 more) also has a lot of this information, but I haven’t seen them yet, and Zimmerman arrived in the post yesterday.

She does what I’ve been wanting to find so badly.

Most descriptions of an embroidered article mention the stitches used on an embroidery as a whole, but NOT which stitches were used for WHICH motif.

She does.

Firstly, in (admittedly, some a bit blurry) black and white photographs at the beginning of the book:

for a particular picture “All in metal, heavy coiling stems are worked in Plaited Braid Stitch with the narrow tendrils in Twisted Chain Stitch and Woven Web Stitch for some flower centres ……”

Now, I don’t mean to exceed Fair Use here but in order to inspire people interested in Elizabethan Embroidery to get this book, because IMHO I think it’s great.

The stitches she illustrates (in drawn diagrams, some in several steps, and finished stitches often shown in black and white scans) are (deep breath)

Narrow Line and Outline Stitches :
Coral Knot,
Twisted Chain,
Braid Stitch

Wide Line Stitches :
Plaited Braid,
Open Chain,
Heavy Chain,
Double Chain,
Loop and
Threaded Double Back Stitch

Detached Stitches :
Basic Detached Buttonhole Stitch (D.B.S.),
Basic D.B.S. with straight return,
B.D.S on Metal Foundation,
Knotted D.B.S,
Up and Down D.B.S,
Up and Down with Straight Return,
Up and Down on Metal Foundation,
Double D.B.S,
Double D.B.S with Straight Return,
Double D.B.S. on Metal Foundation,
Raised Effects with Detached Buttonhole,
Trellis Stitch, (a whole page, including variations and usages)
Ceylon Stitch (detached),
Double Ceylon Stitch,
Open Ceylon Stitch (basic, overcase, woven, threaded)

and then some miscellaneous stitches, the most interesting of which is the interlaced herringbone stitch.

I now understand how to make the peapod with the semi-detached top, so you can see the peas within the pod.

Now – I’ve seen the wide line stitches described before, and seen the detached stitches described and listed with their variations (although not necessarily with their variations separately described and illustrated) but the real value lies again, in her extra practical comments.

For example “Variations of the Ceylon Stitch in metal thread were used by the Elizabethan embroideress for not only wide stem lines but also the filling of motifs……”

“Also referred to as Broad or Square Chain, the Open Chain Stitch may be used for not only rather wide lines but also the filling of a motif of varying widths, such as a leaf – when it is desirable to have some of the ground show…”

“….executed this variation in metal thread or a combination of silk and metal threads, using it for such wide lines as a vein line up the centre of a leaf”

Given that there are some pretty complicated stitches described, I can see myself consulting other sources, such as the wonderful Lady Sabrina and the Bayrose site, for additional information in how to actually perform the stitches, since there are limited diagrams (and I’m a step by step diagram sort of person) but I think the information on how these stitches were actually used (and in silk and/or metal thread) is absolutely invaluable.

I could use MORE of the type of information she gives, but here is some, and it’s great.

Learning Silk Shading/Long and Short Stitch/Needlepainting

This is totally in my humble opinion, but I think the best way to start to learn the above methods would be to buy or borrow from a library

“Beginner’s Guide to Silk Shading” by Clare Hanham”

That’ll get you started on the simple stuff. Just doing several layers of shaded stitches. You need that information – but it’s simple enough to absorb, and have a go at one of the little projects over the lending period of the book from the library. Hanham is perfect for this.

Then Trish Burr’s “Long and Short Stitch”.

She has heaps of information about how to stitch different common shapes, how to do wedge stitches, shorten stitches to fit particular shapes, stitching unusual shapes, the proportion of colours to use depending on the shape – heaps of extremely useful information that I found out the hard way during my book cover embroidery that you really do need.

But I think that a total beginner’s brain may melt if they start with the Trish Burr. It’s more a book you’ll need to have on-side to refer to frequently once you have a basic grasp of the long and short stitch concept and you want to sew some weirdly shaped part of a flower, or the leg of a cat or something. And the projects she has are more likely to take months.

Again, only my humble opinion. (an d I have no affiliation with either author. This is simply my recent experience)

Gotta figure out the camera so I can photograph the book.


Home from the library with 10 interlibrary loans of Embroidery books, I’ve already decided that I would love to buy a couple.

One I really like is “A Practical Guide to Canvas – Victoria and Albert Museum“. (edited by Linda Parry, intro by Santina Levey!)

It has some actual charted patterns for some slips!! Only three – a pansy, a bug and a snail – but hey! that’s more than I’ve ever seen before. The pansy is used to build a “tree” with leaves and multiple pansies – just lovely

I do hope I’m staying within “fair use” guidelines by showing just this one slip – there are plenty more in the book so hopefully it’ll serve as an incentive to get the book, rather than giving it’s secrets away.

Obviously, you’d need to chart up the rest yourself, and do a bit of colour variations on the pansies – but the basis is there.

There is also the pattern for a German 17thC sampler and 4 bargello patterns, in the lovely ‘saddened colours’. I don’t like the colour usage in modern Bargello/Florentine books – they are just so flashy! And there’s more!

I also really like “The Craft of Florentine Embroidery” by Barbara Snook.

I think that it might be a bit concise for a beginner. It has the line patterns grouped together by type, 6 or 8 to a page. It’s a great reference.

The more complicated patterns (like a pomengrate) or the very arched Florentine patterns naturally need more space.

She includes some additional stitches to use for borders or in conjunction with the bargello (I saw a very nice pattern on a book cover recently that had a panel in the *middle* of the design.
And then projects at the end.

I have borrowed almost every Bargello/Florentine book available to borrow in Australia by now, and this is one of my favourites.

I’ve also received another copy of Muriel Best’s Stumpwork. I had organized to borrow this book before, but some *criminal* had cut out the most important pages from the book – the ones that tell you actually *how* to do things!

History – yes.
Practically obligatory photo of that purse that is made up of grapes, stuffed and in detached button hold stitch – yes.

A lovely closeup of a free standing bird, covered in button hole stitch, padded over a wire frame.

I’ve noticed that several of the birds shown in detail here have ribs on their wings, rather like bats – an opportunity to do some raised work for the embroiderer. I also like the tree, whose leaves are made of closely packed picots. “Design and Method in Historical Work” is the kind of chapter heading that I like to see *grin*

There are lots of close up photos (mostly b&w but some colour plates)

The important bits, I think, (and the pages that had been removed in the other copy) have headings like

Stiffening Shapes with Wire
Padding (felt, vilene)
Unstiffened lacy shapes
Wrapping vellum
Raised Stems and Borders

and Making People.

And then the stitches. I have no idea what Banksia Rose Stitch is, or Curl stitch, but I’ll find out!

The end of the book is modern stuff, which I personally dislike (tho the pineapple is kind of cool)