Embroidered box lid


E for Embroidery

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Embroidered lid for an 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

Box lid decorated on its exterior and interior, worked in a variety of canvaswork stitches in leather and cotton metallic, cotton, silk, and wool threads in a variety of colours. On the outside is an inscription that reads, 'E FOR EMBROIDERY'. The second 'E', at the beginning of 'EMBROIDERY', is made of leather. The text 'FOR MBROIDERY' is made of stem stitches. Other stitches on the lid top include brick, cushion and reversed cushion, cross, mosaic, oblique Gobelin, tied Gobelin, Byzantine, Jacquard, Scottish, Moorish, web, double cross, counted satin, tent, and leaf. The lid is bordered on all four sides by three and four-sided stylised leaf motifs. The sides of the lid, which resemble the top of the lid in colour, design, and stitch selection, feature a series of diamonds in orange, yellow, blue, and purple-brown.

The interior of the box’s lid is also covered in canvaswork. It features the letters A, B, and C, reflected over the centre horizontal axis. To the left of the A, the background is in a light green cashmere stitch. The A is worked in red Byzantine, jacquard, Moorish, Scottish squares, mosaic, chequer, and diagonal stitches. The gaps in the letter are filled with tent and reverse tent stitches in yellow and encroaching oblique Gobelin in a polychrome thread. Between the A and the B, the background is worked in Milanese stitch in two shades of green. The B is worked in orange using tent, reverse tent, and leaf stitches. The spaces of the B are upright cross in shades of blue and a variation of Algerian eye in dark blue. Between the B and the C, the background is a light green double cross stitch. The C is worked in Florentine stitch in light yellow thread. A shadow of the C is made of red Hungarian stitches, with a green background of rice stitch and a variation of upright cross.

The upside-down letter reflections are similarly complex. The space to the left of the reflected A is made up of Burden stitches worked in a suede-like tape, while the reflected A itself is an appliquéd piece of red felt. The spaces in the reflected A are filled with a light yellow vertical Parisian stitch and an encroaching Gobelin in a multicoloured thread. The space between the reflected A and B is worked in several shades of green using cotton and chenille threads in a series of small parallel stitches. The spine of the reflected B is worked in shades of blue with variations on wild goose chase stitch, while its curves are variations of brick and Florentine stitch in blue. The spaces of the reflected B are in brown and dark pink variations on Algerian eye. The reflected C is worked in a reversed cushion with a few spaces of reversed tent in a light yellow.

The border consists of a series of diamond Algerian eye stitches in three sizes and in shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and brown, surrounded by horizontal or vertical satin stitches in ivory. Around the interior edge, the border is outlined with a light yellow backstitch. The corners feature large crossed cushion stitches.

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 isabelelliottembroidery.com.


width: 35cm
height: 10cm
depth: 27cm





Credit line

Gift of Susan Perkes, 2019.

Catalogue number


Other numbers

RSN 2296

Web references

© Royal School of Needlework