This chapter talks about structure-producing, three-dimensional embroidery techniques. There are plenty of possibilities to raise the surface of an embroidery piece or an Art Quilt to a third dimension. Maybe you have learned about some of them in one of my classes – “piled high and round as a globe”; I would like to introduce more of them here.

Structures are particularly impressive in a white/cream color combination, if you let light and shadows play a role. You can achieve it with other colors, too, of course, but the best option is always monochrome. Below is my quilt “Sunken Treasure”, which I created from fabrics and threads dyed with walnut shells. And goldwork. And ocean critters from our glass-blowing studio…

Hochgetürmt und Kugelrund

Hochgetürmt und Kugelrund

Quilt mit 3-D-Goldstickerei

Quilt mit 3-D-Goldstickerei


“Stumpwork is a type of raised embroidery worked on a background and then transferred to another background. Stumpwork is three-dimensional due to the integration of paddings, beads, wire and/or needle lace”.  This quote by Jeanmarie Bruccia starts off her internet site


Kleine Stumpwork-Übung

of elaborations on the subject of stumpwork, a technique that had its heyday in England during the 17th century. After this it supposedly sank into nearly complete oblivion. Other sources, however, talk about how English girls, before starting the serious task of monogram embroidery and the building of their linen inventory, were taught how to design small stumpwork dolls and thus were introduced in a playful way to the more difficult techniques.

Not too many historic originals have survived, as conservation was difficult. There are, however, a few extremely lovely stumpwork boxes dating back to this time, displaying biblical scenes, for example. Like many other embroidery techniques stumpwork was first used in the context of the church and only later entered the secular realm. These much more wordly-oriented depictions including fruit, plants and animals are also known as “Elizabethan Embroidery”.



Fascinating little embroidered dolls (above: golf player) can be found, for example, in the book “Raised Embroidery, A Practical Guide to Decorative Stumpwork” by Roy and Barbara Hirst

Stumpwork-Buch von Kay Dennis

Stumpwork-Buch von Kay Dennis



  • Kay Dennis: Beginner’s Guide to Stumpwork, Search Press
  • A-Z of Stumpwork, Country Bumpkin Publications
  • Barbara and Roy Hirst: Raised Embroidery: A Practical Guide to Decorative Stumpwork, Murdoch Books
  • Barbara and Roy Hirst: New Designs in Raised Embroidery, Murdoch Books

The bibliography lists various books by Jane Nicholas, which are all beautiful and highly recommended. To start with, however, I would advise you to read the first two books on the list. The following books are all by Jane Nicholas and all published by Sally Milner Craft Series: ‘The Complete Book of Stumpwork Embroidery’.

  • Stumpwork Embroidery: A Collection of Fruits, Flowers & Insects for Contemporary Raised Embroidery
  • Stumpwork Dragonflies
  • Stumpwork Embroidery Designs and Projects (Milner Craft (Hardcover))
  • The Stumpwork, Goldwork and Surface Embroidery Beetle Collection


Casalguidi is named after a village near Florence, where this type of whitework embroidery originated. The particularly typical components of this type of embroidery are the backgrounds worked as threads that are pulled together (Ajour) and the intertwined lines embroidered over them in a raised stem stitch. You also find a lot of needle lace over paddings in these designs. You will also often find small tassels made of embroidery worked over spheres.

Originally Casalguidi was stitched exclusively on linen and was always white. Only at second glance do you discover how versatile the possibilities are that Casalguidi offers the contemporary embroiderer and how convertible its expressions. You can work with colorful threads and create, for example, the most beautiful underwater worlds or very abstract works full of wonderful structural depth. Many stitches in this module are borrowed from Casalguidi. The book “Casalguidi Linen Embroidery” is a real treasure trove, but it is unfortunately out of print.


There are occasions, though, when structure is not achieved with the help of added material, but by using particularly thick threads, as, for example, in the Irish Mountmellick Embroidery; or the “Candlewick” technique invented by workers in a candle factory, who started to embroider with the thick white wicks after work and thus developped this beautiful embroidery technique. These techniques would really deserve their own chapter.

Brazilian Embroidery

Brazilian Embroidery is a technique obtaining its three-dimensional effect only due to the finesse of the stitches. Brazilian Embroidery is still very new, as it originated around 1960; an important characteristic is the traditional use of rayon threads, which I do not actually recommend, at least not for beginners. Working with rayon thread is quite difficult, because the thread is wonderfully shiny, but very slippery. However, those who would like to make use of the beautiful sheen and appreciate the challenge of difficult threads should be encouraged to give it a try. The technique can by all means be realised with other threads, though, the typical sheen can be achieved to a great extent with silk thread.

Brazilian Embroidery

Brazilian Embroidery, gestickt mit dem glänzenden

Many stitches taken from Brazilian Embroidery (e.g. cast-on and double-cast-on-stitch) can be found in the above-mentioned online dictionary of stitches.


Pat Trott also picked up stitches of this technique in her commendable book , although she never even uses the word “Brazilian”.

Pat Trott: Three Dimensional Embroidery Stitches, Search Press

Auch auf Kanvas (zählbarem Stoff) kann man sehr frei mit viel Struktur gestalten

Auch auf Kanvas (zählbarem Stoff)
kann man sehr frei mit viel Struktur gestalten

Experimentell Forms

In my opinion you can embroider anything onto a quilt that does not decay (mold, rot) or that is not so heavy that it pulls the quilt down onto the ground. I am sure you have plenty of ideas of your own. Nothing is safe from most textile artists. They rummage through motorbike shops, feel right at home in junk yards and on flea markets, drive pet shop sales assistants to despair, because they want to purchase rubber hoses, but cannot answer questions about the pump size of the fish tank. Or they confuse family members, because they suddenly start spreading out the laundry dryer’s lint on the kitchen table and sorting it by color…

A tip to conclude: do take a look at related disciplines. You can get inspired by florists’ supplies, you can stuff knitted things, crochet with wire or sculpt with Polymer Clay, spin your own thick yarns and ply them again to double their size, but above all you should look to felt! You can create any desired shapes and paddings from felt, in any color imaginable, wet felted with water and soap, or needle felted with a special needle. A lot of new things have emerged in this particular area; refer also to the chapter on needle felting.

(c) Anne Lange, 2007