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Elizabethan whipped cording stitch icon
Elizabethan whipped cording stitch

  • Fishers stitch
Elizabethan whipped cording stitch main image

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).

Elizabethan whipped cording stitch is generously sponsored by Alison Smith


Start the knot on the surface an inch or two from your embroidery, you can plunge this tail later once repositioned.
This needlelace works well in a thick, rounded thread such as crochet thread, gimp, or metallic thread.
Draw the outline of the shape needed onto the sampling fabric and work the needlelace within that shape. The sacrificial finer thread can then be cut away and the needlelace can be lifted without fraying, and then positioned within your design.
If you are working directly on the final ground fabric, you should use a fine thread matching the thread being couched down as in this case it will not be removed once completed.


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.


Repeat the last three steps to fill the shape.


Turn your fabric to the back and cut away the machine threads.


Remove all the machine threads to lift the needlelace from the sampling fabric. The needlelace can then be repositioned onto the desired embroidery and secured with stab stitching around the edge.

Elizabethan whipped cording stitch

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques


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.