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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Free Hand Embroidery Pattern: Cross & Crown of Thorns


Amazon Books

Today, I’d like to share with you one of the patterns available in Church Patterns for Hand Embroidery, Appliqué, Paper Crafts, Painting, & More. It’s a cross interwoven with a crown of thorns. The design is from Thomas Brown & Son’s catalogue of church embroidery designs from the early 1900’s, where it appears as a “square” cross (or a cross with equal length arms on all four sides). Here’s the design, with a PDF at the end of the article:

Free Hand Embroidery Pattern: Cross & Crown of Thorns

Incidentally, Thomas Brown & Son’s original book of church designs, in case you are familiar with it, was actually a catalog. Back in the day, you could peruse such catalogs and find the design you liked and order it by number. You’d receive the full-sized pattern, ready to transfer and embroider.

Today, we only have the old catalog available (and reprints of the same catalog), and the precision of the designs in these early catalogs is not necessarily exact – in fact, is rarely exact! Often, you’ll find designs that should be squared and balanced, but are actually a bit off kilter. If you don’t straighten these up before transferring the design, you can end up with a finished piece of exquisite embroidery that looks just… slightly… off.

Years ago, I began collecting original copies of books, catalogs, pamphlets, and periodicals that include church patterns. Mostly, these would be patterns for embroidery, but I also found some excellent old catalogs for church stencils and other art mediums that translate well into embroidery patterns, too. I’ve spent a small fortune on these books over the years! Some, I’ve come across accidentally at old library sales and similar events, while others have cost me upwards to $400 a copy through rare booksellers.

In recent years, to preserve the images electronically, I’ve begun scanning these patterns and cleaning them up, balancing them and straightening the patterns, and turning them into vector files that can be enlarged or reduced without losing clarity. And that’s how my Church Patterns e-book came about. In the book, you’ll find a collection of 120+ designs from these various sources, and a smattering of my designs, too.

Today’s design would make a particularly nice cover for a prayer book or Bible. And really, it can be worked in many techniques. You could, for example, appliqué the cross and embroider the crown of thorns. Or you could work both in outline stitches. Or you could fill them with long and short stitch shading and outline them with gold. You could work them in whitework… or even in blackwork. It’s up to you how to approach the design!

Here’s the PDF for easy printing. The design prints at 5″ tall, if you select “no scaling” on your print options:

Cross & Crown of Thorns Embroidery Pattern

You can find more free hand embroidery patterns on the Patterns page here on Needle ‘n Thread. There are all kinds of designs there suitable for hand embroidery, from secular to religious, to monograms, to Hungarian! So if you’re looking for something to stitch, feel free to check them out!


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(15) Comments

  1. Here is more ideas.
    There is an antique pattern library online. It is collections of scanned (as is) pamphlets, old magazines, books etc that are in public domain and available for use. I understand many of them were the type that women purchased and everyone in the family and neighborhood borrowed. I do not know if I can put a link in the comments, but hopefully everyone can find the homepage.


  2. As we celebrate the most holy days of the Christian faith, I appreciate the reflection you offer. Thank you for sharing your talents Mary.

  3. Hi Mary, I’m Joe from Indonesia, I love your work so much, and I also use your tutorial videos to learn more stitches, to teach a class of moms with HIV how to do needle embroidery, so they can make some money from their own creativity, because it’s not easy for them to find a job with their health condition. Thank you so much for helping me on that.
    Right now I really want to learn how to make a hand embroidery pattern from a photo. and maybe one day I can teach the moms to make a hand embroidery photo. thank you so much for your help

  4. Aloha Mary,
    Had to laugh when reading about the inaccuracy of the Thomas Brown book. Bought it about 15 years ago and had to use graph paper to true up the patterns.What a pain! Thank goodness for computer programs.

  5. Hi Mary, I was looking around for tips for the novice and I hit the lotto here! Your work is stunning, and your generosity is amazing. The videos! The passion! I bookmarked your site and will be back regularly to learn. Thank you for helping me take my new hobby to the next level.

    1. Hi, Frances! Thanks for your note! I’m glad you’ve found Needle ‘n Thread useful, and I hope it continues to add to your enjoyment of embroidery! ~MC

  6. I’ve been by-passing old needlework catalogs I’ve run across. Then again, the ones I run across are from the 60’s-70’s or so. Maybe I’ll have to re-think that. Or not, with Antique Pattern Library, your patterns, and other sites, I’ve got access to several lifetimes of needlework patterns.

    Thank you for the new pattern.

    1. Hi, Gail – I think I have a definitely problem with passing up any old catalog with needlework stuff in it. I should probably see someone about this, actually! 🙂

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