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Elizabethan French stitch icon
Elizabethan French stitch

Elizabethan French stitch main image

Elizabethan French stitch is a counted thread stitch where two vertical threads are tied in the centre with two horizontal threads.  It is similar to the modern version of French stitch, but the direction of the tying threads is different with results in a more rounded effect.  It also has similarities with rococo stitch, although the modern version of rococo has four vertical threads, rather than Elizabethan French stitch’s two.  The Elizabethan version is normally worked in diagonal lines.

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 French stitch is generously sponsored by Rosalind Grant-Robertson née Peacock Pochin

Method

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 1 photograph
1

Make a vertical stitch over 4 threads, lying top to bottom.
Leave the stitch loose on the surface, looped to the right.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 2 photograph
2

Bring the needle up in the centre of the stitch to the left of the surface loop. Make a horizontal stitch to the right over 2 canvas threads securing the loose stitch.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 3 photograph
3

Bring the needle up 2 intersections up and left. Make a vertical stitch over 4 threads, lying top to bottom.
This time leave the stitch loose looped to the left.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 4 photograph
4

Bring the needle up in the centre of the stitch to the right of the surface loop. Make a horizontal stitch to the left over 2 canvas threads securing the loose stitch.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 5 photograph
5

Count up 4 canvas threads and repeat the last four steps.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 6 photograph
6

Continue working your stitches so they form a diagonal line.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 7 photograph
7

To find the starting position for the next row, count four canvas threads to the right. You can either turn the canvas and repeat the last row or work the long stitches lying bottom to top.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 8 photograph
8

Continue working stitches to fill the design area.

Elizabethan French stitch method stage 9 photograph
9

A photo showing the reverse of the pattern.

Elizabethan French stitch

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques

References

  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.42
  • Jacqui Carey, Sweet Bags - an investigation into 16th and 17th century needlework (2009) , p.84

Examples of Elizabethan French stitch

© Jacqui Carey

Reproduction Elizabethan sweet bag with geometric pattern.

Reproduction of a sweet bag in the Victoria & Albert Museum (T.204-1928), stitched by Jacqui Carey. Elizabethan French stitch is used for the background.

© Jacqui Carey