R, Running Stitch

Object name


Date made

Circa 2007

Place made


Four-paged booklet illustrating running stitch patterns and motifs starting with the letter 'R'. 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 running stitches and featuring motifs beginning with the letter 'R'. The first page, on the left, is worked on a counted linen ground with silk and cotton threads. Running and darning stitches are worked in different designs to create two roses. The first rose is orange and has five green leaves with a combination of zigzag and striped designs. Each petal has a different pattern. These include surface darning stitch, counted satin stitch in diamond patterns, and other pattern darning designs. The central petals are worked more densely using basket filling stitch, burden stitch, and further pattern darning designs. The red rose is seen from the back with different petals again represented by different pattern darning designs based around zigzag and diamond designs. The opposite page, made of red wool, features an elaborate 'R' worked in white silk and cotton threads. The 'R' involves cable chain, stem, straight, and whipped running stitches.

The third page is worked on white linen and has an outer border made of a ribbon woven into the linen's weave, creating two panels. The right panel has thirty one different darning patterns based around stripes, squares and diamonds worked in green silk threads. The left-hand panel uses a combination of green and lilac silk and cotton thread and includes a number of darning patterns in weave, zigzag and triangle forms. These are made with running, straight, back, basket filling, and counted satin stitches. There are also a set of variations on insertion stitch techniques, including herringbone ladder filling stitch, Pekinese stitch, and threaded back stitch. Towards the bottom of the panel are a range of stitch samples including cable chain, double running stitch, and whipped running stitch.

The final page includes a piece of pink silk fabric upon which are slip stitched six panels, all of which are embroidered. These panels feature a robin, ram, two flowers, and two rabbits. Top left is a robin worked stem and back stitches on a cream linen background. Below this, on a rough weave linen, is a ram whose body is worked in a mixture of wool and stranded cotton running stitches. His horns use running stitch carefully arranged to achieve a ridged effect. In the centre there are two flower designs on blue silk and mesh backgrounds. One uses pink silk threads to create running stitches that weave in and out of a thin layer of black mesh, making the stitches appear as two different colours. There are red French knots in the middle. The upper flower uses yellow, white, green, and pink cotton threads to create double running stitches. At the top right is a rabbit worked entirely in vertical running stitches in grey-brown cotton thread on a neutral linen, with small areas of double running stitch added for darker shaded areas. Below another rabbit is worked on unbleached linen with red and pink cotton running stitches that create a negative silhouette.

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