I, Insertion

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating insertions and motifs starting with the letter 'I'. Part of a 34-part embroidered alphabet made by Dr Isabel Elliott and completed in 2007.

Content description

This is a four-sided book centring on insertion stitches and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'I'. The first page, on the left, is made of bleached linen and features nine vertical bands of insertion stitches in violet, lilac, burgundy, teal, and turquoise silk threads. The bands involve a variety of insertion stitches, including twisted insertion stitches of various widths, wrapped bars, faggotting/insertion stitch, buttonhole insertion stitch, plaited insertion stitch, knotted insertion stitch, and others. The right-hand page involves a lilac silk ground upon which are a cursive uppercase 'I' and a stylised lowercase 'i'. Both letters are made up of two lines of a white and blue striped ribbon with faggotting/insertion stitches in lilac cotton thread in between. In the dot of the lowercase i is a whipped wheel. To the left of the letters is a vertical-oriented design involving the same ribbon. Two vertical bands are joined by a twisted insertion stitch which suspends a couched band of the same fabric in the centre.

The left-hand page of the outside of the booklet has a cream-coloured linen ground with appliqued rectangles of a white cotton with red stripes. On the side with the cream ground there are ivy leaves of dark green felt connected and bordered with insertion lace stitches including a twisted insertion stitch, wrapped bars, and Cretan stitch. On the red striped rectangles are stem and back stitched insects wrought in orange silk thread. These panels are attached to the ground and each other with insertion stitches including a buttonhole insertion stitch and a knotted insertion stitch. The fourth page has a light green-blue linen ground upon which is slip stitched a rectangle of taupe-coloured fabric bordered by cream-coloured silk on its right side. On this panel is an appliquéd iris with orange silk petals and a green silk stem and leaves. The iris is bordered by insertion stitches worked in taupe cotton thread. The stem and leaves are bordered by buttonhole stitches while the petals are bordered by faggotting/insertion stitches of varying widths. On the left side of the panel are several vertical examples of insertion stitches in dark and light purple silk thread, including two types of laced herringbone stitch and an interlaced herringbone band. To the far left is a loosely woven panel of linen upon which is embroidered laced running stitches, chain stitches, laced arrowhead stitches, and several crosses, some of which are laced.

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