"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.

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2 Responses
  1. MargB says:

    This book sounds impressive and useful for anyone even one not very interested in historical needlework

  2. Elmsley Rose says:

    One thing I didn’t say was that it’s self published by her own company, spiral bound and 31 pages long.

    So it’s not exactly a coffee table book. It’s there for the information in it, which is very valuable. But I don’t know if someone not interested in the actual information would be into it, because of it’s formatting.

    If she re-published in a ‘nicer’ format it’d be more expensive but also more user friendly.
    It is much better than her “Metal Threads” book which is a bit unreadable.

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