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Elizabethan ladder stitch icon
Elizabethan ladder stitch

Elizabethan ladder stitch main image

Elizabethan ladder stitch produces two parallel columns of looped stitches joined by rungs of a ladder.

The historic examples of Elizabethan ladder stitch are often embellished with extra filling stitches such as Elizabethan back stitch filling and Elizabethan back stitch variation. The loops of the ladder can be formed in different ways: single loop (where the stitch is looped around the previous stitch), double (where the stitch is looped around the previous two stitches) or more, but the example here shows a simple single loop on both columns. The repeated actions of making loops are similar to Ceylon stitch, although this Elizabethan ladder stitch is worked in the opposite direction (from the bottom to the top) like Elizabethan Ceylon stitch.

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

Method

Work from the bottom to top. To start, you can use a holding stitch, but make sure that the two tiny stab stitches will be covered with one of the columns of stitches.

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1

Bring the needle up and make a vertical straight stitch. This will be the start of the column of chains.

2

Decide on the width of your ladder, and bring up the needle a suitable distance to the left. Make another straight stitch, parallel to the first one.

3

Bring the needle up above the second straight stitch, slightly to the left.

4

Slide the needle under the second straight stitch from right to left.  Pull through to form your first chain stitch.

5

Throw your working thread to the right and then, working from right to left, slide your needle under the first straight stitch.

6

Throw your working thread to the right again and pull through to make a parallel chain stitch.  Insert the needle just above and slightly to the right to anchor your chain stitch.

7

Bring the needle up on the left edge, above your stitching.

8

Working from right to left, pass the needle under the rung of the ladder and the left hand chain stitch.

9

Throw your thread to the right.  Working from right to left, slide your needle under the right hand chain stitch and the rung of the ladder and pull through.

10

Throw your thread to the right again and take the needle down through the fabric immediately above the chain you have just made.

11

Continue in this manner to make two columns of chain stitches, forming rungs of the ladder in between.

12

To finish, take the needle down through the fabric and secure the thread on the reverse side.

Elizabethan ladder stitch

Embroidery Techniques

References

  • Jacqui Carey, Sweet Bags - an investigation into 16th and 17th century needlework (2009) , p.96
  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.110-111

Examples of Elizabethan ladder stitch

© Leeds Museums and Galleries, photographed by Norman Taylor

Elizabethan sweet bag

Elizabethan ladder stitch is used to work some of the lines of silver gilt.

© Leeds Museums and Galleries, photographed by Norman Taylor