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Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch icon
Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch

Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch main image

This Elizabethan version of single corded Brussels stitch has several subtle differences from the modern version: it is worked in the hand or punto in aria (literally “stitched in the air”) rather than into a cordonnet anchored into the ground fabric; the stitch is worked from the bottom upwards (unlike most needlelace done for embroidery which is worked from the top of the piece down towards the stitcher); and the detached buttonhole stitch forms a Z crossing loop which means that the uppermost part of the stitch slants forward, rather than the S crossing loop of the modern version.

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.

The stitch example on this page is worked with gimp rather than metal thread in order to show the step-by-step method clearly.

Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch is generously sponsored by Rosalind Grant Robertson for my paternal grandmother, Rhoda Mabel Hope Peacock neé Pochin

Method

The example below is worked in the hand. You start with a folded thread, which becomes the foundation thread. This foundation thread should be longer than the required length to start with, the tail can be pulled later to draw up the surplus.

In order to form a shape with straight edges, the step-by-step instructions below add an extra stitch at the end of each row.  In the video, on the left hand end an extra stitch is added on each alternate row.  Extra stitches are not added on the right hand edge and so there is a subtle difference in that the needle is not taken behind the working thread at the right hand end of each row.

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1

Fold the thread - the fold is on the right hand side. Working from the bottom upwards, take your needle behind the doubled thread and loop the working thread clockwise around the point of the needle. Draw your thread through and pull taut.

2

Throw the working thread to the right, pass the needle under the folded foundation thread and over the working thread to make a buttonhole stitch.

3

Continue working buttonhole stitches over the foundation thread.

4

At the end of the first row of stitches, pass the needle through the loop of the folded end of the foundation thread. Then pull the tail end of the foundation thread to draw up the surplus.

5

Take the needle back to the start and insert into the far left gap above the first loop, from back to front.

6

Pull the needle through. This forms a straight return which will become the cord for the next row.

7

Bring the thread to the right, and take the needle into the next buttonhole stitch on the previous row. Go under the cord and over the working thread and pull through.

8

Continue making buttonhole stitches in the same manner. At the end of the row, take the needle through the last stitch of the previous row from front to back and then, to increase the number of stitches in the row, take the thread over the working thread. Pull through.

9

Take your thread back to the left edge to form the next cord and insert your needle from front to back through through the far left loop.

10

This time working from front to back, take the needle through the same far left loop, go over the working thread and pull through.

11

Bring the thread to the right, and take the needle into the next buttonhole stitch on the previous row. Go under the cord ...

12

... and over the working thread and pull through.

13

Continue as required. To shape your needlelace, work additional or fewer stitches into the ends of each row.

14

To finish, weave the working thread through the stitches on the reverse along the cord or wrap around the outer edge.

Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch

When working this needlelace stitch, in common with other corded needlelace stitches, the individual stitches are always worked in the same direction (the cording thread takes the thread back to the start of each row).  Unlike modern single corded brussels stitch, this stitch is worked from bottom to top.

References

  • Jacqui Carey, Sweet Bags - an investigation into 16th and 17th century needlework (2009) , p.104

Examples of Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch

© Leeds Museums and Galleries, photographed by Norman Taylor

Elizabethan sweet bag

Elizabethan corded Brussels stitch is used to work the leaves.

© Leeds Museums and Galleries, photographed by Norman Taylor