UPDATE ON 24 APRIL 2022 – For some unknown reason, the majority of this page disappeared. I’ve gone back to find and restore the missing info.  Apologies if the links are still broken.  This is a work in progress.


I seem to have picked up some new readers here this week. I answer questions and comments from Kabira, Annanna, H. from Japan, and others. Recognizing that upon completion this heads to my pile of “finish me for display”, is unlikely to emerge before the holidays are over (and may not be seen again before spring) I post my wrap-up now on the almost-completed piece. Apologies for the length of this post.

First, thanks for your kind words. I’ve had a lot of fun stitching this piece. My sampler is more of an exercise in perseverance than anything else. The wide pattern strips, though complex, are not appreciably more difficult to stitch than are the narrow ones. All follow the same basic logic, and once a stitcher is used to following that logic the only thing that can go wrong is miscounting threads. (Bright, indirect light helps with that).

My sampler is worked on 36 count even weave linen, using one or two strands of standard DMC embroidery floss, colors #310 (black) and #498 (deep crimson). Worked over 2×2 threads, it’s done at 18 stitches per inch (about 7 per cm). The entire embroidered area measures out to roughly 16 x 32 inches (40.6 x 81.3 cm). I did not work it double sided, but the double sided logic does prevail.

The Clarke’s Law sampler, like all embroideries on this site, is an original composition. However the individual strips are adapted from or inspired by historical sources. I comb period modelbooks (mostly pattern books printed before 1650) and photos of museum artifacts, looking for goodies. Then I graph them out and stitch them up. I’ve been playing with patterns this way since the early 1970s, and over the years I’ve amassed a collection of designs. I put out a couple of leaflets within the Society for Creative Anachronism, the first one being issued in 1977/1978, and reprinted a couple of times thereafter. I released a second, better documented leaflet in 1983.

Then in in the ’90s some friends convinced me that others would find my notebooks useful (the leaflets containing only a small bit of what I’d been collecting) and introduced me to a publisher. The result was The New Carolingian Modelbook: Counted Embroidery Patterns from Before 1600 (TNCM). Sadly, the publisher turned out to be either exploitative or incompetent, or both, and to this day I’ve seen almost no return for the effort. But the book is out there, and continues to sell on the used book market for absurd prices. New copies continue to trickle in via eBay and a used book seller in New Mexico, so somewhere out there beyond my reach, there is still a source.

Be that as it may, I continue to collect and “play test” patterns on samplers like this one. Here’s an index to the sources for the 22 patterns used on the Clarke’s Law sampler:

1. TNCM Plate 32:1 “Twined Blossom and Interlace Meandering Repeat”. Known affectionately as “The Brooklyn Pattern.” Ultimate source – Domenico daSera. Opera Noua composta per Domenico da Sera detto il Francoisino. Venice, 1546 – one of my all time favorite modelbooks.

2. The alphabet for the main quote is from Sajou #55, posted by pattern archivist Ramzi at his Free Easy Cross, Pattern Maker, PC Stitch Charts and Free Historic Old Pattern Books blog site. Thanks, Ramzi! I played with it a bit, working the curlicues in red and weaving them over/under the letter forms.

3. TNCM Plate 69:1 “Grape Motif or Border Repeat”. I graphed it up originally from a photo in Drysdale’s Art of Blackwork Embroidery that showed the Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. The picture available on line is MUCH better than Drysdale’s black and white photo. Many of the other patterns on this piece come from this same source. Drysdale cites it as being Spanish, from the late 16th/early 17th Century. The V&A’s attribution is Italian, 16th Century. I’d go with the museum’s judgment on this one, and if given the chance to republish, would amend TNCM’s listing accordingly.

4. Plume Flowers. Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. I’ve charted this out on paper but other than stitching it here, I haven’t published it yet.

5. Hops. Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. I’ve charted this out on paper but other than stitching it here, I haven’t published it yet.

6. Column and Wreathe Repeat. Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. I’ve charted this out on paper but other than stitching it here, I haven’t published it yet.

7. TNCM 68:2 “Seam Decoration or Border Repeat”. Graphed from photo in Pascoe’s Blackwork Embroidery: Design and Technique. Pascoe cites this as being from 1545. The original was worked along the shoulder seam join line of a butted sleeve man’s shirt, stitched in all black.

