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Elizabethan back stitch filling icon
Elizabethan back stitch filling

Elizabethan back stitch filling main image

Elizabethan back stitch filling is formed by working a back stitch over the rungs of another stitch such as Elizabethan ladder stitch.  Typically a metallic passing is used for the Elizabethan ladder stitch and a different passing or a silk thread is used for the filling. In the example here, the ladder stitch is worked leaving ample space for the filling, and a coloured passing is used to show the filling clearly.

We are indebted to Jacqui Carey for her work in identifying this stitch in extant Elizabethan pieces, and diligent documenting of the working method.  See the References sections for details of her books which describe this and many other Elizabethan stitches.  N.B. the names used are descriptive names assigned by Jacqui Carey as historic records do not give us the names by which they were known.

Elizabethan back stitch filling is generously sponsored by The Rosner Family


Work a line of Elizabethan ladder stitch as a basis for the filling stitch.  Start stitching at the bottom, with either a waste knot or by securing the thread on the reverse side under some previous stitching.


Bring the needle up at the base of the Elizabethan ladder stitch, just below the centre of the first rung of the ladder.


Slide the needle under the first two rungs and pull through.


Bring the thread back over the first two rungs, and slide the needle under the first four rungs.  Pull through with enough tension to pull the first two rungs together.


Take the needle back over the previous two rungs, and slide it under the next four rungs.  Pull through.


Repeat in the same manner to create the back stitch filling, gathering each the pair of rungs.


To finish, take the needle down through the fabric and secure the thread on the reverse side.

Elizabethan back stitch filling

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Elizabethan back stitch filling

This stitch has similarities in structure with some drawn thread stitches as it is worked over the ladder stitch.  The thread only goes the fabric at the start and end of the line of stitching.


  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.130-131