Deerfield Embroidery

Hi everyone

This post is going to focus on Deerfield Embroidery. The inspiration is a table mat stitched by Marjorie Gilby that Stewart Bath has photographed.

Where is Deerfield?

Deerfield embroidery is based on Crewel Work. It evolved in a small town in Massachusetts which you can see on a map here.

It’s a very picturesque New England town


What’s the story of Deerfield embroidery? 

In 1898 two women Margaret Christine Whiting and Ellen Miller founded the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework.

They had found some very moth-eaten and threadbare pieces of 18th century Jacobean embroidery that had been stitched locally in New England. They wanted to replicate them so that the history and beauty of these pieces wouldn’t be lost.

At the time Crewel work was out of fashion so they had to research the materials and stitches needed to reproduce these earlier pieces. The development of Deerfield embroidery was influenced by the following practical realities:

  • the 18th century Crewel work designs had already been adapted by New England needlewomen so that they used less thread and materials.
  • the aniline dyes that were in general use after the Civil War proved to be unsuitable for dyeing embroidery thread. Most of the colours were too harsh and faded quickly when exposed to the sun
  • moth attack on textiles was a reality of daily life and therefore wool threads and materials could not be used. This forced a move to flax and linen.

As a result the earliest  embroideries produced by the Society were stitched with blue and white linen threads and the occasional brown shades. The blue colours were based on hand dyeing with indigo and the browns from dyeing with local tree barks.

For most people Deerfield embroidery is synonymous with blue and white embroidery.  But in fact over the life of the Society from 1898 to 1930 a whole range of colours was gradually introduced based on natural plant dyes – madder (reds and pinks), fustic (yellow) etc.

Stitches used in Deerfield

The stitches are those typical of Crewel work – Outline and Stem Stitch, Herringbone Stitch, Chain Stitch,Feather Stitch, Fly Stitch, Coral Stitch (called Snail Trail), Buttonhole and Blanket Stitch (called Spike Stitch), Satin Stitch, Seed Stitch, Lattice Stitch etc.

There were also some local variants of stitches:

  • New England Laid Stitch (both open and closed forms) which is essentially Roumanian Stitch;
  • Honeycombe Stitch which is very similar to interlocking Buttonhole Stitch but with virtually no thread carried through to the back of the fabric (one of the thread thrifty variations of classic stitches) and
  • Crows Feet Stitch which is essentially three straight stitches in the pattern \|/

Marjorie’s Deerfield Table Mat

Now for the eye candy. Here are the photos of Marjorie’s mat:

Deerfield Embroidery Napkin stitched by Marjorie Gilby

detail 1 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 2 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 3 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 4 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 5 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 6 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 7 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 8 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Detail 9 of Deerfield Embroidery stitched by Marjorie Gilby

Other Examples of Deerfield

There’s also this example of Deerfield stitched by Margaret Kelemen in our Crewel and Surface Stitchery Gallery:

Deerfield embroidery

Deerfield embroidery stitched by Margaret Kelemen

and another piece stitched for the Guild’s collection of samples of different types of embroidery. This sample was stitched by Cecilia Skene:

Deerfield Embroidery Sample from the Guilds Collecton

 Deborah Love’s Wonderful Website

If you’d like to see some more exquisitely stitched Deerfield then head over to Deborah Love’s website and admire her awesome pieces of Deerfield Embroidery. Deborah is the President of the Queensland Guild.

Other Resources

If you want to read more of the history of this embroidery style then Deerfield Embroidery: Traditional Patterns from Colonial Massachusetts by Marjery Burnham Howe is a great read. The author was a neighbour of Margaret Whiting in the 1930s and she really evokes the social and cultural context of the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework. By the way they used ‘Needlework’ and not ‘Crewel work’ because they used linen rather than wool materials and threads.

Marjorie a big thanks once again for sharing your work with us.

bye for now



Looking over Shoulders 8

Hi everyone

Here I am back in Canberra which is amazingly mild for this time of the year.

The trip to Central Australia was a blast but I did feel a twinge at missing the Greenhills stitching weekend. By all accounts it was fantastic fun – lots of stitching, friendship, laughter, chat and good food.

Our wonderful Jillian Bath took lots of great photos for you……..if you want a closer look just click on the photo

Ruth was working on this bright appliqué

Ruth Applique

and Kathy Pascoe on this Canvaswork

Kathy Pascoe Canvas work

Pat Bootland was making progress on this Alison Cole Goldwork design

Goldwork by Pay Bootland

Tina Korda worked on her stitchery

Stitchery by Tina Korda

Stitchery 2 by Tina Korda

She also made this wool flower brooch in the special workshop

Wool Flower Brroch by Tina Korda

This delicate Brazilian embroidery was in Mercia Needham’s hoop

Brazilian Embroidery by Mercia Needham

and this one in Kay Reid’s hoop

Brazilian Embroidery by Kay Reid

Kay also found time to work on this stitchery

Stitchery by Kay Reid

Hazel Hunt was also working on a lovely piece of surface stitching

Hazel Hunt tablecloth

Hazel Hunt tablecloth 2

Gail Haidon is almost there with her wool embroidery project

Wool Embroidery by Gail Haidon

Anne Dowling had a couple of projects on the go – this Canvaswork with a real pop of colour

Canvaswork by Anne Dowling

Close up of Canvaswork by Anne Dowling

and this cute Christmas appliqué

Anne Dowling Applique

Diana Churchill was also working on a Christmas hanging

Diana Churchill Xmas hanging

A couple of people were stitching away on Crewel work – Pam Hynd on this softly coloured but complex pattern

Crewel work by Pam Hynd

and Claire Westley on this detailed design

Crewel work by Claire Westley

Antoinette Stojadinovic had her feet up knitting a scarf – look at those cool red shoes!

Antoinette knitting scarfand this funky cat being stitched by Lel Whitbread

Lel Whitbreads Cat

Liz Bell was cross stitching this elegant alphabet

Cross Stitch by Liz Bellwhile Margaret O’Beirne was working on this super cute owl and friends

Cross Stitch by Margaret OBeirne

Sarah Kimmorley was making progress on her postcard

Stitchery by Sarah Kimmorley

This retro Blackwork project of Susan Coates is very striking

Susan Blackwork

as is this quilt that Lynn Burgess was working on

Lynn Burgess Quilt

A traditional Deerfield design was emerging from Fran Novitski’s hoop

Deerfield by Fran Novitski

While Sue McLean was tatting

Tatting by Sue McLean

and Lesley Jemesen was doing Hardanger

Hardanger by Lesley Jemesen

as was Rosemary Daniels

Hardanger 2 by Rosemary Daniels

A mystery person had finished this pile of crochet squares – if someone can let me know a name I’ll add it to this post

Crochet squares

Workshop on Paper Folding

As well as doing an awesome job of organising this stitching weekend Brenda Phillips also taught a Paper Folding workshop. Here’s a quick peek

paper folding 3


paper folding 2

Paper folding 1

Paper folding 4

A big thanks to Brenda and Jillian for all their hard work.