C, Canvaswork

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating canvaswork techniques and motifs starting with the letter 'C'. 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 canvaswork techniques and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'C'. The first page, on the left, features a crocodile wrought in a variety of canvaswork stitches in silk and cotton threads. The background includes gold-brown waves of Florentine stitch and a series of straight stitches of different lengths. The crocodile has a wide range of stitches in green colours. The tail is done largely using Jaquard stitch and its back leg includes small tent stitch as well as what appears to be double straight cross stitch. The central part of the body includes largely square shape motifs and stitches including reversed cushion stitch, Norwich stitch, and Rhodes stitch. The crocodile's underside, which is done with orange-green coloured silk thread includes a range of different sized Algerian eye stitch. Rows of Milanese stitch form the underside of the neck of the crocodile. Its eye is rendered in slanted satin stitch and the face includes mosaic stitch. The front and back leg include Florentine stitch, tent stitch, and double straight cross stitch.

A 'C' occupies most of the second page. It is worked in red, turquoise, white, and gold threads of cotton, wool, and silk. There are four corner motifs which are rendered in Jaquard stitch of various sizes, in shades of turquoise. A red background has been worked in rows of tent stitch worked in alternating directions. A border in gold-coloured threads surrounds the whole shape. The C itself, which sits in the middle of the page, has rows of different stitches worked from the outline to the centre. The top and bottom of the C has rows of Parisian stitch rendered in red cotton thread. In the middle of the shape are eleven large Algerian eye stitch, surrounded by a sphere of tent stitch, which itself is surrounded by what might be a variation of Algerian eye with a small orange bead inside. Algerian eye stitch, rendered in red thread surround these eleven spheres. After this sits several rows or bands of different stitches which include a row of white upright cross stitches, rows of Hungarian stitches and variations in turquoise, and further rows of white upright cross stitches followed by several rows of double straight cross stitch. Surrounding the central C motif are leaf stitch motifs, which have been worked in turquoise and connect together in groups of four, to look like small crosses. The leaf motifs resemble those on the outside of the box that holds this booklet and within other booklets in this suite.

The third page contains five rows of six equally sized squares, inside of which different canvaswork stitches have been rendered in a variety of colours in cotton thread. The first column is in shades of pink, the second in greens, the third in blues, the fourth in yellows, the fifth in purples, and the final column in green-blue shades. A border of white coloured diagonal stitches surrounds the squares. A line of back stitch, rendered in gold coloured threads, further separates each of the squares. Canvaswork techniques illustrated on this page include but are not limited to leaf stitches, Florentine stitches, Hungarian stitches, cushion and reversed cushion stitches, rice stitches, and cashmere stitches.

The final page features a cabbage made of beads, suede, ribbon, and silk, cotton, and wool threads. The background of white threads includes blocks of brick stitch worked vertically and horizontally. The green leaves of the cabbage have been rendered in a number of different stitches. The top half largely uses Milanese stitch in different directions and sizes, while the bottom is largely in Byzantine stitch, also rendered in different sizes and directions. The centre of the cabbage has been completed using a wider variety of white coloured threads and stitches. These include oatmeal stitch, condensed cashmere stitch, cushion stitch, condensed scotch stitch, and mosaic stitch. Several of the cabbage leaves are worked in what appears to be raffia, while others are made up of suede, beads, and ribbon.

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