E, Eyelets

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating eyelets and motifs starting with the letter 'E'. 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 eyelets and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'E'. The first page, on the left, features a variety of eyes worked in white cotton threads on a white cotton lawn ground. The cutwork of the eyes reveals a black cotton ground. The eyes are edged in buttonhole, overcast, satin, and padded satin stitches. Some have satin stitch pupils embroidered directly onto the black backing and several have lines like eyebrows in buttonhole or satin stitch above or beside them.

The second page has motifs worked in cotton and appliquéd to a green linen ground. All of the pieces are edged with buttonhole stitches and all use cotton threads. Several of the appliquéd pieces are shaped like butterflies, with clusters and rows of small and large circular and teardrop-shaped decorative eyelets, some edged in buttonhole stitch and others overcast, on a light green, white, or multicoloured ground. The bodies of the butterflies are stitched in padded satin stitch and dense buttonhole wheels. The other appliquéd pieces have abstract round shapes. One features heart-shaped leaves (possibly ivy) cut out and edged with buttonhole stitch to reveal a purple synthetic ground, within each of which there is a purple eyelet revealing a red ground. Another motif is oval, with another white oval appliqué piece on top embroidered with a branch topped with scattered round eyelets. The last, in the centre of the cover, has buttonhole edging which loops around to form oval eyelets as a border motif, and a letter 'E' outlined by rows of large eyelets.

The back side of the book features a variety of bird motifs. The left-hand cover has a gold brocaded ground upon which are attached four rectangular embroidered pieces with pulled thread motifs. The leftmost is a thin unbleached linen band which runs up the edge of the cover, with wrapped bars and pulled thread square eyelets, some of which are simple and some of which are worked into more complex cutwork shapes resembling crosses and stars. The rightmost appliqué panel, which has a gridded ground of what seems to be four-sided or single faggot stitches, has densely embroidered square eyelets. Some of these eyelets have thread crosses left in their centres. The square eyelets are worked in the shape of a heraldic eagle. In between the narrow linen band and the eagle design are two appliqué squares that depict the heads of birds from the side. The upper square worked on an unbleached linen ground with thin gold thread eyelets in the shape of an eagle's head. Its eye is a variation on a buttonhole wheel and its beak is satin stitch. The body is made out of pulled threads and buttonhole stitches. The lower square is edged in metallic thread buttonhole stitch with tassels at the lower edge. The ground is pulled thread work that has been adorned with wrapped metal threads to create what appears to be a series of eyelets. There is a cream silk appliqué eagle edged in yellow and cream cotton buttonhole stitches with an overcast eyelet eye.

The last panel is on a shiny blue silk ground with cream coloured appliqué birds attached. The right-hand bird is made of complex embroidered layers of cream and white appliqué, each of which is edged with a different stitch, and the design includes but is not limited to overcast eyelets, buttonhole stitch, satin stitch, picot edging, buttonhole bars, pulled thread cutwork, blanket stitch, tailor’s buttonhole stitch, loop picot, and crossed buttonhole stitch. The two birds facing are simpler. They are made of layers of appliquéd cream linen edged with buttonhole stitch and with buttonhole and overcast round eyelets. The lower bird has satin stitch wings with knotted fringe and a needlelace web.

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