Y, Yet More Stitches

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating a variety of embroidery techniques and motifs starting with the letter 'Y'. 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 in a variety of embroidery techniques and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'Y'. The first page, on the left, shows a yale on a teal blue cotton ground. A yale is a mythical goat-like creature with large swivelling horns and boar tusks and is associated with British royal heraldry. It is worked in bright yellow and cream wools and cottons. The horns, mane, and back are worked in stem stitch, the arms and legs in chain stitch, and the head in a single-colour block shading. The belly is done as a laid work ground with a simple trellis stitch over the top. Accents, including the eye, tusks, nostrils, ear, and spots are done in buttonhole and stem stitches. The tail is worked in a leaf stitch and the claws in different satin stitches. The opposite page features a large gothic 'Y', stitched in shades of orange wools, cottons, and silks and outlined with three couched cords in variegated shades of yellow and orange. The Y is filled with Milanese, Byzantine, cashmere, cushion, and back stitches. The background is a reversed cushion stitch worked in cream-coloured wools, silks, and cottons.

The left-hand inner page depicts a yew tree worked in raised stem band stitch with muted tones of green, yellow, purple, and red silks on a yellow silk ground. The left-hand side of the page has a series of shade samples in muted tones of yellow and brown, each worked in diagonal satin stitches and bordered by smaller alternating diagonal satin stitches in cream. The left and right sides of the samples have a line of shell stitch and a line of long-legged cross stitch.

The third page depicts a cross-section of a yew tree trunk on a yellow silk ground. Worked in shades of brown on soft padding, it consists of irregular rings of stem, buttonhole, chain, split, and back stitch. A small white tassel is attached to the upper right corner and has another shade sample of yellows and whites in different threads worked in satin 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


height: 23cm
width: 61cm





Credit line

Gift of Susan Perkes, 2019.

Catalogue number


Other numbers

RSN 2296

Web references

© Royal School of Needlework