Working an Elizabeth Bradley Kit

Originally posted 2009-05-16 06:02:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I just love Elizabeth Bradley‘s needlepoint designs. I have all her books, have done several of the smaller charts, but I had never done one of the big kits. Doing one can be daunting, but the time you spend in preparing your kit for stitching and the method you use for stitching will be greatly rewarded by the lovely finished result.

When you order your kit, determine your background color. There are nine standard background colors, one of which is included in the kit. There are nine standard background colors, one of which is included in the kit that can be selected on Bradley’s site.

Your stitching will go more easily if you spend a little bit of time preparing your kit for stitching.

Air out the threads by putting them in a basket or old cotton pillowcase.

Now separate your wools for the design by color. I cut off a bit of each color and tie it to the color block on the side of the canvas. This is an extra bit of insurance for color matching. The colors on the canvas are not the same as the colors of the threads, so doing this will help you with matching thread to paint. The thread colors are very similar but the colors on the canvas are easily distinguished. Putting the samples with the color blocks can help in stitching — it certainly helps me.

The canvas itself has the corners marked clearly, but it helps to mark the sides completely. Use a permanent, non-xylene or dye-based marker. Draw the lines along the sides matching the corners.

If you are using one of the darker background colors and don’t want needlepoint dandruff, give the background a wash of color, just enough to keep the white from standing out. Paint the entire background area lightly with a wash of acrylic paint thinned with water. You can use broad strokes for the areas up to the edges of the design then carefully paint the area next to the design. Because the canvas is screened with oil-based paints, the acrylic paint doesn’t cover the design, making this a bit easier.

Remember, if you chose to paint the background, it doesn’t need to look great, it will be covered completely by the background stitching. This is just to make it look a bit more finished when stitched and is entirely optional.

Finally tape the edges of your canvas as it is quite stiff and will catch on the wool.

All Elizabeth Bradley designs are worked in Victorian Cross Stitch, that is Cross Stitch on canvas. It differs from Counted Cross Stitch in that each cross is made completely before moving onto the next cross. Like needlepoint, all the stitches go over intersections of the canvas.

You should pick a direction for the bottom part of the cross (I used upper left to lower right) and use it consistently. A change in the direction of the cross really shows up. As with all needlepoint, the stitches should lay on top of the canvas, and not distort the canvas at all. Because you are doing Cross Stitches, the thread is thinner in relationship to the canvas mesh than is usually the case with needlepoint, so this level of tension was easy to maintain.

Decide at the very beginning whether you are going to follow the chart (which comes with the kit) or the design printed on the canvas. Most people (myself included) have trouble moving from one method to the other. If you are going to use the chart, think about stitching on the back (blank side of the canvas).

I chose to work from the canvas. If you do this you will notice that sometimes the color change does not line up exactly on the intersection. In these case, you will need to use the photo of the completed design and your own judgement to decide on the color.

Spending time with your canvas examining it pays off in helping you plan your method of working. Many people start at one end of the design and work along vertical or horizontal rows parking the colors of thread in the background as they switch.

Since I hate having threads hanging around, I worked color by color, beginning with the lightest tones. Because there are blocks of color, I decided where to begin each color so that I had the shortest distance between areas, keeping my starts and stops of thread to a minimum. If there were more than seven or eight thread between two areas, I ended my thread, as Bradley suggests.

Decide the direction you will work. Most designs are square and should be stitched in horizontal lines. Stitching your rows in the same direction will help them look more consistent. Bradley suggests that you always work your rows in the same direction (for example left to right). If you do this, end your wool and start up again whenever the row is longer than seven or eight stitches. Otherwise just move your needle to the beginning of the new row.

If you work color by color, as I have, always work from the lightest thread to the darkest. This will not necessarily be the lightest color on the canvas. I look at the wools in my bag and pick the lightest to use next.

The background should be made in rows in a single direction. It may not look like it as you are stitching, but this really makes a difference. The background is done in cross stitch as well.

If you are going to finish your piece as a pillow, you will probably not want to add a border. They will however look outstanding when finished with Victorian-style fringes and trims. I’m thinking of using long bullion fringe on the edges of mine.

