Elizabethan Casket by Betsy Morgan
11th October 2019
Needleworkers delight in exquisite accessories for their cherished stitching tools and enchanting receptacles to hold them.
There’s even a lovely word for these containers – etuis.
Since the mid-90s Betsy Morgan has been designing and teaching beautiful counted work etuis with matching accessories and her most captivating designs have been brought together in our brand-new book ‘Willing Hands’.
Each of the eight etuis featured are accompanied by a selection of matching accessories including scissor sheaths and fobs, needlebooks, pincushions, thread winders and thimble cases. Each piece has been worked with silk threads on counted linen, and colour charts have been provided for each design in the book, along with detailed stitching and construction instructions along with a comprehensive stitch guide.
Today we’re taking a closer look at the magnificent project ‘Elizabethan Casket’ featured on the front cover of the book.
Elizabethan embroidered caskets have captured the hearts of needleworkers with enchanting stumpwork and surface stitching depicting grottos, thematic figures dressed in needlelace finery, trees laden with acorns or fruit, and exotic creatures and insects.
For those with the means to afford the materials, the caskets were perfect to showcase embroidery flair while holding items precious to the stitcher such as valuable embroidery tools, jewellery, writing equipment or treasured trinkets.
Some years ago, Betsy participated in a stitching project undertaken by the Northwest Sampler Guild in Seattle, Washington to create a reproduction of the Martha Edlin Casket that is held in the collection of the V&A Museum in London. After stitching one of the panels, Betsy was inspired to design her own casket in counted thread and the project ‘Elizabethan Casket’ was birthed.
Betsy used the distinctive shape of Martha’s casket as a starting point, replicating the sloping panels and a raised upper section in the lid. For simplicity, the lid is constructed to be one piece that is removed to access the silk-lined box base. Caskets usually have a theme that is depicted in the main embroidered panels, and Martha Edlin stitched figures representing the seven virtues.
Betsy celebrated her love of counted thread samplers with the theme of sampler motifs from different countries.
19th century samplers from Virginia often featured a house set in a garden as the focal point. Betsy designed a motif in this style for the front panel of the etui to honour her connection to Virginia, the state that was her home for 24 years. The back panel, with a beautiful floral motif, references 17th century English sampler bands. One end panel showcases Assisi work and the other end panel, with an alphabet and band designs, represents Bristol orphanage samplers.
The lid of Martha’s casket features animals on the sloping panels and a number of geometric panels on the vertical edges. Betsy also created a selection of animal designs for the lid of her etui and gave the position of honour on the upper lid panel to her husband’s beloved greyhound, Merlin.
For her geometric patterns, Betsy turned to her memories of quilting and used quilt block patterns to fill the diamonds around the lower edge of the lid. The accessories designed to be stored in the etui also follow the sampler motif theme. The delightful thimble bag is inspired by Dutch samplers, as is the alphabet on the pin cube.
The needlebook, trimmed with silk ribbon, features Aztec stitch from Mexican embroidery on one side and Spanish sampler motifs on the other.
The geometric design of the scissor holder is worked in pattern darning and the scissor fob motifs are inspired by Quaker samplers.
Betsy’s Elizabethan Casket etui is utterly captivating and, like the original casket that inspired it, is a special storage place that showcases a passion for stitching.
Make Your Own Elizabethan Casket
Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions
Elizabethan Casket by Betsy Morgan is a superb box etui inspired by a 17th century embroidered casket.
Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit
The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Elizabethan Casket includes everything you need to re-create this superb etui and accessories: Fabrics (unprinted), interfacing, interlining, mount board, felt embroidery threads, ribbon and needles.