clear navigate_before

Elizabethan ground stitch icon
Elizabethan ground stitch

Elizabethan ground stitch main image

This Elizabethan counted thread stitch creates a long slanted stitch on the surface and as a consequence historically it has been mistakenly identified as Gobelin stitch.  However, this Elizabethan version is worked over four horizontal threads, rather than Gobelin stitch’s two.  The structure of the stitch is similar to columns of stem stitch worked next to each other.  The stitch was widely used for background areas, often in metallic passing.

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 ground stitch is generously sponsored by Rosalind Grant-Robertson for my maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Higgs née Wheeldon



Working from the base up, complete a diagonal stitch from bottom left to top right (up over 4 and across 1 thread of the canvas).


Bring your needle up 2 threads down and 1 thread to the left.


Take your needle down 4 threads up and 1 to the right.
Continue upwards to complete the first column.


Bring the needle up 1 thread to the right. Work back down the adjacent column this time with stitches from top right to bottom left.


Each stitch should be in line with those of the previous column.


Continue the third row this time with your stitches worked from bottom to top.


Continue to complete the area to be filled.

Elizabethan ground stitch method stage 8 photograph

A photo showing the reverse of the pattern.

Elizabethan ground stitch

Structure of stitch

Unlike Gobelin, the Elizabethan ground stitch creates a longer slant on the surface, covering (1:4) linen threads. Yet the biggest difference can be found on the back of the fabric. Here, the surface slants are connected vertically rather than horizontally, with a short section covering just (1:2) linen threads. The resulting stitches resemble modern stem stitch rather than Gobelin, and it is much more economical as the amount of metallic thread used on the back is reduced to a minimum.

Related Stitches

Identifying Elizabethan ground stitch

Depending on the tension of the stitching, the underlying linen is sometimes distorted which results in pairs of linen threads being pulled together creating gaps in the weave of the fabric.


  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.28

Examples of Elizabethan ground stitch

Reproduction Elizabethan sweet bag with butterfly

Sweet bag designed and stitched by Jacqui Carey, inspired by extant examples.

© Jacqui Carey

Reproduction Elizabethan sweet bag with bird

Reproduction of a sweet bag in the Victoria & Albert Museum (T.87-1935), stitched by Jacqui Carey. Elizabethan ground stitch is used for the background.

© Jacqui Carey