T, Tambour

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating tambour work and motifs starting with the letter 'T'. Part of a 34-part embroidered alphabet made by Dr Isabel Elliott and completed in 2007.

Content description

This is a four-sided book worked mostly in tambour and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'T'. The first page, on the left, has a translucent pale blue polyester mesh ground laid over a loosely woven canvas, and is embroidered with three different brown leafless trees. All are mostly worked in tambour. The leftmost tree, which features a highly detailed representation of bark, uses different directions and thread weights and colours used to create dimension and shading. Another uses laddered tambour stitches for wider branches, diagonal tambour stitches for the trunk, and finer tambour stitches for twigs. The inner right cover has a bright pink polyester ground embroidered with a golden 'T', standing for tambour. The T is worked in tambour using thick, tightly plied gold-coloured cord forming the interlaced outline of the letter.

The other two pages have toadstool mushrooms and tulips. The left panel consists of white cotton with a printed pattern of irregular black stripes resembling wood grain. Seven toadstool mushrooms are embroidered on top, mostly in tambour chain stitch. There are six varieties of mushrooms shown, two in purple, two in green, one in yellow and orange, and one with a white stem and a red cap spotted with white. In addition to chain stitch tambour embroidery, there is satin stitch, twisted chain stitch tambour, a tambour chain stitch which resembles a stem or cable stitch, laced tambour, and tambour layered over or worked onto laddered stitches. Several of these techniques are displayed with a few stitches beside each mushroom in its corresponding colour. The right panel consists of a blue silk ground resembling moiré with three tambour chain stitch embroidered tulips shown from petal to bulb. The tulips are worked and shaded in multiple colours, with brown or red bulbs, green stems in different shades, and orange, yellow, and purple petals.

This booklet is one of 34 parts of an embroidered alphabet made by Dr Isabel Elliott and completed in 2007. Elliott embroidered a large box which houses 32 four-sided booklets. Each booklet focuses one on letter of the alphabet and 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. This large and impressive group of objects was made by Dr Isabel Margaret Elliott (1931-2016). She 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


width: 61cm
height: 23cm





Credit line

Gift of Susan Perkes, 2019.

Catalogue number


Other numbers

RSN 2296

Web references

© Royal School of Needlework