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Stumpwork and Raised Embroidery

Updated on January 6, 2014

Stumpwork and Raised Embroidery

Learn a little bit about the traditional English style of raised embroidery now known as stumpwork, learn the best way to set about mastering the techniques and see some recommended book titles. Have a go for yourself!

All photos are pieces worked by myself and more can be seen on my blog:

Rabbit worked by me!
Rabbit worked by me!


A little background information

What we now usually refer to as 'stumpwork' got going in England in the seventeenth century, post Elizabeth I's reign. In those days, quite complex scenes telling stories - often from the Bible and the Apocrypha - were worked using various methods of raising the stitches. Scale was often inconsistent so that a pear hanging on a tree may be several times larger than it 'should' have been and a bee flying nearby was a similar size. Lots of needlelace was worked and there were many human and animal figures portrayed. The technique was brought back into the spotlight in the late twentieth century by seminal stumpworkers such as the late Barbara Hurst and Muriel Best.

Modern raised work seems to be divided into two major categories - variations of the original style using modern methods and materials; and very realistic nature studies making use of wiring techniques. Some prominent stumpworkers also blend in techniques in ribbon embroidery (South African Di Van Niekerk being one of these) and goldwork (see the work of Alison Cole from Australia). Other big names in the modern raised embroidery field are the UK's Kay Dennis and Australian Jane Nicholas.

It's not known exactly how the term 'stumpwork' came into being and there are people in the textiles world who actually object to its usage, preferring 'raised embroidery' instead. Personally, I'm happy with either, as long as what I want to describe is clearly understood.

What do you call this style of work?

Should we say 'stumpwork' or is 'raised embroidery' better?

See results

Learning Stumpwork

Master the technique for yourself

I'm often asked what the best way to learn stumpwork is. My answer is usually: Buy a kit and work that. The reasons for this are many, but two come to mind quickly: The instructions are usually thorough and designed with beginners in mind; and they contain everything you need so that you don't have to source speciality materials such as wires. Not only is everything on hand in about the right quantities, but you don't have a lot of stuff hanging around if you decide that the technique isn't for you. The picture you can see here is one I worked from a (sadly, long since deleted) DMC kit.

Moving on from that and you want to create some more advanced pieces, there are several excellent books on the market and a few good embroidery magazines also regularly feature raised projects. If you've never bought 'Inspirations' magazine before, then that might be a good investment. The UK 'Stitch' magazine also offers stumpwork pieces from time to time.

Finally, once you've got the basics well and truly under your belt, then is a good time to start thinking about designing and working your own pieces. Some people are very keen and want to start at this point, but I feel it's best to let an expert take you by the hand and guide you through the process in the initial stages.

Stumpwork books from Amazon - Learn from the experts!

Here are some of the best titles in the stumpwork field today. I own all of these myself and can recommend!

RSN ESG: Stumpwork: Essential Stitch Guides (Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guides)
RSN ESG: Stumpwork: Essential Stitch Guides (Royal School of Needlework Essential Stitch Guides)

One of the most recent recent titles giving a really good 'how to' for creating faces and hands on figures. Very up to date application of traditional techniques.

Beginner's Guide to Stumpwork (Beginner's Guide to Needlecraft)
Beginner's Guide to Stumpwork (Beginner's Guide to Needlecraft)

A good introductory guide to what's possible covering figurative work (with lots of needlelace tuition) and a little modern wirework.

Stumpwork Seasons
Stumpwork Seasons

A wonderful project book detailing how to make the four seasons picture shown on the cover.

A-Z of Stumpwork (A-Z Embroidery Series)
A-Z of Stumpwork (A-Z Embroidery Series)

Step-by-step instructions on creating all the raised embroidery stitches you'll need as well as needlelace stitches, using bead and wirework.

The Complete Book of Stumpwork Embroidery (Milner Craft Series)
The Complete Book of Stumpwork Embroidery (Milner Craft Series)

A practical guide to creating so many raised work elements - flowers, fruit, insects etc, complete with designs bringing them together into beautiful projects.


Jane Nicholas Specialised Stumpwork Books - Concentrating on certain topics

Stumpwork Butterflies & Moths (Milner Craft Series)
Stumpwork Butterflies & Moths (Milner Craft Series)

Her brand new book focusing on wonderful butterflies etc!

