Grotto for the 17thC

The major and final kit for the first 18 months of the Thistle Thread Stumpwork Casket course is shown at - a small trinket box that uses various of the techniques we’ve learnt.

The front panel is a grotto – a traditional motif in 17thC stumpwork.  Here’s mine :


Here’s a bigger version of the pic, but it gets cut off on the right hand side…..


The techniques include 2 versions of velvet stitch (a 17thC stitch), french knots, couched gimp, silk wrapped purl in loops and chips and long and short stitch. The water is created from gilt sylke twist, silk wrapped purl and gimp. The coral is made from flat silk over thread padding.

Things I learnt :

- to couch gimp from the outside in, in order to maintain the funny bulgy shape required by the rocks. Yes, that final line of gimp will fit in with a little tweezer persuasion

- I don’t like chipped s-w purl so much. I’m a real ‘shade’ person and it’s too blocky for me. I also cut most of my chips too long.

- In the historical pieces, the s-w loops are very evenly laid both vertically and horizontally. I like what I did on the left looped rock – a lot of random placement. I think it looks more natural, but that’s my personal preference, not really the correct thing to do.

- With the water, it was easy to couch everything (with care not to crush the s-w purl with the side of my hand), but hard to persuade the gimp close enough to the other threads to hide the ground.  Some of it disappeared a bit under the s-w purl.

The piece is laced onto a piece of cardboard to maintain the tension until it’s Finished onto the small wooden box we’ve been provided. I have another 4 sides to complete before I get up to Finishing, tho.

We’ve hit the 18th lesson of the Course this month. The Stumpwork component will start in March next year.  I’m really glad that there is a bit of a break because there were 1700 odd pages and who knows how many links to relevant historical pieces on the Web in the 18 lessons of Part 1 and I need more time to study all of it.

Here’s some pics of some grottos from historical pieces :

From a mirror at


The rocks here look to be made from stretched silk wrapped purl. Perhaps with some french knots or drizzle stitch in a ring of browns around the edge near the water there? I need better magnification to see better. Or better eyes. The fish in padded and detached needlelace (the kind of thing we’ll be doing in Part 2 of the course).  For the water – there looks to be some colour on the ground between the two fish tails in green/blue/cream – perhaps satin or long and short stitch?

It’s typical to have fish/es and/or a mermaid occupying a 17thC stumpwork grotto. In the case of the trinket box grotto, the use of silk wrapped purl for the water makes adding a creature a more advanced technique!

Remember the fish towards the rear of the water- you’ll be seeing him again.

From the mirror featured in


Rocks and water in long and short stitch – and the coral done in what may possible be couched silver thread that’s gone black?

And from, a grotto which is more like the one we’re doing for the trinket box :


I can see looped gimp, couched gimp, drizzle stitch and velvet stitch in the rocks here.

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15 Responses
  1. Majo van der Woude says:

    I see you made great things while you were offline. So inspiring. Thanks for sharing.
    I’m going to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Londen this Friday and my wishing list on materials is getting longer after seeing your work (silk wrapped purl in various colours, gimp etc.)

  2. Rachel says:

    Good to be reminded of your grotto after seeing it over the summer – and I shall be coming to you for advice when I start to do something with that goody bag of s-w purl!

  3. Amazing….so much to learn!! Great work!

  4. Sue Jones says:

    You have been very busy! So many different techniques in that little grotto. I fail to be very excited by the silk wrapped purl – I don’t mean your use of it, I mean as a material. It does work nicely stretched out with the gimp and other threads in the water, though. It fits in well there and the water is great. I agree that the left-hand spring loops are more pleasing than the right-hand ones, both in colour and placement. The french-knot section on that side is lovely – looks like flowering plants cascading down the rocks.

  5. Laura says:

    Absolutely delightful! It’s so lively with all the different textures and colors.

  6. Tenar says:

    Dear Megan, I was mostly absent from blogland during the last year and lost track of where your blog was after all your hosting and template changes. Now I’m so glad I found you again and can enjoy the sight of your work. And I’m even more glad to see you’re still around, and well enough to actually do things. All the best for your work on the thistle threads class!

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