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:
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:
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!