8. Another alphabet from Ramzi’s Sajou collection. This one is from #172. It’s interesting to note that several of the late 1800s/early 1900s booklets he’s got quote some early modelbook patterns closely enough to recognize the direct line of heritage.

9. Meander Repeat. Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931, BUT this one appears on at least one other source, also on display at the V&A. The keeper of the website shows a display case with what’s clearly a close kin to the T.14-1931 pattern, but worked voided style. [2022 Edit note – I have since tracked down the particular strip that was included in the massed display artifact shown on the defunct website – it’s Victoria & Albert Museum’s Border, dated 1600s, accession 503-1877. The massed display in which it is mounted is also pictured on the V&A’s page.]

10. Yet Another Meander Repeat (I’m running out of descriptive names). This one is also from Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. I’ve charted this out on paper but other than stitching it here, I haven’t published it yet. I worked it voided, although the original is in double running only.

11 a-d (top to bottom)

a. TNCM 55:1. “Snail Border Repeat”. My original, inspired by period designs.

b. TNCM 51:1 “Brier Rose Twining Border Repeat” My original, inspired by period sources. Also in my second booklet, Counted Thread Patterns from Before 1600, published informally in the SCA circa 1983.

c. My first booket, Blackwork published in 1978. Pattern #j, which I cited as being Italian counted thread work from the 1500s. No citation though, which is why it didn’t make the cut for later booklets.

d. TNCM 52:2. “Flower and Bud Meandering Border Repeat”. My original, inspired by period designs.

12 a-d (top to bottom)

a. My first booket, Blackwork published in 1978. Pattern #gg, which I cited as being English, very early 1500s. No exact source though, and I didn’t include it in TNCM for that reason.

b. TNCM 54:3 “Pomegranate Meandering Repeat” and #53 Counted Thread Patterns from Before 1600. Another one of my own, inspired by period sources.

c. TNCM 49:2 “Acorn Meandering Border Repeat” One of the early set I graphed from the photo in Drysdale’s Art of Blackwork Embroidery that showed the Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931.

d. TNCM 44:2 “Acanthus Meandering Border Repeat” also #55 from Counted Thread Patterns from Before 1600. Yet another from the Drysdale photo of Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. (I do adore that source!)

13. Wreath and Columns Repeat. Victoria & Albert Museum’s artifact T.14-1931. I’ve charted this out by hand but other than stitching it here, I haven’t published it yet.

14. Columbines(?) and Twists Voided Repeat. This one also appears on the same Drakt website photo taken at the V&A as one of the sources for #9, above. I can’t make out the artifact’s accession number though. And yes – I graphed it direct from the on line photo, as seen on the screen.

15. TNCM 58:1 “Strawberries and Violets Meandering Border Repeat.” Also #61 in Counted Thread Patterns from Before 1600. This is the pattern adapted from the very famous Jane Bostocke sampler, also resident in the V&A. But my source materials were photos in Gostelow’s International Book of Embroidery and King and Levy’s The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750. If you’re familiar with those sources you’ll understand why my squinting at them came up with the odd raspberries in between the flowers, instead of what can now be plainly seen as simple twists on the V&A’s own photo page. I’d amend the description to “After Bostocke..” were I to republish TNCM now.

16. Black strip pattern. From page 57 of Louisa Pesel’s Historical Designs for Embroidery, but I worked it outlined and voided instead of foreground stitched.

The patterns I tested on this piece will probably make their way into a sequel to TNCM – once I find a graphing program capable of handling double running stitch with ease, and that can chart out giant repeats at a small, but useful gauge. I want to be able to present largest of these patterns on a single page, and to do it using a background dots and voided line style of presentation which I came up with for use in TNCM, and which I find much easier to follow than regular dark line on background graph paper charts:

tinyjesters.gif (Snippet of Jesters pattern, TNCM 69:2)

What’s next? I’m not sure. I’m certainly not stitched out. I’d like to do another big sampler to try out more patterns, but I haven’t decided on its size or form yet. There’s also the possibility of a set of matched but not matched napkins – six all using the same colors, but all different. There’s also a pile of holiday knitting to achieve between now and the end of the year. Rest assured – I won’t be idle.

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One response

  1. Thanks for the explanation – I have the NCMB which I acquired on Ebay and have verified from your description that it is one of the original published lot. I love looking through and dreaming… I’m keeping an eye open for future posssibilities coming from you! Pat

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