Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Reader’s Treasure: An Embroidered Footstool in Crewel


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Quite a while ago, Stephi contacted me with pictures of a footstool that’s been in her family since as long as she can remember. I think it’s a charming piece of needlework, so I thought I’d let you take a look, too!

Stephi’s mom dabbled in antiques, and now Stephi has ended up with many of the treasures her mother collected. Among them was this footstool, which she’d like to know something about. I told her the most basic information that I could gather from the picture – specifically, it is crewel work, it looks like it’s embroidered on linen twill out of wool. I’m positively no expert on this type of thing, but I did make some suggestions on where she could take it for more accurate information!

In the meantime, the piece is a pleasure to look at – and I like the story it tells (or at least, the story I think it tells!)

Hand Embroidered Footstool in Crewel Work

I like the simple scene – the horseman at a run, through flowered fields and trees, the house in the background… perhaps a young suitor rushing to his sweetheart?

The base of the picture is not really noticed at first glance, but it is the base of the picture, I think, that’s most impressive, with the subtle long-and-short stitch shading, and the inset flowers.

Hand Embroidered Footstool in Crewel Work

I like the little red house on the hill, with the strange-looking trees looming over it. The smoke curls up in a welcoming way; supper, perhaps, is being readied? Or the hearth prepared for an evening of good company?

Hand Embroidered Footstool in Crewel Work

An apple tree? Or an oversized rose bush? The variety of shades of pink might point to a rose tree… the roundness of the fruit might point to an apple tree. In any case, it’s a splash of color that balances very nicely the red house on the other side of the piece. I’m inclined towards roses, because of the layered look of the pink flowers.

Hand Embroidered Footstool in Crewel Work

Also, the proportion of the blue flowers seems to suggest the previous photo is one of a rose bush. The blue flowers dwarf the rider, just as the rose bush is somewhat grand in size.

Perhaps the rider’s going to pass behind the blue flowers, and the large flowers are meant to give a sense of depth to the scene. But if that were the case, the horse’s feet would not be showing so far down into the grass in the front.

Perhaps the flowers are just oversized. Maybe in his perfect world, the flowers grow larger than life.

Hand Embroidered Footstool in Crewel Work

There he is, rushing along on his strangely pale horse with the strange rump. As he rushes along, the horse’s tail and mane stream out behind (and so does the rider’s pony tail, in a stumpy sort of way). The horse’s legs gallop, and the rider’s posture – leaning forward in anticipation – indicate his eagerness to get wherever it is he’s heading. It must be to his sweetheart!

Thanks, Stephi, for sending me the photos! Sorry I can’t be of further help on the piece, but perhaps there’s a reader out there somewhere who has seen something similar and could share some information about it, or would know of a way to go about getting information on it.

I hope you all enjoyed the photos, too!


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(10) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,
    I don’t believe this footstool is an antique. Rather, it appears this is a “vintage” Elsa Williams crewel kit from the 70’s – the title of the kit is “Paul Revere Footstool or Picture.” The catalog description reads:
    “If you’d like to create a memento of America’s Bicentennial, this design portraying Paul Revere’s famous ride is an excellent choice. Included in the kit is everything you’ll need to complete your footstool, like screws and padding materials. The wooden sections are unpainted so you can choose a color you like. The design is printed on linen twill. The finished footstool size is 7″ x 15″, KC235, $20.00. The same design is available as a picture. Its dimensions are 7″ x 15″ on 13″ x 20” linen twill. KC235A, $12.00
    This kit was probably available in 1975 as well as 1976 (the date of my Elsa Williams catalog).
    I’ll try to send a picture from the catalog soon. Elsa Williams
    founded a needlework company and ran a needlework school, the Elsa Williams School of NeedleArt, in West Townsend, Mass. She wrote several needlework books
    and her kits were popular -probably at least in part because of the quality materials. Her catalog states, ” Our crewel yarn is offered in 129 shades, dyed to match museum embroideries. It is made from strong fibers of 100% wool twisted many times for durability.”
    The company was sold to JCA when Elsa Williams retired. Vintage Elsa William kits are highly prized on eBay -some sell for over $100.00.
    I hope this helps!

  2. Hi, Terry!

    Thank you so much for your informative comment. This is really helpful. So much for my romantic sweetheart!

    I’ll direct Stephanie to your comment!


  3. Mary, I was going to post a comment about the clothing of the rider, but Terry has beaten me to it. The hat and hairstyle are surely depicting the late 1700’s clothing, so Paul Revere sounds about right. Glad someone recognised the kit, but then is it based on an historical embroidery in a collection somewhere? Would be interesting to see the original to compare it if so.

  4. Hi, I just listed this kit on eBay and was googling to find out more information about it. I am so happy to see the completed project here — it is beautiful! It makes sense that it would be a Bicentennial vintage project. Thanks for this great post!

  5. This is an Elsa Williams’ interpretation of Paul Revere’s Ride. It was available for sale in the 1970s as a footstool kit.

  6. This is an Elsa Williams pattern. I have one I finished in 1971 and am now trying to find the same fabric to fixed the frayed edges and recover the stool. Barbara Tattersall Keene, NH

  7. This was a kit by Elsa Williams, a renowned needle woman with a shop in Townsend Ma. Now, long gone. It’s refered to as, Paul Revere’s Ride. I found one online a few years ago, they go for some steep prices now. I’ll show you the box the kit came in, if you’re interested.

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