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Elizabethan double ladder stitch icon
Elizabethan double ladder stitch

Elizabethan double ladder stitch main image

This Ceylon-style braid stitch is worked by looping the thread under previous stitches.  As with Elizabethan ladder stitch this stitch has two columns which form the uprights of the ladder, though here the stitches are looped under both the previous stitch and the one before that, so the result is denser. The structure can look quite different depending on the position of the entry/exit points, as the arms can extend outwards adding to the complexity of the overlapping threads.

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 double ladder stitch is generously sponsored by Rosalind Grant Robertson for my maternal aunt, Margaret Higgs


This is a braid stitch, so to keep an even width, it may be beneficial to draw two parallel lines.

This braid works best in a thread which holds its shape such as gimp or a metallic thread.

When working the braid, each side of the ladder is worked in turns so when sliding your needle into the previous stitching, you should only go under threads on one side.


Working from the base up, bring the needle up through the fabric on the left hand side. Decide on the width of braid and take the needle down on the right hand side leaving a small loop on the surface.


Bring the needle out of the fabric between these two points and slightly above. Take it down directly above the initial entry point on the left, this creates a diagonal holding stitch.


Come up on the right directly opposite. Slide the needle from right to left under the diagonal holding stitch and the initial loop, and pull through.


Arch the working thread up and to the right. Again taking the needle from right to left, slide the needle under the previous cross on the right hand side.  Pull through.


Take your needle down through the fabric on the right.
This completes the foundation stage of Elizabethan double ladder stitch.


Bring your needle up on the left hand side, directly opposite.
Starting between the two columns of stitches, count down two rungs of the ladder and slide your needle from right to left under three threads (below two exit points on the left hand side (one is part of the new loop)).


Arch your thread up and to the right so that it forms a new loop.
Count down two entry points on the right hand side and then slide your needle under three threads from right to left.  Your needle will emerge between the two columns.


Draw your thread through over the working thread and the previous rung (it now crosses two rungs) and forms a new loop in the right-hand column. Take your needle down on the right hand line.


Bring your needle up on the left hand side, directly opposite.
Continue repeating steps 6 to 8.


Elizabethan double ladder stitch.

Elizabethan double ladder stitch

Embroidery Techniques

Related Stitches

Identifying Elizabethan double ladder stitch

This stitch is characterised by the parallel rungs of the ladder in the centre and the Ceylon stitches which are worked along both edges.  Depending on the spacing, the rungs of the ladder may not be clearly visible.

In common with most braid stitches, on the reverse this stitch has parallel straight stitches.


  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.112

Examples of Elizabethan double ladder stitch

© Embroiderers' Guild as part of their digitisation programme, photographed by Ian Lillicrapp

Elizabethan panel (Embroiderers’ Guild)

The silver-gilt curving stem around the carnation has been worked in Elizabethan double ladder stitch.

© Embroiderers' Guild as part of their digitisation programme, photographed by Ian Lillicrapp