Litany of Loreto Close Up: Faces

I was lucky enough to make it to the Royal School of Needleworks Worship and Glory exhibition at Ely cathedral last month, and I was absolutely enraptured by the Litany of Loreto!

The works were donated to RSN by a convent. More information about their history and design can be found here:

But I want to share with you some close ups of the absolutely exquisite stitching! This will be a series of posts, because otherwise it would get ridiculously long.


The pieces are stitched using silk thread. Silk thread can be separated out to fine filaments, much finer than a strand of DMC thread, or bundled as thicker threads. The embroideries used these qualities to create the delicate shading through use of cross hatch.

The stitching is thick and dense in very few places. Mostly, the pale cream satin of the ground cloth has been left to show through and shape and form suggested by the silk, which gives a really delicate feel.

The figures are outlined in a black stitch which gives them definition. Just inside the black stitch there is another line, the colour of skin or of the clothes. You can also see from these images that the hair is densely stitched in a much heavier thread, with contours suggested by changing shades. However, where the hair meets the face, there is a line or two of thin thread, like loose strands of hair, which helps soften the hair and make it look more natural.

The contours of the face and neck are suggested through cross hatching, using a colour close to that of the ground. Areas of shadow are suggested by slightly darker colours and / or denser cross hatching

Most of the faces are beautiful and serene. The stitching and shading are light, suggesting features. But then there’s this one.

And a demon emerging from the sea

Next post I will do some close ups of hands!

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