Category Archives: Clarke’s Law Sampler


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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It’s been a while since I posted a whole-sampler shot of my Clarke’s Law piece:


As you can see, I’m on the last little bit of the final strip at the very bottom. I like this one (but I like all of them). I think it would be exquisite as a narrow edging band around cuffs and collar of a Renaissance era woman’s shift or man’s shirt, like those on these Veneto paintings circa 1502-1531.

Even with my anticipated workload this week I should be able to knock out that teensy bit by Thursday, latest. All that’s left after that is to fill in some of the shorter line ends with a bit of blackwork fillings; to sign the thing somewhere; and to finish it off with a black fabric mitered edge. Jury is still out on whether I’ll frame or scroll mount the thing for final display, but once it’s up my wall will be home to one of the universe’s ten most nerdy samplers.

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If you follow here you know I do try to keep personal bits out of this blog, but my absence over the past two weeks was due to a family funeral. My mother’s husband passed away. He was an upright guy, an affectionate and attentive companion, an avid reader, splendid raconteur, bon vivant, and just fun to be around. He made her very happy for all too short a time, and will be sorely missed by our family and his.

In spite of being away, work has been progressing (ever so slowly) on my Clarke’s Law sampler. I finished the strawberry band, and started in on the narrow strip at the very bottom:



Apologies for the dark photos. It’s a dark morning. Click on either one for a more legible enlargement.

The design of the narrow black strip is based on a pattern published in Louisa Pesel’s Historical Designs for Embroidery, but I worked it outlined and voided instead of foreground stitched.

Knitters, be enheartened. I also started a pair of socks on the plane. I’m about half way through sock one, working Knitty’s Outside In by Janice Kang in a screaming russet – the orange favored by Elder Daughter. Who will be thrilled to read this post.

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A look at how far I’ve gotten on this last strip, sans frame:


I still think a narrow dark black strip is needed below this panel to establish a visual border along the bottom edge. After that the only stitching left is to fill in some small doodles at the motto’s line ends where my text didn’t span horizon to horizon. And to finish off the thing I need to edge out the piece with mitered fabric strips (sort of a self-matting made from cloth), and figure out whether to frame or rod-suspend the final piece. I’ve been working on this now since the first week of December, averaging between 30 and 45 minutes per day. Not particularly fast, but about what I thought it would take when I embarked on my project.

To answer my far-flung offspring – What’s next? Not sure. I owe a ton of holiday socks, so I may take a knitting interlude. But I haven’t broken the stitch itch yet, and will probably start another randomly executed band sampler, although I haven’t decided it it should include a saying, some alphabets, or be just another collection of patterns I’m auditioning for future publication.

Another possibility is the immense dragon from my favorite source (seen at the left of center in the photo). I’ve already begun charting it up. It’s gigantic. Just the little pepper shaped blossom object at the lower right spans more than 40 stitches. Given that few people appear to be interested in this stitching style at the level of complexity that fascinates me, I’m not sure if a multi-page dragon graph would be of use to anyone else. Still, I might do it just for the fun of just doing it. We’ll see.

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Evidence of progress on my penultimate (possibly ultimate) strawberry panel, way down at the bottom of my Clarke’s Law sampler:


A strip this wide with a voided filling does take a bit of time to complete. Still, I’m chugging along, about a quarter of the way through, perhaps a bit more. And I’m thinking on what to do next. I do owe a ton of holiday socks that need to be knit between now and the end of the year. But I’m just not engaged to produce socks right now. What I want to do is to keep stitching. It’s always a bittersweet moment when a project is within sight of the end. There’s impatience to be done with it and be on to the next. There’s indecision about the direction of the next work. And there’s dissatisfaction with and pride in the current piece mixed 50/50. I can see what I’d have done differently on this one, and I can also point to bits that turned out even better than I expected.

In the mean time, I hope someone got use out of the three part tutorial on stitching logic. Here are recap direct links to all of the posts:

Double Running Stitch Logic 101 – Two Sided Work and Baseline Identification

Double Running Stitch Logic 102 – Working from the Baseline

Double Running Stitch Logic 103 – Accreted and Hybrid Approaches

I also took an earlier and less organized stab at the subject here:

Double Running Stitch Logic

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I’m still working on the accreted section post, but I’ll hop in to answer my own questions from my last note.

First, here’s progress to date on the current strip.


