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Elizabethan tubular Ceylon stitch icon
Elizabethan tubular Ceylon stitch

Elizabethan tubular Ceylon stitch main image

This 3D version of Elizabethan Ceylon stitch is worked around a cylinder, often in metal thread, so that the stitch forms a tube which retains its shape.  This is normally then stitched onto fabric and is used to depict animals or plants.  Unlike most needlelace, the stitches are worked into the stitch on the previous row, rather than into the spaces between them.

The starting method for this stitch is similar to working a buttonhole couronne, although the buttonhole stitches are worked the opposite way up.

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 tubular Ceylon stitch is sponsored in memory of Sally Saunders (former RSN tutor)


Cylindrical forms for working this stitch could include a hedebo gauge or couronne stick, alternatively you could use a knitting needle, dowel or a pencil.

Use a thread which holds it shape such as a gimp or metallic thread.

Use tape or a glue dot to temporarily secure the end of the thread.


Leaving a tail, secure one end of your thread onto the base of a cylindrical shape and wrap to start producing a couronne (ring).


Slide the needle under the wrapped thread from the bottom up and cross over the working thread to produce your first buttonhole stitch.


Continue working buttonhole stitches over the wrapped thread, ideally equally spaced and not too close to one another. I have eight in this example.


Once you have worked all the way round, you can start to work the Ceylon stitches. Do this by sliding the needle under each cross produced by the buttonhole stitch from right to left.


Continue working around the cylinder


If you run out of thread or the thread becomes tired, change by taking the needle downward on the right hand side and under the previous rows of buttonhole.


Leaving a tail, slide the new thread upward under the couronne and the previous rows of button hole. Ensure that it crosses over the old thread and continue the Ceylon stitch.

Elizabethan tubular Ceylon stitch method stage 8 photograph

When you reach the desired length, remove from the cylinder and manipulate into creative shapes such as caterpillars, bells, flower heads etc.

Elizabethan tubular Ceylon stitch

Common uses

Identifying Elizabethan tubular Ceylon stitch

This stitch is characterised by columns of chain stitches, with parallel rungs of a ladder between them.  Depending on how densely it is worked, the parallel rungs might not be readily visible.


  • Jacqui Carey, Sweet Bags - an investigation into 16th and 17th century needlework (2009) , p.102
  • Jacqui Carey, Elizabethan Stitches - a guide to historic English needlework (2012) , p.116