The Stumpwork, Goldwork and Surface Embroidery Beetle Collection (Milner Craft Series)
The Stumpwork, Goldwork and Surface Embroidery Beetle Collection (Milner Craft Series)

This is a huge volume of well over 400 pages with lots of photos. Also covers techniques in goldwork and flatwork embroidery.

Stumpwork Dragonflies (Sally Milner Craft Series)
Stumpwork Dragonflies (Sally Milner Craft Series)

Everything you need to know to create realistic stitched dragonflies.

Stumpwork Medieval Flora (Milner Craft Series)
Stumpwork Medieval Flora (Milner Craft Series)

How to create 8 stumpwork pictures inspired by medieval illuminations.


Classic, out of print titles - Can still often be found second-hand

These are the classic stumpwork texts that most really keen raised embroiderers will have on their bookshelves. Although they're out of print, there are always copies being sold via Amazon sellers.

Raised Embroidery: A Practical Guide to Decorative Stumpwork
Raised Embroidery: A Practical Guide to Decorative Stumpwork

This is the main text to get by the modern queen of the technique! She uses a lot of the traditional style but with a modern look.

Stumpwork: Historical and Contemporary Raised Embroidery
Stumpwork: Historical and Contemporary Raised Embroidery

Muriel Best's book even covers clay modelling for your piece!

Stumpwork: The Art of Raised Embroidery
Stumpwork: The Art of Raised Embroidery

Dating from 1978, this is possibly the oldest of the modern texts.

Stumpwork Figures
Stumpwork Figures

A relatively short volume that I wished I owned, but is now fairly hard to get a low cost copy of. Worth looking for!


Blending Stumpwork with Other Techniques - Add in some ribbons or some goldwork...

Some modern raised embroiderers are creating wonderful pieces by merging stumpwork styles with other impressive embroidery techniques. Sample some for yourself with these terrific titles!

The Threads & Crafts book of Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork (Threads & Crafts)
The Threads & Crafts book of Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork (Threads & Crafts)

Di van Niekerk has written several books blending stumpwork with ribbon embroidery. I like this one the best. I learned to do raised flowers that were not wired through this volume!

All That Glitters
All That Glitters

Spectacular projects for those who like something really good to sink their teeth into.


Have you tried stumpwork yet? - Tell me about it...

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      You asked about what to call this - I voted for Stumpwork as Brazilian Dimensional Embroidery can also be called Raised Embroidery, but Stumpwork is Stumpwork. Just my 2 cents.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 

      4 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      How lovely! I don't do needlework- I stick to knitting-but I really admire your skils.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Gosh no, I'm not very craft talented LOL I even bring my hemming over to the neighbour... shhhh don't tell!

    • tonyaalves3 profile image


      4 years ago

      no, I have not tried yet, but will start soon.

    • SavioC profile image


      4 years ago

      Actually reading about this for the first time. Looks great. My wife loves to do embroidery so she will find this very interesting. She also goes by the same name as yours. You have put on a neat first lens. Keep it up.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      4 years ago from Kansas

      Beautiful work. I've not seen this before. I learned to do embroidery as a girl but have not done it since.

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 

      5 years ago

      How charming! I've only seen this style of embroidery a few times in my life. Your work is beautiful.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      That's really cool, first time on your lens. Fantastic by the way!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Yes, a long time ago. We call this work "Å tikanje"

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I did this when I was in school but it's been several years since. It is beautiful.

    • Sunflower2423 profile image


      5 years ago

      This is cute and interesting. I would love to do this but it would probably take me awhile to learn. I loved the picture of the raised bee as well. I enjoyed reading your lens.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice Lens.

    • Elizabeth Braun profile imageAUTHOR

      Elizabeth Braun 

      5 years ago from Sheffiled, UK

      @LiteraryMind: Thank you for your kind compliments.=) Stumpwork kits aren't that easy to find, but they are available. As far as I remember, the US company Nordic Needle had some. Beginners kits are in the minority and I hope, in time, to release a range of my own...

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I have never heard of stumpwork. I have done embroidery where it combined several different kinds of stitches but never this raised. I am not even sure we have stumpwork kits in the US. This is a great lens and your work is absolutely beautiful.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      5 years ago from UK

      This looks like a needlecraft I'd enjoy. Oddly I hadn't come across it before so found this an interesting read and some of those books look appealing. Beautiful work on your own projects, that bunny is so cute!


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