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Braid stitch

  • Gordian knot stitch
Braid stitch main image

This stitch is a relatively simple looped braid stitch where each loop is anchored by either the needle going into or out of the fabric.

Elizabethan embroidery is known for a variety of braid stitches besides this one and so historical references to ‘braid stitch’ may refer to any of the many versions (including heavy chain stitch), rather than specifically this stitch.

This specific stitch has been first identified on a book cover containing a manuscript written by Elizabeth I in 1544 (it is uncertain whether she stitched the cover).  It is also used in another Elizabethan piece from the 17th century, currently held by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The alternative name of Gordian knot stitch comes from the legend associated with Alexander the Great which describes a knot which is impossible to untie, although it is unclear when or why this particular stitch gained the name.

Braid stitch is generously sponsored by Louise Morgan-Jones


The example below is worked as a straight border, but this stitch could be used on curved border lines as well.

In Elizabethan embroidery, braid stitches were frequently worked in silver or gold threads.


Draw a pair of parallel guide lines. Work from right to left. Bring the needle up on the lower line and hold the working thread to the left, passing the needle and thread under it to form a loop.


Insert the needle on the upper line within the loop you have created, tighten the thread against your needle and draw through, ensuring you leave a secondary loop on the surface.


Come up in the new loop on the lower line exactly beneath where the needle went down. Pull the loop taut.


Pull the thread through to complete the first braid stitch.


Hold the thread to the left again to start the second braid stitch. Pass the needle under the working thread and leave a loop.


Insert the needle on the upper line inside the loop, and tighten the thread against the needle.  Pull the thread through, leaving an additional loop on the surface


Come up on the lower line exactly beneath where the needle went down, and inside the new loop.


Continue to work the braid.
The first stage can be awkward so an alternative method is to wrap the needle with the working thread.

Braid stitch

Structure of stitch


  • Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.47
  • Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.12
  • Jennifer Campbell, Ann-Marie Bakewell, Guide to Embroidery Stitches (2004) , p.60
  • Frances Morris. 'A Gift of Early English Gloves', The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin pp.46-50. Available at:
  • Frances Little. 'Two early English embroideries', The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin pp.188-190. Available at:
  • 'Panel with floral motifs', Met Museum. Available at: (Accessed: 03 January 2023)