The baseline anomaly in this one may be easier to spot now. If you click on the image above and look closely you’ll see that the pattern is composed of two identical sections that never meet. There’s a void that runs through the entire longitudinal stem. Therefore since the upper and lower sections are totally separate, there are TWO baselines in this one, an upper and a lower one. Here’s a suggested baseline for the upper section:


And the baseline for the lower section:


Sneaky to be sure. But the sneakiness is my fault based on a misinterpretation of the sources I had available.

This pattern is graphed out in TNCM as my (early) interpretation of the center-most design in the lower section of the ultra famous Jane Bostocke sampler in the V&A. At the time I did this I was working from a tiny 2″ square photo in a book, and did not have the luxury of the magnificent photos now available on line. I did the best I could under the circumstances, fudging the little violets in the center somewhat, missing the ornament running down the center of the main vine (which may or may not connect the top and bottom halves of the pattern) and missing the true nature of what looks to be mulberries between the strawberries in my piece. In the original they’re more like little spiral tendrils. I’ve also missed a couple of other fruits/leaves branching from the main line. If I were to re-issue this design now I’d play up “inspired by” in my description. Still even with my clumsy amendations, the pattern is recognizable as a scion of the Bostocke design. Or perhaps not since no one identified it over the past week.

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Another quickie. First apologies to the mathematicians and topologists among us. I should have more correctly stated “any continuous wall maze can be solved by following a right hand (or left hand) wall.” Discontinuous mazes are like double running stitch patterns with breaks in them. They can’t be stitched (traversed) 100% double sided.

I’ve made some progress since the last picture which was taken this Friday past. I’ve selected the penultimate strip for my piece. This one is wide, and I’m working it two-tone.


You get extra points if you can spot (from this partial repeat) something about its baseline. Hint: It’s not that the strawberry pips and texture on the pansy type flower keep this from being a candidate for 100% identical double sided work. With a little bit of cleverness, the two sides could be made to read mostly similar, although the pips and textures would by necessity not be identically placed.

Double points if you can identify the source I used as point of departure. TNCM owners, ssshhhh!

In other news, I’m still working on a follow-up post with more info on baselines, and on the accreted section stitching method.

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While writing and graphing the last post took up the better part of a week’s discretionary time, I did make progress on my Clarke’s Law sampler. Here’s the area to the left of the center motif – the area that balances a similar section to the right. You’ll note that the pattern I used for the tutorial is the lower of the two narrow red double running stitch bands.


Lovely photo courtesy of Younger Daughter, who is much better with a camera than I am.

This week’s follow on post covering the accreted section double running stitch tutorial will be late. I’ve begun it, but some obligations this week will make it hard for me to finish it by Friday.


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Well, my day job continues to eat my life, leaving precious little time left over to do much else. I do keep plugging away on the Clarke’s Law sampler. I finished out the small panel of narrow bands on the right, and am working on the border defining the bottom edge of the similar space on the left. I have to admit that I’m very bored with this narrow strip. It’s LOTS of repetitions of the SAME unit, with LOTS of long armed cross stitch background to fill in. I am sincerely looking forward to when this band is over and done with, so I can move on to the next bit of fun.


For Eleanor, who wanted to see the source material for the current band, it’s here. Fourth strip up from the bottom. I wish I could read the V&A accession number on the label in the photo.

The set of narrow bands in the blank space immediately above the bit I’m working now will be different from the ones on the right of the center motif. There will be four and they’ll alternate between black and red, but they will be of different widths than their counterparts, with the narrowest on the bottom rather than on the top.

Apologies to the few remaining readers here. This project has bored everyone but me to tears. Thank you for putting up with it.

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Amazingly, in the middle of the constant stream of work-related chaos, I did manage a half day over the weekend to unwind. Here’s the result:


I’ve finished the panel of narrower bands to the right of the central motif. Now, with my right hand edge better established, I can finish out the voided, red band immediately below. Then it’s on to th set of four narrow bands on the other side of the center. They’ll be different (and different widths) but they will also alternate red and black. For the record, all four of these narrow bands can be found in TNCM, the pomegranate and foliate bands being two of my special favorites.

Here’s a partial shot showing more of the piece. I still have to fill in “-A.C. Clarke” immediately to the right of the word “magic,” but I haven’t identified the smaller but complementing alphabet to use. I’ll fill any left-over space above and/or below the author’s name with another narrow black double running stitch band.


And on the bottom? Yes – there’s one more wide band to go after all of this is done. I’m not sure. Something spectacular, with liberal use of both red and black. I’m not sure what that will be either, although I do know that whatever it is it will need to be between 50 and 60 units tall. (point of reference – the grapes at the very top of the photo above are 65 units tall.

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