Elizabethan whipped cording stitch
- Fishers stitch
This raised stitch is formed by laying a corded thread and then whipping the working thread around this corded thread and the corded thread from the previous row, in between the whips of the previous row. The action of whipping on each row forms a raised ridge across the rows which can clearly be seen on the tree trunk in the image to the left, taken from a stumpwork cabinet owned by the National Trust (image courtesy of Alison Smith).
This stitch certainly dates from at least the 17th century as it features on various stumpwork cabinets, garments and other artefacts from that century. It is worked in both silk gimp and metal threads.
We have given it the name ‘Elizabethan whipped cording’ as a descriptive name in the absence of any documented evidence of its historic name.
We would like to thank Alison Smith for her diligent research in identifying and documenting this stitch, including identifying the historic artefacts on which it features. See her website in the References section for more information including extensive instructions (N.B. Alison Smith uses the name Fishers stitch).
Thread a tapestry needle with a thick thread, and then, starting with a knot on the surface a few inches away from your design outline, bring the needle up at the top left of your design shape.
Thread another needle with a long length of finer thread such as machine thread or stranded cotton. Take the needle down on the surface a few inches outside of the design area.
Use the machine thread to couch down the thicker thread along the top edge of your drawn shape with equally spaced stitches. The spaces should be at least the width of two of the thicker threads.
At the right hand side of the shape, make a right angle turn with the thicker thread and couch over it horizontally, so that it can easily be turned to work back in the opposite direction.
Park the machine thread and take up the needle with the thicker thread. Use it to whip back along the couched thread in between the couching stitches. Each wrap should be snug but not tight. Do not pierce the fabric.
At the left hand side of the shape, again turn the thicker thread and couch over it horizontally, so that it can easily be turned to work back in the opposite direction.
Throw the thread across the shape to the right hand side and secure with one horizontal stitch of machine thread.
Whip back along the cord just created and the cord from the previous row (take care not to whip the whipping from the first row). The needle should be inserted to the left of each of the previous whipped stitches to create the characteristic ridges.
Structure of stitch
Alison Smith, 'http://scholehousefortheneedle.com/', . Available at: http://scholehousefortheneedle.com/ (Accessed: 30 May 2023)
'Cabinet with scenes from the Story of Esther', Met Museum. Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/229034 (Accessed: 30 May 2023)
'Cabinet featuring the Judgement of Paris', National Trust. Available at: https://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1448759 (Accessed: 30 May 2023)
Examples of Elizabethan whipped cording stitch
Cabinet with scenes from the Story of Esther (Metropolitan Museum 64.101.1335)
This 17th century cabinet features scenes from the Story of Esther. This detail shows the tree trunk worked in Elizabethan whipped cording stitch.