Making multiple kits and finishing them as rugs is very popular with Bradley kits. A chart for a border is included with the kit and additional borders are found in Bradley’s books and on her website.

The back of the chart has detailed instructions on how to put together multiple pieces to form a carpet, how to join the pieces together and how to calculate how much wool you will need.

In 2000, a Bradley wool rug won Judge’s Choice at the ANG Seminar. It is a real treasure and stunning.

Bradley kits are tremendous fun, designed with care, using outstanding materials and with very complete instructions. I would recommend them to any needlepointer who likes traditional design.


  1. says

    I am a week away from finishing an Elizabeth Bradley needlepoint kit.
    I purchased TOBY THE PUG in 1992 at Bergdorf Goodman, a very upscale department store in New York City at a discount price of $101.00. I would have worked the kit much sooner but I didn’t know how to do needlepoint cross stitch at the time and tried the continental stitch which was a disaster!
    FAST FORWARD: It is now 2011 and during that time I learned how to do needlepoint cross stitch and started my project on January 17, 2011. The almost finished canvas looks beautiful! I decided on the hunter green background and recently ordered the wool from an E.B. site I found online.
    Unfortunately, I got laid-off from my job and have used all that free time needlepointing while looking for another position.
    I am interested in purchasing another kit but I know that is not going to happen. The kits are way out of my price range.
    The only problem I have is whether to frame Toby or have it made into a very elaborate pillow. :-)

  2. Charlotte Sargent says

    I just got the Elizabeth Bradley Hydrangea kit but there isn’t enough thread to work the entire project. The kit also doesn’t contain a color chart which specifies the code for each color. Is there a book of Elizabeth Bradley’s that has the Hydrangea in it or is there a color chart available? Where is the best place to buy replacement thread. Thanks!

  3. says

    Many of her kits are charted in her books, but if it is a newer kit, it will not be.

    Most companies that sell kits will provide you with the yarn you need to finish the kit, free of charge. You should go to their website ( and email them about it.


    Keep stitching,

  4. Fran Kommor says

    Hi Celine,
    I am an avid needlepointer and have done a number of Bradley designs. Most of them have been copied from the patterns in her needlepoint books. I am currently doing the Roses Wreath and have done the Pansies, Irises, Tiger Lily , Violet wreath, the Whale etc. Right now I am really hoping that someone will have a Toby the Pug chart available. My seven year old granddaughter would love to have this as a pillow for her bed. I am also willing to trade the”Posy of Violets” chart for it. I live in the NYC Area so I am easy to reach. Hope you find a job.

  5. Linda says

    Dear Celine,

    Thank you for the great information on working Elizabeth Bradley kits.
    Loved the background painting tip!
    I recently purchased a large EB kit on a popular auction site. I didn’t open the new kit until
    I completed the botanical kit I was working on which was several
    months. after I purchased the alledged complete kit. To my horror, the seller substituted another canvas for
    the design featured on the cover. Everything else was in order except
    an unwanted canvas design was inserted. I will be much more careful
    in the future when buying these expensive kits from re- sellers in the future.

  6. Carol says

    If it helps (because these days it is sometimes hard to justify little luxuries such as fine wools for needlework!), a lower impact purchase is buying the used EB charts on eBay and stiching on a blank canvas. Then, as your budget permits, you can purchase wools from the Elizabeth Bradley shop in Raleigh for about $5/card + shipping. Another option is one of the EB books (Amazon has them all and they are inspiring!). The Rabbits and Repeating Leaves from “Decorative Victorian Needlework” are two of her best designs. Save all you left over wool… you’ll soon have an “inventory” to sew new projects.

  7. says


    I list vintage items for the Henn Mansion…a historical building in Euclid, Ohio,
    After a recent Flea Market, I have 2 completed Elizabeth Bradley Bell Pulls – unframed – to sell on their behalf.
    As the kits alone cost $230, I would like to know your opinion as to the value of a beautifully COMPLETED needlepoints.
    Thank you for your time.
    ~ Rosie

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