O, Or Nué

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating or nué and motifs starting with the letter 'O'. 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 or nué and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'O'. Or nué is a goldwork technique that involves couching down metal threads with colourful ones to create an image. The first page, on the left, features an or nué embroidered oak tree, using two different colours of gold thread and shades of brown cotton. The embroidery is outlined in gold twist. The panel is appliquéd onto a gold silk ground. The opposite page has two owls and the letter 'O', all worked in or nué. All are worked with gold metallic thread and cotton thread outlined in different types of gold twisted thread. The first owl motif features a stylised owl with large eyes, while the second one is a more realistic rendering of an owl's head. The owls and letter are appliquéd onto a striped silk-linen mix which is outlined in strips of thick gold ribbon.

The third page features a yellow-green octopus worked in wool threads. The background is also wool which has been couched down with matching cotton threads. The panel, bordered with silver-coloured cord, sits on a grey synthetic fabric ground. The final page has four motifs: two octopi and two owls. On the left hand side are the octopi, the top one worked in silver thread couched down with blue cotton. The bottom is gold thread couched with orange, blue, and russet cotton thread. On the right are the owls, with the top owl worked in silver couched thread with the outline of the bird picked out in blue wool. A blue linen ground is visible underneath. The bottom owl is again worked in mix of metallic threads in silver, bronze, and gold which have been couched over the background blue silk thread. The blue background thread has been couched in a brick pattern. The owl's feet are made of stretched gold bullion. The window frame is worked in grey cotton over padding and the wall is created by couching the cotton thread in a brickwork pattern. The four panels on this page have been slip stitched onto a very light green silk ground.

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