U, Underside Couching

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating underside couching and motifs starting with the letter 'U'. 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 underside couching and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'U'. The first page, on the left, shows a unicorn worked in a variety of materials including cotton and silver metallic threads as well as velvet and metallic ribbon. The background is worked in wool and the frame is different shade of mauve and purple silk threads as well as silver metallic thread. The majority of the page is worked in underside couching. Couching, brick stitches, and satin stitches are also used. The inner right hand page is the letter 'U' worked on a striped silk background. The thread is again cotton, wool and metallic gold. The 'U' is worked in underside couching in a variety of patterns and the border is worked in couching.

The back left page shows six different views of sea urchins. They are worked in wool and cotton threads on linen and the pentagons are appliqued to a sea green cotton background. They demonstrate both underside couching and couching. The sea urchin on the bottom right features threads woven between some stitches. The last page shows five unicorns worked on blue linen in white and silver threads which include wool, cotton and metallic silver thread. The unicorn in the top left hand corner is worked in wool and cotton thread. The head and neck are worked in underside couching and the mane and horn in couching. The unicorn on the bottom left is worked in couched cotton thread. The mane is overlaid with silver thread in buttonhole stitch. The horn is silver ribbon and the eye is silver metallic thread. The unicorn in the middle is worked in thick, cotton thread couched with silver metallic thread. Its face is underside couched. The horn is of white ribbon, couched in a zigzag. The unicorn in middle at the bottom is again worked in cotton thread, its mane couched with metallic silver thread. The head and neck are underside couched. The horn is twisted cotton braid. The unicorn on the right is worked in a mixture of wool threads and raffia which are underside couched. The horn is nylon cord over padding.

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