Embroidered box

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Embroidered box containing 32 booklets pairing the alphabet with embroidery techniques. The sizeable suite was made by Dr Isabel Elliott and completed in 2007.

Content description

This is a box made to contain a collection of 32 four-sided booklets. Each booklet focuses one on letter of the alphabet and an embroidery technique whose first letter matches that letter of the alphabet (A for appliqué, B for blackwork, etc.). Some letters have multiple booklets due to having multiple techniques. The box perfectly fits the 32 booklets when they are stacked one atop another.

The box is covered on all sides with a mustard yellow synthetic striped fabric. Each side is decorated with an appliquéd canvaswork motif and there is a canvaswork band that wraps around the box. Cotton perle and metallic cotton threads are used throughout. Each motif is slightly different and all are linked by a central blue square or diamond of the same size worked in a series of stem stitches. The vertical edges of the box are stitched in mustard in chain stitch. The bottom edge of the box is finished with appliquéd brown cord, approximately 0.5cm wide.

On one of the long sides of the box is appliquéd a diamond, stitched in cotton perle in mustard, multiple shades of green, orange, light blue, and brown, as well as copper coloured cotton metallic thread. The stitches include stem, chain, upright cross, cushion, reversed cushion, leaf, satin, and brick. On the other long side is a smaller appliquéd diamond in cotton perle in three shades of green and light blue and a copper coloured cotton metallic thread. The stitches used include tent, variations on cushion and reversed cushion, chain, stem, plait, and various braid stitches.

The short sides have nearly identical motifs, two appliquéd squares with three shades of green, blue, and brown cotton perle threads with copper coloured cotton metallic thread details. Stitches on these squares include reversed cushion, back, chain, stem, plait, and straight.

Underneath the squares and diamonds is a 2.5cm wide border that spans all sides of the box. It maintains the same colours and materials of the other appliqués, with mustard, green, and brown cotton perle and copper cotton metallic thread. The stitches involved include leaf, variations on plait, chain, and variations on cushion. On one of the short sides, in brown back stitches, is a subtle signature: 'IE 2007'.

The box is lined with a mustard yellow synthetic fabric that has a subtle large check pattern of darker and lighter mustard yellow forming a gingham effect. The base of the box has a piece of off-white even weave canvas the spans the length and width of the box's interior. The fabric is embroidered with various versions of the letter 'X' in cross stitch in shades of olive green, pink, lavender, and mauve cotton threads. It is bordered on all sides by wrapped bars (drawn thread).

This box and its contents were made by Dr Isabel Elliott, who completed it in 2007. Dr Isabel Margaret Elliott (1931-2016) received her PhD from Cambridge in 1958 and became a paleobotanist at the Natural History Museum in London. It is clear that her love of science and the natural world influenced her embroidery. When she married her husband, Isabel was made to leave her job (as the Natural History Museum was then part of the civil service and married women were not allowed to be part of the civil service). She began to attend classes at the RSN after meeting a woman embroidering for a class run by that organisation. After the RSN she joined the Embroiderers' Guild. She became a Life Member of the Guild and gained her City & Guilds, which enabled her to teach. She was Mistress of Embroidery at Gloucester Cathedral and was a travelling tutor throughout the UK. Elliott produced an immense amount of embroidery, much of which is available to view at isabelelliottembroidery.com.


width: 33cm
height: 41cm
depth: 25cm





Credit line

Gift of Susan Perkes, 2019.

Catalogue number


Other numbers

RSN 2296

Web references

© Royal School of Needlework