Tree of Life by Alison Cole

21st February 2020

The tree of life was a symbol used frequently during the Jacobean period, stitched in many variations on bed coverings, upholstery and curtains. The tree itself is an ancient symbol which appears in many of the world’s religions and philosophies.

Its overarching symbolism refers to creation and the connection of all things, made all the more relevant by the symbol itself transcending cultures, belonging to and being revered by all equally.

The tree of life has been stitched in many different styles, but the one we’re probably most familiar with is the version we see in crewel embroidery. Characterised by oversized and mismatched leaves and fruits, the Jacobean Tree of Life is a wonderfully whimsical interpretation of this ancient symbol. 

Alison Cole’s ‘Tree of Life’ from Inspirations issue #105 has taken the tree as her subject, but she’s produced a truly unique and glittering version of this historic design. Remaining true to the Jacobean shape and style, Alison’s piece is rendered in a dazzling array of gold, paillettes, beads and metal threads.

Alison has selected several familiar Jacobean flowers and fruits for this project but has redesigned them in her exquisite way. The pomegranate, a frequent Jacobean motif, represents fertility and abundance.

Alison’s pomegranate is bursting with sparkling beads and is framed by leaves shimmering with the iridescent blues and greens of paua shell and Elphin green couching thread.

Her lily combines gold with mauves and greens to produce a flower that catches and reflects the light like water.

Then, nestled beneath a raised organza leaf, you’ll find a plump bunch of golden grapes, tendrils curling from them like springs. And the whole tree sits atop traditional triple hillocks, observed by a tiny snail who is necessarily out of proportion to comply with traditional Jacobean style.

If you are new to goldwork or have tried a little but aren’t confident, then this project, which seems extensive, is in fact a perfect place to start. This is because Alison has designed this magnificent piece to be a sampler, allowing you to try a multitude of different goldwork techniques and master each one. 

S-ING step by step

In doing so, the Tree of Life will give you the perfect springboard to try other goldwork designs, as you will have been guided through by Alison’s wonderful instructions and beautiful, professional style.

It is important that you lace your initial fabric tightly onto your frame using the method outlined within the instructions – a calico base, with the satin stitched on using a herringbone stitch, then pulled drum tight. This firmness is essential to keep your stitches neat and your gold thread placed correctly.

But remember, once your piece is laced into your frame, it is unwise to remove it until it is complete.

Although we suspect that, once started, this tree of life will absorb you completely, putting all other projects out of your mind for the duration!

When asked if she had any other advice for the stitcher, Alison replied that enjoying every step of the process was the only thing she required. 

Goldwork is slow and requires a great deal of care but achieving all of the textures and techniques offered in this wonderful project will make it all worthwhile. 

Make Your Own Tree of Life

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Tree of Life by Alison Cole is a superb goldwork embroidery showcasing a compelling variety of techniques and metal threads.

Printed Magazines

Inspirations Issue 105


Tree of Life by Alison Cole

Digital Patterns

Tree of Life – i105 Digital

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Tree of Life includes everything you need to re-create this popular motif: Fabrics (unprinted), wool felts, kid leather, Paua shell laminate, wire, silk and metal embroidery threads, beads, paillettes and needles.


Tree of Life – i105 Kit

Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the magazine/digital pattern.

Goldwork Masterclass Book

By Alison Cole

The opulence of metal thread embroidery was once only the domain of royalty, the church and military regalia, but today it’s readily available for all embroiderers to enjoy.

Printed Books

The Goldwork Masterclass

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