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Minerva Crafts online shopThis is the third article in a series of projects and techniques on hand embroidery written and designed by Little Miss  Fancy Frocks, the dynamic mother and daughter duo who lovingly create handcrafted clothing for adults and children. Visit their Facebook page here.

The series is sponsored by Minerva Crafts, suppliers of all your embroidery requirements.

Jacobean Embroidery

Tutorial on Jacobean needlework

Finished Jacobean style cushion

Draught excluder made with Jacobean stitching


Jacobean Embroidery, a form of Crewel Embroidery flourished in the reign of James 1st in the early 17th century.  The designs for Jacobean Embroidery were based on colourful and stylised animal and plant forms. Traditionally woollen and silk threads were used on a linen background.  The resulting embroideries were used to decorate furnishings and jackets for men and women. The embroidery utilises a variety of  stitches:

  • Filling stitches such as Jacobean couching, herringbone and satin stitch
  • Outline stitches such as stem stitch, chain stitch and blanket stitch
  • Individual stitches such as French knots and seeding were used for additional detail

Contemporary Jacobean embroidery can be used on a range of fabrics with a variety of threads. We hope you will enjoy working a variety of samples and ultimately a piece you can use to create something for your home or give as a gift.


You will need...

Supplies for hand embroidery

50cm lightweight/medium calico fabric; alternatively you can use  oddments you may have at home

Selection of Anchor stranded cottons

You will also require an embroidery hoop, a sewing needle with an eye large enough for the thread and a pair of scissors

(Note - We have used an embroidery hoop and three strands of thread throughout)



Jacobean couching

Jacobean Couching

1. Draw a grid of squares on the calico using a ruler and a fabric pen (air or water erasable). Place the calico inside the embroidery hoop.

2. Bring the thread onto the surface at 1 and take the thread across the calico and below the surface at point 2, bring your thread onto the surface again at 3 and take it below the surface at 4. Repeat this method until the vertical lines are complete. Work the horizontal lines in the same way. The threads will appear quite loose at this point until a cross stitch is worked where a horizontal and vertical line crosses.

3. Take your thread from one square to the next diagonal square and then bring your thread onto the surface to form a cross. Work a cross stitch where the vertical and horizontal threads cross. A diagonal grid is also very effective.

Herringbone and blanket stitch

1. Draw a leaf shape on the calico as shown.

Herringbone stitch - to achieve the best results make sure the depth of your herringbone stitch is no more than 1cm. Bring your thread onto the surface at point 1 across the fabric to point 2, under the fabric to surface at point 3, across the fabric to point 4 and surfacing at point 5. The criss-cross action will give a lovely effect which is particularly suited to gentle curves.

Blanket stitch – bring your thread onto the surface of the calico, placing your needle into the calico approximately half a centimetre away (diagonally) bringing you needle back onto the surface approximately half a centimetre below. Wrap the thread around the needle forming an L shape. Continue this process. Blanket stitches should be the same depth and width.


Satin stitch and chain stitch

1. Draw a leaf shape on the calico as shown.

Satin stitch - if you are working satin stitch for the first time you may wish to keep your stitches within 1cm width.

Bring the dark green thread onto the surface of the calico and working across the fabric in a straight line take your thread below the surface to resurface next to your first stitch. This will produce a solid block of colour.

Chain stitch – chain stitch can be used to outline a shape and if you work several rows of chain stitch alongside each other it can also be used as a filling stitch.

Bring the light green thread onto the surface of the calico and place the needle back in the fabric next to where the thread surfaced and let the needle surface approximately 3mm away. Wrap the thread around the needle and pull gently and you will have formed a chain stitch. Each stitch continues the chain.


Stem stitch, seeding and French knots

1. Draw leaf shapes on the calico as shown.

Stem stitch – starting at the base of the stem bring the thread onto the surface of the calico and place the needle back into the fabric approximately 5mm away and slightly to the left of the stem and bring the needle to the surface slightly to the right of the stem half the length of the first stitch. Repeat the first stitch until each stem is complete.

Seeding – seeding is simply a straight stitch carried out in a haphazard manner. Bring the thread onto the surface of the fabric and work a stitch approximately a millimetre in length bringing your needle approximately a millimetre away in a random manner.

French knots – bring your needle onto the surface of the fabric and place the needle back into the fabric very close to where it surfaced and bring your needle onto the surface approximately 1mm away. Wrap the thread around the needle and return the needle to the underside of the fabric which will produce a knot on the surface. The more times you wrap the thread around the needle the bigger the French knot.


 Design for Jacobean embroidery

Using the techniques and shapes you have used for the samples you can complete the design given.


Stitched hand embroidery panel

The panel could be used for a cushion, draught excluder or an item of your choice.


Jacobean stitched picture

We have used the stitches demonstrated to create a picture.

Contemporary Jacobean work

You could also use the stitches to create a picture with a more contemporary feel.


Series on hand embroidery techniques

If you like hand embroidery, please follow our 10-part hand embroidery series.