X, Cross stitch

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating cross stitching and motifs starting with the letter 'X'. 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 cross stitch and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'X'. The first page, on the left, has two tree designs. One is worked on a fine, white linen with cross stitches in silk, filling the negative space to create a landscape behind the tree. The tree form is picked out in back stitch. On the left hand side of the page is an applique design of five tree trunks in the foreground and six tree trunks behind a fine gauze layer to create perspective. The ground is worked in freehand cross stitch in cotton threads to give texture. The third page is worked free hand on a piece of multicoloured, shot silk. Three stylised evergreens are spaced between a cross design built from cross stitched squares. All three trees use cross stitch throughout. A mix of cotton and silk threads are used.

On the other side, the left page consists of a loose linen with a cluster of 13 trees. The trees are worked in a variety of cross stitch variations, including rice stitch and upright cross stitch. The trees almost all use wool threads, with the exception of one tree worked in a thick yarn that resembles ribbon and another which involves a silk and metal thread. The final page has nine Christmas trees on a pale green, canvas ground, all worked in cross stitch. One tree uses graduated shades of green worked from top to bottom and has six brightly coloured baubles and 14 red candles with gold thread flames. A gold star tops the tree and there is silver tinsel draped across it. There are four trees of the same design worked in different threads; pale green stranded cotton, pale green wool, graduated green, and yellow and dark green stranded cotton. A larger tree of the same design is scaled up with larger cross stitches and worked in wool in graduated shades of sea green. One tree is worked in a freestyle cross stitch which disregards the counted thread grid and looks more naturalistic. The final two trees are appliqued black and white checked fabric triangles with a white cross stitch design worked onto the grid of the checks.

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