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Elizabethan Ceylon stitch icon
Elizabethan Ceylon stitch

Elizabethan Ceylon stitch main image

This Elizabethan version of the modern needlelace Ceylon stitch is worked from the bottom upwards and is normally worked in a column of stitching 3 or 4 stitches wide.  The stitch is worked without a cordonnet, rather it is anchored at the top and bottom and along both edges by stitching through the fabric.  The loops in this version are crossed in a Z direction (this means that the uppermost crossing thread is like a forward slash /), unlike the modern version which is crossed in an S direction (like a backslash \).

Unlike most needlelace stitches, this stitch is worked around the stitches in the previous row (rather than into the gaps between the stitches).

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 Ceylon stitch is generously sponsored by Rosalind Grant Robertson for my paternal aunt, Violet Tylden-Pattenson née Peacock


This stitch works best in metallic passing or gimp as it needs a thread which holds its shape, and on a relatively open weave fabric which allows the thread to pass through.
Historically the stitch is normally worked in columns of 3 or 4 stitches wide - the thread is carried behind the fabric across the width of the stitched area and so wider columns are not advisable.
Before stitching, draw two widely spaced parallel lines and mark 3 pairs of dots along the bottom edge.


Bring your needle up on the left edge, slightly up from the bottom and take your thread down on the right hand dot of the first pair.


Bring your thread back up, one dot to the left.  Repeat this by taking your thread down three dots along, and back up one dot to the left.  Your thread on the surface should form a slight arch.


Repeat this for the final pair of dots and take your needle down on the right hand edge, level with where you started on the left edge.  This completes your starting row.


Bring your needle back up on the left edge, slightly above where you started, then slide your thread under the first stitch where the threads cross, from right to left.  Pull through.


Allow the thread to form a slight arch and then repeat by sliding the needle from right to left under the next two stitches in turn.


To finish the row, take the thread down on the right hand edge, level with where the row started.


Continue working the stitch by repeating steps 4-6.


For your final row, slide your needle under the previous stitch as usual, then take it through the fabric, level with the left side of the stitch.


Bring it back up level with the left side of the next stitch, and then slide it under the next stitch in the previous row, as usual.


Anchor your thread as in steps 8 and 9, then work the final stitch as in previous rows, taking your thread down on the right hand side.


The reverse of Elizabethan Ceylon stitch.

Elizabethan Ceylon stitch

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Elizabethan Ceylon stitch

Historically, the stitch is normally worked in metal passing and forms coiling stems or seam coverings.  It is normally worked in bands no more than 3 or 4 stitches wide.  There is minimal thread visible on the reverse: the stitch goes through the fabric when it starts and ends, and along each edge, but the majority of the stitch is on the surface.


  • Jacqui Carey, Sweet Bags - an investigation into 16th and 17th century needlework (2009) , p.100
  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.114